This post reveals the issue of how to control your negative emotions. The article will reflect three levels of emotion management: Know, Think and Do.
First of all, you should know some things about the nature of emotions. The lack of ability to manage your feelings is related to some beliefs and stereotypes. In the “Know” Section, I’m going to dispel these false beliefs and tell you why negative emotions need to be controlled, and whether this control is possible or not. Also, I will tell you what exactly I mean by negative emotions.
In the “Think” Section, I will tell you about what rational attitudes you should get rid of in order not to let your feelings constantly gain upper hand over you, about what exactly you should think if you want to overcome your negative emotions.
“Do” – is the part of the article, which is closely related to practice. In this part, I will describe the specific techniques by means of which you will be able to manage your emotions, to relax, to get rid of your anger, fear and panic.
These three sections reflect the actual steps of negative emotion management. First, you should know something about emotions. Second, you will need the ability to direct your thinking in the right way and to get rid of the thoughts, which prevent you from gaining the upper hand over your emotions. Third, you will definitely need to master the techniques, which allow you to pull yourself together and to settle your thinking.
Emotion management is a difficult, many-sided and complex process and I tried to reveal its steps more fully. Therefore, the article is very informative.
Self-control is an art and a science. You should know a lot of things in order to master the skill. I hope that you will get the maximum information from my article.
Let’s start considering things in their proper order
Part 1: Know
1 – Emotions Can Be Controlled
I cannot say that the idea of emotion control is popular in our society. The whole mass culture is permeated by the atmosphere of emotion domination over our personality.
The plot of classic literature is built around the mad passions overcoming the heroes: thirst of revenge, lust, uncontrolled passion, fear.
The movie characters commit inconsiderable and fatal acts in the name of love and greed of gold. On TV screen and theater stages, we constantly see strong emotions: people are swearing, yelling, getting ticked off and crying.
The western art is sealed with a human servility toward violent feelings and sudden impulses.
We used to think that our emotions represent a certain primacy of our personality, which completely determines its behavior. Many of us treat feelings, as an uncontrollable element that we cannot tame. It seems to us that all we have to do is to obey this element.
Like ancient people who worshiped the element, which they could not control and understand, people idolize their emotions. They take mad sensual impulses as beauty, poetry, inexorable fate, predestination and inevitability. They blame their feelings on their actions (“I was angry, annoyed and I could not help myself, so I’m not guilty”).
But, contrary to fashion, popular opinions of emotions can be controlled. It’s time to break down stereotypes)!
From Science’s Point of View
One may ask: how can we implement self-control regarding the fact that human’s personality is something uniform and indivisible? If it, this personality, experiences emotions, then by means of what are they controlled? In other words, how to control the emotions being inside that personality, which itself experiences emotions?
I will answer this way.
Regardless the fact the brain represents a uniform organism – it is divided into sections, departments, each of which has its own functions and can interfere with the functions of other departments. You can draw an analogy with a business corporation. A firm progress toward a goal and all its departments are directed to maintain this goal, which is achieved by the coordinated operation of these departments.
However, some company departments can work worse than others, for example, showing some lack of discipline. It does not mean that the whole corporation is undisciplined, and it does not reflect the fact that the problem cannot be eliminated. Other departments can have an impact on certain parts of the organization; for example, improving the discipline with the help of new technologies of controlling the employees’ work. It is possible to say that the corporation controls itself.
The same thing occurs in the brain, in which we see the work and cooperation of different departments.
Impulsive desires originate in the limbic part of the brain, and self-control originates in the prefrontal cortex. When we try not to eat in the evening the cake we want, the prefrontal cortex is activated, and runs the “self-control”.
From neurobiology’s point of view, the self-control is certainly possible.
There are known cases, when as a result of brain injuries, the prefrontal cortex got damaged, and people with such an injury almost completely lost the ability to control their desires (for example, they sexually harassed their relatives).
A well-developed self-control reflects the developed brain and mature consciousness. Who of people control their desires and feelings worst? Children! Because their brains are not as developed as the adult ones.
The same goes for animals, whose behavior is based on instincts and they have few opportunities to get involved in their work.
But the brain of a mature person is much better developed, than the animal’s brain. A person possesses autonomy! If a person controls his emotions badly, then he is likened to children or animals.
It is possible to improve the work of our prefrontal cortex. I will tell about it in the “Do” part of this article.
