Affective autonomy is like a parent-child relationship. Our beliefs acquired in childhood are sometimes harmful and immature. We must therefore become aware of our mental nourishment in order to parent ourselves and to bring logic to our perceptions. To go from affective dependence to affective autonomy is to move from suffering to self-love. I am therefore the teacher and the student. So it is I, the adult, who will talk to the child in me to reassure him/her, to understand him/her, to help him/her and to bring him/her towards his/her maturity and thus create his/her true happiness. This is what we call the “victory process,” which makes it possible to reprogram our brain on an affective level.
There is a victory process to be done, whenever I feel anything but good!
- Venting: When I feel bad, when I am triggered by a trigger that can be myself or someone else or something, when I feel discouraged, attacked, impatient, disappointed, annoyed, etc., I take notice of what I am thinking and I vent. I “blurt out” (ideally on paper, at the beginning of the practice), every thought that I have, without censorship, to get out of my head what harms me in those thoughts. It won’t be pretty, of course, and that’s fine: we want to have access to our habits of thinking, the thoughts that harm us and sabotage our happiness, here and now. In affective autonomy, we learn that emotions are alarm signals that originate from our way of thinking. Emotions are innate and transient. We have emotions all our life but they will be managed more and more intelligently. It is therefore important to be attentive and to learn to listen to one’s own thoughts more and more, in order to uncover all the beliefs we hold that go against our well-being and self-respect.
- Theory and Logic: What is the logic of self-love going to answer the beliefs identified in the venting? To reprogram myself to happiness and experience feelings of joy, peace, love, I first need to take the identified beliefs from the venting and replace them with supportive, loving, encouraging and realistic ways of thinking. I then begin to practice listening to myself think, replace my harmful beliefs with loving, understanding, realistic thoughts etc., and it will be only a matter of time before I have increasingly pleasant emotions and feelings of self-love, of well-being.
- Feel the new beliefs: Did what I just said to myself in the second step change my initial feeling or not? Is it a victory or a non-victory. If I was sad, shocked, disappointed, etc., does what I just responded to myself make me feel better? If I’ve answered no, it’s either because I don’t have a good enough grasp of theory to answer myself or because I didn’t vent everything that was harming me at the beginning. So it’s a matter of time and practice.
A little bit of theory about human affective functioning
Thinking creates either helpful, realistic ideas or harmful ones. These beliefs were acquired in our childhood, from our time and culture. Our emotions and feelings are the proof of our mental nourishment repeated unconsciously until now. I insist: thought creates. Quite involuntarily, we have learned affective dependence and we look for our happiness outside of ourselves, where it cannot be found! We unknowingly depend on what we do, on what we have and on how we look. We believe that we will be happy if we have the ideal job, when we will have such and such a thing, a house, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, when other people will do what I want, etc.
Self-love does not depend on anything outside of ourselves. Love is a decision. Self-love is autonomous because it happens in our head. It is by our ability to reason that we make the decision or not to love ourselves. I love myself or I harm myself. I want to be kind and respectful to myself, no matter what happens to me. Because I am tired of suffering!
It is therefore enough to become aware and to learn to listen to oneself thinking more and more to unmask all beliefs that go against our well-being and self-respect.
Our suffering comes from the fact that we have been unconsciously thinking in a self-destructive way for years. If, for example, I believe that I am useless, not good, not important, I will experience feelings of devaluation, failure, sadness, rejection, etc. I have come to believe that I am not good enough. I have come to believe that I have no value when this is not true. Our value is intrinsic to our lives… the infant being born has value because it exists. When our children are born, they don’t have a Nobel Prize, a house, or a beautiful appearance. And yet we love them unconditionally. But as adults, we beat ourselves up for everything, even for things we have no control over! For instance, we complain about the rain, the snow, the traffic, we get upset as if it would change things and we suffer for it…
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