Do You Control Your Emotions or Do They Control You?
By Chandra Lynn
Is there ever a good time to feel sad, depressed or angry? Not really, but it happens to all of us and it usually floods us at inopportune times. I used to feel victim to flooding emotions, and occasionally I still do, but I have a much better handle on it after learning about emotional mastery. Just the concept that I wasn’t a victim to my emotions and that they were controllable seemed life-changing to me.
The key for me has been to look at what happens before the emotions arrive, starting with my physical state of being. Did I get enough sleep? Have I worked out today or recently? Have I eaten nutritionally? Am I pre-menstrual or experiencing other hormonal issues? Sometimes, these are the reasons I feel sensitive and prone to drawing upon negative thoughts and emotions. After doing that inventory, I become aware of what I am choosing to focus on. Typically, my mind goes straight to something that I’m not happy with or something that needs to be solved. It often seems like I don’t have a choice about what I focus on because it just presents itself, but really I do. I can decide whether to give something my attention and energy or not.
When a negative issue comes up, ask yourself if you are in a state that is conducive to coming up with positive ways of looking at it and constructive resolutions. If not, consciously choose to table it until you are in a better state. If you acknowledge that it is bothering you and even set a better time to focus on it, you will see that you have the power to move your mind off of it for now. When your brain focuses on something that happened, practice taking control over whether you want to examine it at that time or whether you want to set a better time for it.
You may find yourself thinking, “I am really bothered by the guy at the gym who insinuated that I’m eating too much to meet my goals! What does he know about what I eat? He obviously thinks I’m fat! I guess he’s right. I’m fat and I’m frustrated!” Pause, and recognize that your brain is trying to solve a problem and prevent itself from being hurt. Then say, I will be home in an hour and will have 15 minutes alone before everyone gets home to think about a solution, and possible work through it in a journal by asking yourself constructive questions. The final thing I recommend is that when you do decide to focus on a particular problem, pay close attention to the thoughts that come up. Remember, you are not your thoughts. They are served up by the brain to protect you from getting hurt. It wants you to be safe and secure which is a great thing, but in doing this, it can hold you back from necessary growth. At a better time for analysis, you’ll be able to see that you used the gym guy’s comment to focus on the problem of being overweight and your judgment of yourself for feeling fat. Its easier to be mad at the guy for pointing out that eating less is a viable solution than to take responsibility for eating too much. Or, if you do take responsibility but you are hard on yourself about it, it can cause you to be at war with yourself. This causes internal frustration with yourself and the outside world…the guy at the gym, the restaurants for making food so readily available, your kids for needing snacks every five minutes, how hard it is to get to the gym with all that’s going on, etc.
Its up to you whether to focus on an issue, accept the thoughts that are coming into your mind, and assign beliefs to it. But be careful when you do because this is the process that draws in particular emotions. What you focus on and what you think and believe about it will trigger a very specific emotional response. You can make yourself angry, sad, frustrated, or happy for that matter. So why wouldn’t we choose to manage this process in a way that always makes us happy? The million dollar question! The answer lies in what drives us. To learn more about this, read my post about about our human needs and how we make decisions based on whether it gives us pleasure or pain.