Creativity Pathway #155: Choose Your Emotions

I am afraid to clean out my garage.

The truth is that I love to clean. Cleaning is, in fact, one of my most favorite and calming past times. So, when I think about the issue more attentively, I realize that I’m not afraid to clean. So what is it?

Bruce DiMarsico, psychologist and creator of the Option Method, believes that “all fear is fear that unhappiness will happen.” Isn’t that true for most of our fears? We’re most afraid of how we’ll feel as a result of the issue, not because of the issue itself.

What I am afraid of is what I might find in the garage. In other words, I’m more fearful of what is under the surface.

The Option Method is a form of introspection that can be used to uncover beliefs that do not serve us. “Option comes from the Latin word for choice and the Greek word for servant. Both roots are quite appropriate for the name of the method whose goal is to serve by helping people to realize the role that personal choice plays in their emotional states,” says DiMarsico. The Option Method suggests the following series of questions:

  1. What am I (fearful) about? The word in parenthesis can be substituted with any word that best describes the emotion we are experiencing. This step is an opportunity to be clear and specific about what concerns you. My answer to this, for example, is cleaning out the garage.
  2. What is it about (the issue) that worries you the most? Or, in my case, what about cleaning out the garage makes me most (fearful)? This is a way to get in touch with the reasons behind the feeling. For me, what’s under the worry is the possibility of discovering unwanted rodents.
  3. Why am I (fearful) of that? Or, for what reason are you (fearful)? This question often leads one to the realization that we’ve lost touch with the why. We are sometimes so habitual in our emotions that we forget we can be at choice with them. My fear, for example, has been how I’ve always felt about mice, and I haven’t questioned that emotional reaction for a long time. My fear is that I will no longer be comfortable going into the garage and, even worse, I might also have mice in the house.
  4. What would it mean if I were not (fearful) of that? In other words, what am I afraid would happen if I were not (fearful) of that? Your first reaction to this question may be puzzlement, so give it some time. What this question acknowledges is our own ability to choose our emotions when we may instead be hanging on to outdated emotions, or have assumed someone else’s beliefs and claimed them as our own. Looking at my own aversion more closely, I realize that I have been able to avoid some unpleasant household chores (climbing into the attic, for example) because I have held onto a fear of mice. In some ways the fear has gotten me out of things that I didn’t want to do, and at other times it has gotten in the way of accomplishing desired tasks.
  5. Why would it have to mean (that)? Here we challenge the assumptions and habits, questioning their truth and their real consequences. Would choosing not to be afraid of mice mean that I would suddenly have to take on those “unpleasant household chores”? It’s not likely; my husband and I have happily worked out the division of responsibilities in our household. And, choosing not to be afraid would mean that I could reclaim a sense of comfort and safety over my entire living space.

Coaching Challenge: Though a change in emotional perspective about cleaning out my garage may not be life-changing, the power of this approach can be applied to many of our emotional roadblocks. What are you unhappy, angry, or sad about? Name the emotion that is standing between you and your own happiness. How could exploring its roots more thoroughly impact you?

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Erika Jackson (
LifeTrek Coaching International
Columbus, OH  •   U.S.A.

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