Mastering Your Emotions
Has anyone ever called you “emotional?” As a passionate, opinionated young woman, it's definitely a word I heard often.
Have you worked with someone who lets their emotions overwhelm them? The tone of their voice, the adjectives and qualifiers they use, and the way they hold their body all play into communicating that emotion to everyone around them. It is hard enough to deal with our own emotions. Who wants to be submerged in someone else’s emotions?
Emotions serve a purpose.
Having emotions is human. Negative emotions serve a purpose. They send us a signal that something is wrong. Anger, fear, and intense frustration can all send us back to our lizard brain - the brain stem which is responsible for primitive survival instincts.
This is what triggers “fight or flight” reactions. Or paralysis, like a rabbit caught in your car headlights, frozen in the middle of the road. When you are in your lizard brain, your options are limited – fight, flight, freeze. It’s crucial to get back to your limbic brain as quickly as you can.
Mastering your emotions is not about refusing to acknowledge negative emotions and “forcing” ourselves to feel positive. It’s about recognizing that your emotions are trying to tell you something and focusing on the real problem to solve.
To master your emotions, you need to understand them. Abraham Hicks created what is called the Emotional Guidance Scale. It is a comprehensive view of negative and positive emotions and the escalation of them.
Notice your emotion.
If you are following my posts, you’ll see a trend: Step one in every process is awareness. When you are in the throes of emotion, recognizing that you are is the first step towards mastering it.
Now you need to identify which emotion specifically you are feeling. Note: You may be feeling more than one! Hicks’s scale is a great reference to help you work through which emotions you are feeling.
[Related: You Are What You Think]
Why am I feeling this way?
The next step is analyzing the "why." Remember: Emotions serve a purpose. What are your emotions telling you? Anthony Robbins walks through ten “action signals” for negative emotions in one of my favorite books, “Awaken the Giant Within.” I will draw on his perspective for some of the examples below.
Differentiating fact from opinion and being aware of when you are speculating are both key to disarming negative emotions. It’s good to start your analysis with a review of both the facts and the opinions that are at play. Asking yourself questions is the best way to get out of the lizard brain.
Let’s start with frustration, as it's one of the most common emotions I have dealt with in my personal and professional life.
"Type A” people experience frustration a lot. Why? Because the signal behind frustration is “this could be better.” Careful, because it may also be “this should be better.”
The standards you set and expectations you have in situations both impact this emotion. Our brains are telling us that there is a possible solution, but we just haven’t figured it out yet.
A few questions I make sure to ask myself as I am thinking through the source of my frustration are:
- What is within my control?
- Are my expectations realistic?
- What do my standards of success look like compared to others’?
As we spiral down, we come next to overwhelm. Overwhelm signals a need to prioritize and evaluate our current path. This is another emotion that is extremely common, especially if you are trying to “have it all.”
When we are trying to do everything and be everything, there can be demands from all sides, which can be paralyzing. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to think through your priorities and your expectations for when things need to be done.
- What am I trying to accomplish?
- What are the things I need to do vs. the things I think I should do vs. the things I want to do?
- What is my order of priority?
- What is the timeframe that things need to get done vs. my own expectations?
[Related: 10 Reasons Why You Need a Digital Detox]
Let’s go down a little further to blame. Blame makes up two of the ten negative thinking patterns I shared in my breaking negative thinking patterns post.
Blame signals that something is wrong. Often, it means you are looking for someone to make things right. The two extremes of blame are self-blame (taking on the responsibility for everything) and refusing personal responsibility (taking zero responsibility).
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when you are feeling the need to blame:
- What is my personal responsibility in this?
- What are the facts about the situation?
- What role did other people play in this?
- Am I being extreme in assigning blame – one direction or the other?
Moving down to more extreme emotions, let’s talk about anger. Anger signals something that goes against our morals or standards, something that seems unjust.
If you set your standards very high, for yourself or others, you may often feel angry (and frustrated!) In addition, we often read into situations and speculate about others’ motivations.
Here are some questions to ask:
- How are my opinions impacting this situation?
- Is what I am angry about real or am I speculating in some way?
- Are my expectations realistic?
- What is within my control?
[Related: Be Curious: From Anger Toward Love]
Let’s finish up with the most extreme of the emotions – fear. Fear signals danger, imminent threat. Fear tells us there is something we need to prepare for.
There are obviously varying degrees of fear, but the key to disarming fear is identifying the danger or threat and knowing what your options are.
Some questions which can help:
- Specifically, what am I afraid of?
- Are there any negative thinking patterns impacting this emotion?
- What are my options for dealing with this?
Don’t let your emotions run away with you. Start taking back control today.
Angela Fresne is a career and life coach. She is dedicated to helping people find more satisfaction in their lives.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
I am dedicated to helping people find more satisfaction in their lives. That may be via their career, or that may be more from focus on work life balance, stress management or simply improving themselves. I am a career coach and a life coach. The last 30 years I have had a successful career from secretary to marketing director at IBM. In parallel, I was learning CBT techniques and how to maintain work life balance... Continue Reading
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