From Daily Experience’s Point of View
If we talk about daily experience, then we can see that it also has no denials to this conclusion. Each of us can make sure that it is possible to control the emotions. After all, the ability to self-control varies from person to person. Someone, because of his profession, has to control his feelings constantly, such as service workers or professional poker players.
Look at these people; if they learned to control their emotions in the course of their life, then it is possible. A person can develop the ability to control his feelings by himself. The greatest skill in this ability has been achieved by yogis and monks that belong to the Eastern and other religions. You don’t have to become a Buddhist monk in order to control your passions.
But we can learn from them a lot of useful techniques. And this is also the subject of this article.
From My Own Experience’s Point of View
My own experience testifies that the control of feelings is certainly possible. Some time ago, I was very emotional. I always had negative experiences and could not help myself. I was regularly losing my composure; I was angry, nervous and afraid. As a result of my emotionality, I made a lot of inconsiderable decisions and had a lot of problems.
There was a time, when I also thought that I cannot control my emotions. I thought that I was what I was, and I would not be able to change myself. Because emotions are a part of me! But, since then, a lot of time has passed. I still can experience negative emotions and I am not always able to get them under control. But now it happens not so often, and I manage to pull myself together oftener.
Due to this, my life has become happier. I have gained the freedom from destructive emotions. I began to control them, not allowing them to control me! I can conclude that in a few years I have achieved some success in controlling my emotions; therefore, I have no doubts regarding person’s capabilities to self-control. In this article, I am ready to share this experience with you.
2 – You are the source of negative emotions
It is wrong to attribute the occurrence of emotions to the outside world. Emotions represent simply your reaction to the events of the outside world. This statement is proved by the fact that the reaction to the same circumstances vary from person to person.
You can manage this reaction by yourself.
3 – Negative Emotions Lead To Suffering
This is a very banal statement, which will surely seem obvious to everyone. But, it’s not all that simple. Let me clarify and explain to you, what I mean by negative emotions, because all reasonings of this article are based on this meaning.
Negative emotions are not necessarily associated with a feeling of discomfort.
Deceptive momentary pleasure lies in some negative experiences, that is why these emotions are so attractive and many people are subject to them.
The comparison of emotions with the influence of drugs, which are addictive and bring harm to the body, will manifest the best explanation of the statement. These drugs can also bring some temporary pleasure, but in some long-term perspective, you will have to pay for this delight a terrible price in the form of a ruined body and loss of life goals. As a result, it will lead you only to suffering.
Our negative experiences have similar effect. Let’s take, for example, pride. On the one hand, people, who are highly susceptible to this feeling, are highly pleased to hear flattery directed to them and to see their own superiority over others. But on the other hand, they are very sensitive to criticism, are constantly busy to prove their right to others, and suffer if they fail to enlist universal recognition and respect.
We can say that the proud people’s suffering is balanced by the pleasure that they get, when they delight their ego, but it is not true. The pride ideal – universal love towards you, perfect “I”.
These ideals are essentially not achievable. It is impossible to make everyone love you, as well as it is impossible to be ideal.
Therefore, proud people are doomed to experience more pain than pleasure and bring suffering to others. The attempt to grasp this deceptive pleasure, which gives passion satisfaction, to make it permanent and to “stop the moment” – is doomed to failure. Just the same is the attempt to grab the carrot in front of you, tied to a stick, which is attached to your head.
It is impossible to satiate the pride once and for all. This passion will demand more and more. And the more you indulge it, the greater the demands of the vice, and the more you need to do in order to satisfy these demands and to feel the short pleasure connected to the complied desire. Therefore, the amount of suffering, which you experience, is increased, because it becomes more and more difficult to satisfy the desires, while every person’s possibilities are limited. The analogy with the narcotic substance is here most obvious.
Like the drug, emotions deprive you of freedom of will. You choose what to do no longer, because your emotions decide everything for you: you tumbled over someone to please him/her, you are angry with your loved ones, you are crying and cursing the fate, you are swearing at your work colleagues and you can’t help yourself.
Being overwhelmed with passions and thirst of your satisfaction, you become like a drug addict who is busy searching for a new dose of the drug, although he perfectly knows that this path leads only to suffering.
