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.
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?
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.
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.
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