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4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life

4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life

No one would argue against the idea that our emotions trip us up often in life. The reason they have such powerful sway over us is not immediately clear. We have been conditioned in the West to believe that our decisions are made by our rational mind, so when emotions seem to take hold of our behavior, we simply cannot understand why.

While many people assume that reason arises from deliberate, conscious thinking, the truth is, people are more likely to feel before they think. Consequently, your decision-making process is quick, emotional, and subconscious. As Dan Hill in his book “Emotionomics” has pointed out, emotions are more likely to drive reason than reason is to drive emotions. Your behavior can be said to be driven largely by emotions. The Limbic system, the brain’s emotional center that evolved with the first mammals, is credited with turning sensory perceptions into emotional and physical responses.

We Are First and Foremost Embodied Beings

The awareness of our emotions arises from our body, at least this is where we feel them most. We are, therefore, not just embrained but embodied beings living on this planet. According to Willis Overton from Temple University, embodiment implies that behavior arises from the embodied person actively engaged in the world. Thus, the kind of felt relationship to one’s body one has is a precondition for behaviors that result in effective living. This implies that our behaviors, and the way we live, are directly related to our awareness of and ability to manage what is happening within our bodies.

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Interestingly, while most of us are taught ways to think at school, no one ever taught us how to effectively manage our emotions. No wonder then, that for most people, strong emotions that are defined both socially and personally as negative have a way of often rendering us incapacitated to life’s stresses.

4 Steps to Managing Your Emotions

We can never eradicate emotions from our inner landscape. As noted earlier, not only do they influence the way we think, but without emotions, life would seem dull. It’s not that there is such a thing as a bad emotion because all emotions are helpful when used within their appropriate context. However, we often suffer from misplaced emotions that have become habitual, which tend to do nothing but damage us if we allow them to take root.

If you want to be able to manage emotions that you know are holding you back from succeeding in life, you neither want to bottle them up nor indulge in them.

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Following are 4 proactive steps you can take to effectively manage emotions that tend to trip you up in life:

1. Recognize

Firstly, you want to be able to name the emotion you are having. Is it anger, loneliness, fear, jealousy, or happiness? It can also be simply recognizing when emotions seem to be jumbled up, and no single emotion stands out on its own. By naming the emotion, you are simply acknowledging the emotion itself, rather than the context in which it arose. This makes step two easier to accomplish.

2. Accept

This is probably the hardest step. Identifying and naming an emotion is hard enough; accepting it is often even more difficult. Too often, our ego wants to justify the way we feel. It is in this justification that a narrative is created around the emotion we are feeling.

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Seen from this perspective, it’s not so much that the emotion is causing us grief, but rather, the attachment to the story we generated around it. When you accept the emotion you are having, you are not suggesting it is either right or wrong, but rather, giving yourself the permission to have that emotion. Here, you don’t want to apply any censorship or judgment to the emotion you are having. In other words, you recognize the emotion, and you accept it without attaching a story or a reason as to why you are feeling the way you are. It simply just is!

3. Explore

This is where embodiment comes in. You want to explore the emotion you are having. You know what it is, you acknowledged it, but in step three, you look deeper into how you know what emotion it is. What are the symptoms, the physical effects of the emotion you are having? It is important here to be curious. You are not suggesting that either the emotion, or the subsequent symptoms, or physical effects are right or wrong; rather you are embracing the fullness of the experience you are having.

4. Observe

Now, take a step back from the emotion and its subsequent physical sensations and symptoms that it is creating. Simply continue with what you need to do in life. Don’t get entangled in a story about how you are feeling. Like all emotions, they are simply passing through you. Without identification to the emotion, you are able to continue with what needs to be done. In other words, allow emotions to take their course in your body and mind.

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With enough practice, you will find that you are more able to short-circuit the power your emotions have over you. You are not disavowing them, you know they exist, but by not creating a story around them, or a reason for them being there — and seeing them simply as transient, you begin to realize, that just because you are feeling a certain way doesn’t define the outcome of the experience you are having.

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Rodney King

Embodied Performance Coach

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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