Some emotions cause nothing but suffering, such as fear and agitation. Of course, these feelings arise in a person for a reason. We cannot say that fear is only a negative and useless feeling. Fear is designed to signal the danger. In the wild, this feeling aims at maintaining the individual survival. Agitation reports about a problem by directing your thoughts in the direction of its solution.
But often, these emotions perform no useful function. A quite normal protective fear can be transformed into phobias and uncontrollable social fears. Agitation can turn into nervousness on every occasion.
I cannot classify, for example, fear only to negative feelings, because it, in certain manifestations, represents protective function.
Within the division of emotions into positive and negative, I use the quantity criterion that is set by the power of our experiences and their influence on our lives. There is nothing wrong with the sexual desire itself. But when the desire is transformed into lust and becomes unmanageable, it passes to the negative emotion rank. (Yes, I attribute some physiological needs to emotions as well: need for food, need for sex. After all, these needs have a profound impact on our sensual world.)
The same is true of the need for eat. Even the feeling of being in love needs to be controlled, because it can lead to inconsiderable acts. The same feelings can be both positive (or neutral) and negative.
Not all pleasant feelings are positive, and not all unpleasant are negative.
For example, I cannot attribute the malicious pleasure, – which many people experience, when people around them are in a bad way, – to positive emotions, despite the fact that it is a pleasant feeling. After all, this feeling results from envy and personal problems.
And the anxious feeling, – which arises when you remember that you forgot to take your child away from the kindergarten – is not a negative emotion. You do not have to think about how to get rid of this feeling, just because it is unpleasant. Get into the car and take your child!
I want to say that negative emotions are those emotions that bring unhappiness to you and to people around you, they deprive you of freedom of will and do not bring you any benefit, irrespective of the fact whether these feelings are pleasant or unpleasant!
For a good reason I headlined the section with the principle of relations between suffering and negative emotions. Namely it determines the moment, the extremum point, when our emotions serve no survival purpose and convert to negative emotion rank!
This principle explains why you need to control your emotions. It should be done in order to get rid of suffering, lack of freedom and bad consequences caused by inconsiderable actions.
I examine the definition of negative emotions in detail. The reader should clearly understand the terms used by the author.
I agree with the Christian concept of the seven deadly sins, although I am not a religious person. I believe that the listed vices are the cause of many human sufferings. By my list of negative emotions will be wider, than the seven deadly sins of Christianity.
I attribute the following things to the negative emotions: phobias, envy, exaggerated vanity, laziness, depression, offense, anxiety, lust, gluttony, boredom, addiction, servility, cowardice, shyness, self-doubt, self-accusation tendency and other emotions.
4 – Managing Does Not Mean Suppressing
There is a popular misconception nowadays, according to which, emotions are the most natural manifestation of our personality, and the attempt to hold them back will only hide them and will drive them deep into the psyche, which is fraught with bad consequences.
This belief is based on the Freudian interpretation, perhaps even on the incorrect interpretation of this psychology direction. This opinion is true concerning only the application to a limited number of situations. In general, the emotion control is not a concept identical to emotion suppression.
The emotion suppression is associated with situations, when we simply get distracted from unpleasant experiences, mask them, for example, by means of alcohol, when we do not want to understand the reasons that have generated these emotions, and simply try to get distracted from them and to escape them. Then, of course, they will not disappear.
The emotion control is related to the source elimination of experiences, problem solving, emotion acceptance and their analysis, getting rid of negative reason affirmations, use of effective self-control methods, etc.. In short, self-control is much more difficult than feeling suppression, but it is much more effective.
Sometimes, in order to get rid of negative emotions, it is necessary to solve a problem and to understand yourself. In other cases, you can simply relax and get rid of stress, and this will lead to getting rid of bad experiences.
Imagine that you had a difficult and long day at work. You came home angry because you were very tired. But then, you took a relaxing bath and your irritation passed! Can you say that you have suppressed your feelings? No, because they were caused solely by fatigue, and having got rid of that, you got rid of the accompanying feelings.
But not all emotional problems can be solved this way. In many situations, you need to understand and find the problem source.
5 – You Are Not Your Emotions
This idea may seem strange. After all, we are used to identify ourselves with our emotions. We consider feelings as integral parts of our self. But is this really so?
When I say that emotions are not a part of your self, I don’t want simply to say that under the influence of emotions you cease to be yourself. I want to emphasize that your true self lies much deeper than emotional experiences. And if you learn to feel this “self”, stable and independent of temporary feelings, then your emotions will not have an impact on your behavior.
