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Gatekeeper of our emotions

Gatekeeper of our emotions
Gatekeeper of our emotions
Dr. Wayne Willis

One thing a true friend does is offer honest feedback. One of my best friends questioned something I had said about cheerfulness; namely, that cheerfulness is a choice.

She had been taught that emotions — like four basic ones: mad, sad, glad and afraid — were involuntary. They just come, or they don’t. True, some of our temperament comes genetically. True, many things we are taught or modeled by those around us may rub off on us. Ultimately, however, it’s our call how and where and when we voluntarily discharge or refrain from discharging what nature and nurture have programmed us to do.

For example, Warren Christopher, diplomat who calmly negotiated the end of the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, was asked later, “Didn’t you at times feel like going off?” Warren answered, “You should never get angry, except on purpose.” Anger is a powerful tool in our toolbox, but that doesn’t mean it’s good to swagger around going off, whining and griping and angering all the while. Unleash anger on just, constructive efforts.

I like the gatekeeper image. We are something like a fortress. We are the keepers of the gate. We determine what we let in and what we let out and what we throw out of our fortress. Many Ukrainians, for example, are cheerful and hopeful and kind most of the time, despite their warred on, grievous conditions.

In the depths of the cold war, 1958, Oscar Hammerstein II wrote, “I could say life is just a bowl of Jello / And appear more intelligent and smart / But I’m stuck like a dope / With a thing called hope /And I can’t get it out of my heart.”

Give it a chance. See if today you can voluntarily conjure up a little hopefulness from down deep in your heart.