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7 Ways To Stop Yourself From Being A Slave to Your Emotions

7 Ways To Stop Yourself From Being A Slave to Your Emotions

Emotions have a lot to do with our interpretation of an event. Emotional reasoning takes place when we assume something is true because of the way we feel, when in reality, the truth could be very different. While there is nothing wrong with noticing and recognizing your emotions, they also take us away from objective and neutral interpretations of life and can take us off on a tangent clouded with feeling. It can be difficult to learn how to control emotions and not let yourself be affected by others that are emotional around you. If you find that you react strongly to life with emotion, here are ways to be more rational and remove emotion before you take action:

1) Think of your emotions as part of your “map” not as part of the “territory”

Our thoughts lead us to feeling emotions. When we think positive thoughts we tend to experience positive emotions and when we think negative thoughts, we tend to experience negative emotions. Remind yourself that your thinking is your interpretation of an event and that is it never a direct experience that takes place. Our ‘map’ is the filter through which we look at the world. We all have different filters that have been shaped by our upbringings and what we have already learned about the world from our past life experiences. This means there will always be an element of emotional interpretation of the ‘territory’ (reality). Reminding ourselves that our thoughts and the ensuing emotions may not always be an accurate representation of what is really going on, it can make it easier to be less emotional.

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2) Stop and think before acting

Stop and wait for the emotional part of your brain to subside before taking action. The emotional part of our brain is almost always stronger than the rational part. Stopping for your rational brain to kick in is the wisest thing to do when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Not only with it give you time to gather your thoughts, waiting to act may keep you safe from saying or doing something you regret.

3) Know where your weaknesses lie

Are there specific people or situations that tend to get an emotional reaction from you? When we know where our weaknesses lie we can be more prepared and aware. Keep regular tabs on your emotional levels by rating the intensity of you emotions from 1-10. When you reach 7 on the scale, use predetermined strategies to diffuse the emotional response. Some strategies you may want to employ include counting backwards from 100, deep breathing, or even removing yourself from the situation temporarily. So now all you need to know is — what are your personal triggers?

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4) Own your emotions

Take responsibility for your actions. We cannot control others but we can always control how we choose to respond to others. When we blame others for our emotional reactions we give ourselves a message that we are unable to decide for ourselves. Take back your control by learning to manage your emotions responsibly. Although you have heard it before, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person can go a long way. Remember, the other person has another set of life experiences, beliefs, upbringing, and culture which may not be the same as your own.

5) Learn to practice emotional detachment

You are not your emotions. As mentioned before, thoughts lead to emotions. A great tactic is to try  imagining thoughts as passengers on a bus. You are the driver on the bus and just as you put the key in the ignition, your passengers begin to tell you that you shouldn’t drive the bus as you are a terrible driver, that you may get them all lost or have an accident…oh and by the way, you’re looking really old and fat in that driver’s uniform. If you let the passenger rile you, they are in control and you aren’t. Learn to see your thoughts as passengers on a bus – tune them out and focus on the job at hand – driving. In most situations emotional detachment involves taking action without allowing all the thoughts in your head to constantly distract and upset you. Just remember, your emotions are passengers on a bus that can’t interfere with your job.

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6) Take time out

We all have a resting state-of-tension. Over time, if we don’t check in with ourselves or take a break,we can end up feeling quite tense and uptight for longer periods of time and the resting state-of-tension rises.. When we start to snap at others or burst into tears because we’ve run out of milk, it’s a sign that our resting state of tension is higher than it should be and that we need to take time out. Take a walk, get a change of scenery or do something relaxing to reset the tension level in your body.

Be aware of positive energy coming in to your life – that is, things or people that make you feel good and positive and take not of the negative energy in your life – those people or things that drain you emotionally – do your best to limit these. Ultimately, try to keep a balance so that there is always more positive energy in your life than negative energy. Too much negative energy will lead to stress and overreacting emotionally.

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7) Understand your emotions

Often, when we understand why we react to a situation in a certain way, it can help to lessen the impact of that situation on our senses. Being aware of the reasons behind your strong and intense emotions will help you to make sense of things and feel more in control. You may be triggered when a friend is late to a meeting or appointment because of past experiences which have nothing to do with your friend getting caught in traffic. Getting to the reasons behind your emotions will actually lead to a happier life.

We are emotional beings and emotions help us to feel alive and connected. Learn to embrace your emotions and to understand why they overrule you at times. When we take time out, relax, practice self-awareness and make sure we get enough positive feeling in our lives, we are on the right track to being in control of our emotions instead of the reverse.

Featured photo credit: Robert Vitulano via flickr.com

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Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist/CBT therapist who believes getting through life is easier with a robust sense of humour.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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