In this case, you will learn to recognize negative emotions as something external to your “self”, something that stands somewhere on the surface and does not reach the “center” of your personality.
This does not necessarily mean that you will get rid of any emotions completely. You will simply cease to identify yourself with them. Feelings can still occur. For example, you will experience a surge of anger. Your heart will speed up, your facial skin will redden, your nostrils will dilate, but you will be not there! You will understand that: “it’s not me!” and “it’s not a part of me!”
Feelings will cease to bring you into emotional intoxication, and you will learn to withstand them!
I never cease to quote Guy Ritchie’s movie – Revolver: “The greatest con, that he ever pulled … was making you believe … that he is you.” By “he” is meant a personalized set of fears, complexes, false thoughts, the alter-ego of the movie’s main character (Jake). The alter-ego confronts Jake and tries to have the whip hand over him. When Jake ceases to identify himself with his alter-ego by realizing: “you are not me”; – he wins it and is out of his control! Now he controls the Ego, not Ego controls him.
You can watch the movie scene at the end of the article about panic attacks. This scene, perhaps, is the best embodied in a cinema explanation of the idea about the identity absence between your true self and your primitive, emotional Ego.
Stop identifying yourself with your primitive, limbic brain!
The feeling that you are your emotions – is a deception, an illusion. Getting rid of this illusion is an important, but difficult step to control your feelings.
However, this is not the final victory yet.
6 – Emotions Are Not Irremovable Qualities of Our Personality
Another dangerous misconception is associated with the fact that the tendency to experience certain emotions is understood as a personal quality that cannot be influenced in any way. We say: “I am irritable, impulsive, irascible, envious, shy, prone to lie, lazy. I am what I am, and I cannot change myself.”
This is a lie and an illusion. The personality tendency to certain experiences manifests just some habits, which we can change, just like any other habit. Each of us can become the person he wants to be: free from negative emotions and able to control himself, not giving his feelings power over himself! Everyone is able to do this. I have dwelt on the topic in the article – “Is It Possible to Change Your Personality,” therefore I will not mention it here again.
Part 2: Think
Further in this part, we will speak about reason affirmations, which help you manage the emotions.
1 – Take Responsibility for Your Emotions
In the first part of the article I wrote that you are the source of your emotions. Consequently, you are responsible for them as well. For example, you lose your temper and are rude to your neighbor, not because he insulted your dignity, but because you responded to the insult. When you came from work in the evening and said a few hurtful words to you wife, you did it not because you were tired and you had a lot of stress, but because you were unable to cope with this stress.
Taking responsibility for your emotions does not mean that you should blame yourself for everything.
I must say at once that emotions are very difficult to control – it takes practice and discipline. Even when you make great strides in self-control, you will fail to control your emotions. If you blame yourself for every such case, nothing good will come of it.
Taking responsibility means looking after yourself constantly, finding the source of your feelings inside you, working with it and not blaming external circumstances for everything: the hard work, strict boss or boors on the roads.
Taking responsibility means not blaming your feelings for your actions as if it they represent an element that you cannot cope with. Fatigue, stress, offense are not the excuse for your actions.
Your rudeness toward other people does not excuse the fact that you were “too emotional”, when you yelled at someone. This means that you did not make sure that you can control them.
Taking responsibility is a resolute and courageous act. This is an important step toward self-control.
Therefore, when you think about your emotions, consider them on the part of the subject, i.e. you. You should think “I feel”, and not “something makes me feel.”
You should think
“I’m worried about money,” but not “the lack of money makes me worry.”
Remember, you are the source of your feelings, not the external reality.
2 – Think of Your Emotions As of Other Person’s Feelings
This section complements the previous paragraph.
When you make judgments about your feelings, try to distance yourself from them. Suppose a psycho cut you off on the road, you are full of indignation and you say to yourself: “What a wretch! How dare he to do that? Plague on him! How can one drive like that?”
Imagine that you express all the accumulated bitterness to your imaginary psychologist, who quietly listens to your abuse and complaints about the idiots, who filled the city roads.
But the doctor was not with you in the car, when the incident took place. He had a good day and he does not share your indignation. And he needs to diagnose you. What will he write down in his notebook? He is not likely to write something like: “Some idiot thinks he is the main person on the road and cuts my patients off!”
