Emotions happen to us. We are responsible for our next action.

Learning that truth has radically improved my life.

No one awakens in the morning and says, “Today I think I will spend time feeling lonely” or, “Today I plan to be angry at my spouse and my kids and my coworkers. I think I will do that today” or “Plan for the day: fear, sadness, fear, hurt, fear, and then shame, followed by a bit more fear.”

Emotions happen to us, but we have the power to decide what happens next.

I have spent so much of my life feeling guilty about my emotions. I have believed if I just tried harder, if I were a stronger, better, wiser, more grateful person then I would not struggle so deeply and so often with feelings of guilt, fear, hurt and shame.

Learning that emotions happen to us has given so much relief to my conscience that I now find myself with the energy needed to process the emotions and choose my next action wisely.

Emotions are not bad. Even the “bad” emotions are not bad. Each emotion has a purpose and when we learn to be aware of, identify and communicate them to someone we trust, they remain manageable and productive.

When I believed my fear or my shame was born of my weakness or ill intention, those emotions would overwhelm me and lead to me hurting myself and others.

Now, when I notice myself feeling an emotion, I pause, identify the emotion, verbalize it and take the time to process it through. This new response to emotion has been a tremendous blessing to my marriage, my parenting, my friendships and my quality of life.

Dr. Hill speaks of the River of Emotions. When our core emotions flow through us, we can be connected and healthy. When they’re dammed up, they create a flood that damages our life and the lives of those around us. When they flow freely and are processed fully, they bring the richness in relationship we all crave