EMOTIONS IN CHARGE?
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and some friends of mine were shopping for a mini SUV. They were undecided between two popular makes, and on their way home, passing by another car dealership, they decided to stop in, just for fun. They talked to the salesman, test-drove the mini SUV, which had more bells and whistles than they wanted (and cost a lot more than they planned to spend) … and what do you think happened? They bought it, right then and there! They fell in love with the car.
Now, these folks aren’t silly. They’re mature professionals with two great kids, and they live a decent, orderly life. And yet their emotions guided a big spending decision.
Have you ever made a decision because, despite reasoning and facts, you just had a gut feeling? That’s not unusual. Emotions can be incredibly powerful, and if we’re honest, we’ll admit that they play a big role in our lives. For example, it’s hard to imagine that anyone has ever decided, based on logical thinking alone, who to fall in love with. And many of us have known a boss who told his staff that he or she would listen to them, and then made the decision based on “what I think is right.”
Can your mood change based on the events of your day? Are you affected by the moods of other people? If you’re in an intense or stressful environment, do you have difficulty staying calm? Do you ever feel manipulated so that you can’t think clearly, because you’re angry, sad, or scared?
If you experience any of these, your emotions may be in charge of you.
Difficult emotions – fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and related feelings like envy, suspicion, greed and jealousy – can shake our self confidence, damage our thinking and our ability to make good choices. So, we might wonder whether we can do anything for ourselves, when we feel unwanted emotions or moods.
The purpose of this article is to say that the answer is an emphatic “Yes”.
Countless books are available on managing emotions.
Here’s a short version of how to do it.
Identify the emotion as accurately as possible. Instead of saying, “I’m mad”, use more precise language: irritated, annoyed, confused, upset, angry, infuriated, enraged, vengeful, frozen with anger, and so on. You can think clearly about how to respond to these feelings, when you pin-point them.
Do not criticize or judge yourself about your emotions. Never, never, never say, “I should not feel that way.” Feelings are real, they defy logic and they are not right or wrong. They just are.
Do not deny or ignore your feelings; if you do, they will come back to bite you.
Ask yourself what you’d rather be feeling, instead of the unwanted emotion or mood.
Notice what you think when you feel bad, and ask yourself, “Do I really need to think that, or to believe that?” (If you’re not sure how to go about that, I can help.)
Notice what you feel physically when you feel bad. If you feel tense, you may find that exercise, even just a vigorous walk, will help greatly.
List your bad ways of coping: drugs, alcohol, over-eating, over-spending, etc. Resolve to change just one of those bad habits.
Do you know what can set off an unwanted emotion? Do certain people, situations or environments trigger bad feelings? Do you feel forced to endure those times?
All these tips are meant to raise your awareness of your feelings, and your ability to manage them.
Sadly, all too many people hold others responsible for feeling badly. Is that you? Do you blame others for your emotions, as if to say, “You made me feel bad.” This can be a harmless figure of speech, but if you mean it literally, it’s not good. People who blame others cannot manage tough emotions, because they’re saying that the other person is controlling how they feel. Unless they change that belief, they will fail. And, yes, everyone is capable of changing a belief, even a deeply held belief. We’ve all changed a belief at least once in our lives, even if it was just a belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Even though we can’t control our emotions at the moment they pop up, we can take responsibility for addressing them in a healthy way.
There’s so much more to be said. Here’s some more useful info:
How to brighten up a dark mood:
And another useful article from Psychology Today:
If you struggle with unwanted feelings or moods, don’t stop here. Look for books, workbooks, videos, reach out for help – do yoga, exercise, but please do something. You need not be dominated by emotion any longer. If you’re not sure how to get started, feel free to contact me. I’d be honored to help.