He would rather make a note: “The patient experiences some irritation because of unfamiliar people’s actions, whom he meets on the road.”
The doctor is not involved in the sensual world of the patient and does not render him undue familiarity. His task is to make an obvious diagnosis and put on medication.
Therefore, when you analyze your feelings, imagine that you are the patient and the doctor in one person.
Make yourself a clear diagnosis, deprive your thoughts about your emotions of the excess content and think of them as about some objective facts, not about some external events.
Do not think:
“My neighbor bought a new car, which is more expensive than mine. Where from he got the money for it? He got it (money) due to some dishonest means for sure.”
“I envy my neighbor again.”
It will teach you to see the source of your feelings inside you and not to identify yourself with them.
3 – Get rid of negative attitudes
Many emotions originate from our way of thinking and our internal attitudes. To combat the negative emotions, you need to get rid of some attitudes. For example:
“I have to be better than others in every particular.”
The implementation of this desire is not possible, because there are no perfect people and you cannot be better than others in every particular. There will always be someone, who will be better than you at something. And there is nothing wrong with that, this is a normal thing. That is the reason why people learn from each other, share their experience and adopt other people’s strengths.
Both society and personal developments are built on the interchange of knowledge and skills.
If you rely only on yourself and believe in the fact that you have to be the best, then, you will suffer, because you will never be able to fulfill that desire. And instead of learning from other people, you will grieve over the fact that they are superior to you at something.
“Everyone should treat me well.”
It is impossible, quite the same as it is impossible to be better than others in every particular. No matter how good you are, you are not likely to be able to win the love and respect of each certain person. There will always be some people, who will not feel sympathy for you. And those people, who treat you badly, are not necessarily bad people.
And if someone does not like you, it does not always mean that you are bad. Every person is a whole individuality. And often, people’s attitude towards other people depend on personal affirmations, education, principles, available information, mental state and many other internal factors on which you have no influence.
The problem of the attitude towards you is not always your personal problem! And it depends not only on you, but also on your perceiving subject.
Therefore, it is impossible to please all and sundry. Consequently, what is the point of worrying about this?
But a bad attitude towards you is not always just the problem of another person. Sometimes it can point you to your weaknesses. And if so, then a bad, but fair, opinion on you will bring you only benefits, because you can change yourself thanks to it! It’s a good thing; therefore, it makes no sense to worry about it! And if this opinion is not fair what’s the point of worrying about that?
“Other people always care for me.”
No need to think that everyone constantly notice your every blunder and follow your every word. People are worried about their own problems, not about your behavior. Therefore, no need to worry so much about the fact that you took a drop too much, that you looked inappropriately, that your words might offend someone…
The actions, about which you are worried, often go unnoticed by others.
“I have to be always right.”
Each person can make a mistake. And you are not an exception. You are not always right, even when you are sure of it. And if you think that only you are right, then such attitude will prevent you from being flexible, changing your views, if previously they were wrong, or simply supplementing them.
Each person’s experience is limited and therefore the opinions, based on this experience, are often wrong or incomplete. Exchange of opinions between people should enrich each individual. But this will not happen, if you think that only your opinion is true. And you will suffer, because the reality will sometimes show you how much you are mistaken. This is quite normal and you should accept this fact, not feeling frustrated about it.
“I should prove that I am right to those who disagree with me.”
No, you shouldn’t. You will never convince some people that you are right, even if you are really close to the truth and infallible in logic. Therefore, the attempts to convince someone of something are often doomed to failure and cause only mutual indignation of both parties of the dialogue.
Many people will never accept your views and beliefs, no matter how right they may seem to you. What of the fact that people disagree with you? What’s the difference? Even if you manage to convince them, what will you gain by that? Quite often – nothing at all!
“I should respond to every insult against me.”
No, you shouldn’t! If the neighbor’s dog barks at you, you do not have to bark back at it. The fact that someone offended you should not create a problem for you. It is just a personal problem of the person, who insulted you, not yours.
There is a great Buddhist parable. Once the Buddha and his disciples passed by a village. The village people began to insult the Buddha, but he did not react to it. The Buddha’s disciples began to ask the teacher, why he did not respond to such vile insults.
The Buddha said: “I am a free man and my actions result from my inner state. Nothing can manipulate me, including other people’s insults. I am the master of my state.”
