Learning Emotional Control

Why are emotions important?

Our emotions are what make us human. We’re elated when things are going great, worried and anxious when things aren’t going our way, sad when we’ve been hurt and angry when we’re provoked. This is all completely normal – in fact, you wouldn’t be a normal, functioning human if you didn’t experience these emotions. Where we run into trouble, however, is when our emotions overrule our rational decision-making and judgment. Think back on your own life and the lives of friends or relatives, and you’ll probably find at least a few instances where actions were dictated by emotions rather than thinking a situation through thoroughly. That’s why it’s so important to know how to control your emotions so you can think clearly and act decisively when you need to.

“Why Am I So Emotional?”

Maybe you’ve made some sharp-tongued remarks when you were angry and regretted it later. Or, maybe you acted too soon and impulsively when you were stressed and worried. We’ve all made these mistakes at some time and there’s no payoff in beating yourself up over them. When these situations arise, it’s important to be able to keep a sense of detachment, with a cool head and calm emotions. This can help you analyze the situation more clearly and come to a better course of action. Control your reactions so you don’t just go with the first impulse that comes from your emotional trigger. Take a deep breath and count to ten, do whatever you have to do to clear your head and remind yourself of perspective and the fact that whatever you’re about to handle is (most likely) only temporary.

Learning Emotional Control

As you learn how to control emotions, one of the best things you can do is find a healthy outlet. For some of us, it’s meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises that can help calm a troubled mind. For others, it’s physical activity like lifting weights, running, martial arts or kickboxing that helps burn off emotional capital. Consider keeping a journal to record your thoughts and feelings from day to day – more often than not, you may be surprised and even a little embarrassed by the journal entries when you go back and revisit them months later.

Find a Sounding Board

Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go it alone. A willing ear can be really helpful when you’re sorting out something that’s really difficult. That can be a trusted friend, a spouse, a loved one or your clergyman –whoever you would feel comfortable confiding in. You may not even need advice or opinions, sometimes it helps out a lot to be able to verbalize what’s going on and run it by someone else rather than just keeping it bottled up forever.

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Steer Clear of Negativity

At some point, you’ve met someone who’s bitter and cynical and tends to respond to everything with some degree of anger and hostility. People whose thoughts are dominated by anger and bitterness weren’t born that way. Negative emotions and a negative mindset are learned, and these impulses tend to multiply and grow like a cancer. They can slowly rewire the mind to see everything through the frame of rage and envy and suspicion, to a point where it takes over everyday life (usually to the detriment of personal relationships).

In the heat of the moment, this can be one of the toughest things to overcome. When you feel these thoughts welling up, consciously tell that part of your brain NO! and replace those thoughts and feelings with a more positive outcome for the problem you’re facing. Think of a loved one, a pet, a happy childhood memory or whatever it takes to squelch those thoughts. You might be surprised at how well this kind of reprogramming can work. To quote the Dalai Lama:

“Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene.”

See the Big Picture

So, someone cuts you off in traffic, acts rudely at the checkout line or gives you a flippant answer to a question. Of course, it pushes your buttons, it would for most of us. But, ask yourself right then – “Will this matter by the time I get home? What about next week? Next month? A year from now? Five years?” In many cases, the answer to that is going to be no. Just move on and get on with your day.

Learning how to tame our emotions can be tough, but in the end, it’s worth it. It’s what separates adults from children, and what separates us from the angry little kid that lives inside many of us.

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About the author

Tri

Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is "[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."