In his turn, the Buddha asked his disciples: “When we passed by another village, people carried us food, but we were not hungry and gave them back their food, what did they do with it?”
“Apparently, they, after taking it back from us, handed it to their children and animals.”
“It is so,” – replied the Buddha. “I do not accept your insults, as I have not taken the food from the other village’s inhabitants. I give your indignation back to you. Do with it, whether you want.
3.1 – Get Rid of Any Affirmations Containing “Should”
Have you noticed the element that combines all the principles, which I have outlined above? The word “should”. This word reflects your expectations.
Frustration is often born from awareness of distinction between your expectations and what reality in fact is:
- “Everyone should treat me respectfully”
- “Everything should be fair”
- “The government should be humane”
Make it a rule that one owes nothing to anyone. The principle that someone owes you something exists only in your head, while the reality exists according to its own laws.
Accept the reality as it is and people as they really are.
4 – Think of Other People’s Motives
Try to understand what other people think and feel when their actions bring you irritation. Think, why other people act in this way and not in the other one?
I will give you a little hint: everyone acts the way he thinks is right. That is, people commit actions, which you do not approve, according to some personal internal reasons, their notions of good and bad, and their logic.
If you try to understand this logic, the actions of other people will cease to cause you so many negative emotions.
And you can make a surprising discovery: many actions and motives, for which you hate other people, are characteristic to you as well!
For example, someone unjustly yelled at you and because of that you experience strong emotions. Take a look at the situation through the eyes of that man. Maybe he had a reason for it? Maybe he was tired; maybe he was brought up that way and your act caused his indignation, though you, due to your views, do not see anything wrong with that; maybe he simply does not know what you know; maybe looks at the situation from a different perspective?
Try to think about it. And decide for yourself, haven’t you been unfair to other people as well?
5 – Be Aware of How Temporary Your Emotions Are
At the moment you are angry, and you think, that right now, there is nothing more important than the way you feel. But what will happen to these feelings tomorrow? In a week? In a year?
What is the value of these experiences in the context of the rest of your life? You will soon forget about it or you will remember this as a regrettable incident. For you, it will turn into nothing.
You will forget about all psychos on the road, intrigues at work, random people on public transport.
Think of it every time you are worried about something, or get angry. When the situation that emotionalize seems important and fatal. Will it remain so important over time?
6 – Rely on Logic And Critical Analysis
Analyze your emotions. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What for? What’s the point?
- Where will this lead to?
- What are my prospects?
For example, you are worried about tomorrow’s meeting. Ask yourself: “why are you worried? What’s the point? Will it help you prepare for the meeting better?” I doubt it. Where will worry lead to? To nothing good: I will devour my heart and I will sleep badly before an important event. And it can have a negative impact on the meeting results.
Is the meeting really so scary, as my imagination captured by agitation draws it to me? What exactly I am afraid of? I will not get fired in case of failure. And even if I get fired, I will find another job. In fact, work is not the most important thing in life. There is nothing to be afraid of.”
People idolize their emotions; they are used to see them as some relentless fate, which can be taken for granted without asking – “why do I need it?” For example, when you experience a severe attack of anger, you do not ask “Why”. Subconsciously you believe that you should get angry, because you feel that way.
You should destroy this unconscious belief. To do this, you should be well aware of how much benefit and how much damage these emotions bring to you and surrounding persons.
Constantly ask yourself:
- “Why should I envy? What should I get, except suffering?”
- “Why should I be lazy? What will it bring to me, except works postponed for later?”
- “Why do I get involved into pointless disputes? What’s the point? Can I have something from it, except irritation and senselessly wasted time? Should I continue this absurd process?”
- “Why do I get angry? My anger does harm to me and to people around me. What happens if I yell at a person? Will it help him understand his shortcomings better? Will he treat me better? Will it help me be more fair and tolerant to him?”
- “Why I am afraid of something? If it is dangerous for me, then I should take measures and there is no point to be afraid of. And if there is no danger, then there is nothing to be afraid of at all.”
Analyze not only the emotions, which you are experiencing right now, but also be aware of the consequences of your past emotions. How much suffering and spoiled relations did anger bring to you.
How many missed opportunities did lazy bring to you. How much spirit you wasted, because of your constant worry?
Learn to accept negative emotions as obstacles in your life journey, of which you can get rid, and not as givenness that you cannot cope with.
Do not be afraid to ask yourself the questions, “Why” and “What’s the point.” This will help you understand the role of negative emotions in your life and realize that these feelings do not lead to positive results and, therefore, you do not need them.
Of course, with the help of logic you can find out how many feelings of yours are meaningless. If you analyze every arising negative feeling, then you will inevitably come to the conclusion that worrying about something is pointless. Why should you worry about the problems that you cannot solve? And if you can solve them, all the more reason not to worry at all!
Unfortunately, only logic and analysis are not sufficient to control your emotions.
Feelings will still appear, no matter what you may think. Emotion control is a complex process. Getting rid of negative attitudes, taking responsibility for emotions, relying on logic and use knowledge about the emotion nature – are not enough. You should also act, use practices that develop your prefrontal cortex and your skill of self-control. Namely this we will discuss in the next section.
Part 3 – Do
In this part of the article, I will list the applied methods of emotion control. And I will arrange them in the following order: from fast, operational methods that allow controlling feelings in real time, to methods that systematically develop your self-control at all times.
The latter methods are no less important, than the first ones.
After all, the emotion control is a complex skill. There are no quick and safe ways, which can help you pull yourself together in absolutely any situation; therefore, you should constantly improve your self-control.
1 – Take 10 Breathing Cycles
Before making any inconsiderable action – yelling at someone, getting involved into a pointless argument – slowly breathe in and breathe out for ten times with the same duration. Count to yourself the duration of tidal breathing.
Breathing should be slow and carried out with the help of the diaphragm. When you are full of emotions, you breathe often, your chest rises and falls. You should slow down your breathing and move it to the diaphragm.
This exercise will help you de-stress and stop worrying. Do it before an important event or after it, when you have to calm down and pull yourself together.
2 – Be Aware of Your Emotions
Instead of banishing negative emotions, accept them. It sounds a little bit paradoxical in the task context of getting rid of bad feelings. I will explain.
No need to try to get distracted from experiences and to focus your attention on something else. Doing this, you simply quash your feelings, and do not get rid of them. Instead of this, when you realize that you want to insult someone, simply direct your attention to this feeling.
Try to see what is going on in your head and in your body. Your breath accelerated, blood driven to your head and pressure increased. Your mind is shrouded solely by thoughts of how bad is your abuser, how much you hate him, how much you want to put him in his place, though earlier you get along well and no such feeling ever occurred.
Keep track of your reaction, look inside you, accept your feelings, watch them, but do not get involved in them! Only then they will pass.
3 – Do Not Be Afraid of Emotional Discomfort. Just Do It.
The fear of unpleasant experiences hinders your emotion control. Suppose you want to get acquainted with a girl, but because of your shyness you are afraid to approach her.
What are you afraid of? Of failure? Of the fact that people will laugh at you? Not really. You are afraid of unpleasant experiences, which you will get, if these events occur.
Do not be afraid of them! Endure them! Perceive them as a slight pain that anyone can endure. The unpleasant feelings are not a big deal at all.
Disregard all the thoughts that prevent you from acting, just step over this short-term pain and discomfort, it isn’t so difficult!
Let’s consider another situation. What will happen to you, if you stop arguing with someone, let him have his own opinion and stop convincing him? It’s difficult to be done. You will feel strong resistance, if you get involved in the dispute already. It’s like drug craving of a drug addict. This is a destructive emotional craving. Don’t identify yourself with it!
Affirm to yourself that the dispute will take you nowhere and endure the internal resistance, which will soon pass.
4 – Accept Reality as It Is
I have already raised this question in the section about negative attitudes. But I will dwell on this here, because this is very important! Acceptance is one of the main human virtues.
It consists in accepting things as they are. People are unfair, silly and cruel. You also happen to be unfair, silly and cruel. It’s a fact of life that you cannot negate. All you have to do is to accept it.
Many people behave impolitely on the roads. It’s a fact of life, accept it.
Your colleagues think only of their career promotion and do not help you. It’s a fact of life, accept it.
You are not always the person you want to be. It’s a fact of life, accept it.
Attention! Acceptance is not identical to blind submission in front of your and other people’s weaknesses, which is expressed in the statement: “I am who I am and I cannot help it.”
Accepting does not mean to lose heart and obediently accept what reality dictates you. You should act, try to change and improve conditions of your life.
But you cannot affect everything, change everything and all you have to do is either feel endless frustration about it, or accept certain things as facts of life and stop worrying about them.
Of course, I insist on the second point.
5 – Act Against Your Emotions
Suppose you want to be rude to someone. Do not hurry! Think about where this will lead to? Instead, simply smile and say something nice to the person. Unexpectedly? Agree.
This is a great way to take control of emotions. If you work off on somebody and start shouting, then you will get nothing, except frayed nerves.
But if you start behaving in the opposite way, then you will not bring the situation to a catastrophe, you will contribute to preservation of your and others’ emotional comfort and you will experience some joy of positive emotions! You will feel that you can control what earlier seemed to be unmanageable. It’s an amazing feeling.
Acting against your emotions can also mean that you will do nothing, but simply ignore the situation. For example, not to get involved in a dispute, not to cause an affray, etc
6 – Meditate
There are a lot of different points and tips in the article. This one is the most important. Meditation is a very effective exercise that allows you to control your emotions. It allows you not only to get rid of the unwanted feelings at some point in time, but also develops your ability to self-control.
In other words, regular practice of meditation makes you less dependent on emotions and allows you to take control of them in the most diverse situations.
According to studies, meditation increases the prefrontal gray matter volume. Namely this department is responsible for self-control and willpower about which I wrote in the first part of the article.
Meditation allows you to be aware of your emotions, notice your feelings when they first arise.
This practice makes a person more calm and balanced; as a result, emotions cease to be so uncontrollable.
Such skills occur for a reason, not due to some magic. Meditation is a self-control training, during which you learn to understand your emotions, without getting involved in them. As well as a runner exercises in running, making daily jogs, the meditator exercises in self-control, when he learns to control his attention while meditating, to keep track of his emotions and to stop them.
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7 – Be Aware of Your Condition
Willpower and self-control highly dependent on your body state. If you are tired and you have little strength, then it is much more difficult to control your emotions compared to those cases, when you are in a good shape.
Therefore, avoid making important decisions or starting serious conversations, when you are tired. Keep track of your state. Ask yourself: “How do I feel now? Can I be mistaken now in those matters, which require self-control?”
If the answer to the last question is negative, then take proactive measures to prevent undesirable situations.
Make a habit of constant watching yourself, your state and mood.
8 – Keep Track of Your Health
Bad health, stress abundance and nervous system problems worsen self-control.
Maintain your health, drop bad habits and go in for sport. Make sure that you are getting enough vitamins and enough sleep. Drink more water.
Get plenty of rest.
9 – Improve Your Willpower
Self-control depends directly on how well is your willpower developed. After all, willpower allows you to constrain the internal storm and stop the destructive impulses, which can lead to bad consequences.
I will not dwell on this point here, because there is an entire separate article on this topic: How To Improve Your Willpower.
Conclusion – Some Tips
I hope you enjoyed the article. In conclusion, I would like to present some important remarks.
It Is Difficult to Control Your Emotions
This skill requires long practice. And even when it seems that you have reached this significant progress, some unexpected event takes the wind out of your sails and you lose control. This happens, for example, to me and that’s fine. During such moments, you should accept it as a fact, and not to blame yourself and think that you are fit for nothing.
Such situations will always occur, and there is nothing unnatural in that.
Managing Instead of Suppressing
No need to try to get rid of some emotions only because they are bad. Remember, unpleasant emotions can signal you about a problem (as in the example with the child, who was forgotten in kindergarten). Try to find the source of these states and to understand what your emotions are saying.
If you feel some bitterness, because you treated your wife unfairly, then no need to drive the feeling away without understanding it! Perhaps, you should apologize? Or solve some relations’ problems?
Do not use the techniques of emotion control and meditation in particular as means of lulling your conscience and way of escaping from problems.
Use them to find your problems and solve them! After all, these ways provide a lot of means for this purpose!
Where to Start Controlling Emotions?
This article is quite informative. In order not to confuse the reader by the abundance of information and the methods listed, I would recommend starting with meditation. Regular practice will lead you to the conclusions, which I provided in this article, even though you will come back to this text no longer.
From the second step of my self-development program, you can also get some practical self-control exercises with which you should start.
The most important thing in emotion control is a constant watching over yourself, introspection and practice!
If you constantly analyze yourself, watch over yourself, try to control yourself, watch over the process and make conclusions from it, then you will learn how to control your emotions, even if you remember only 20 % of what I outlined in the article!