There are some who believe that we should handle our negative emotions with care, but I believe that every emotion that arises must be carefully met.
Be it happy or gloomy, each emotion brings with it a sense of arousal—external events, which are often out of our control, stimulate these feelings and it becomes difficult for us to diminish them.
Our emotions are much-needed signals to delineate what’s happening around us. Fear can be a sign of danger, desire a sign of wanting, and happiness a sign of gratification.
But what can we do to regulate these feelings? And why should we learn to lead the way when it comes to our emotions?
Not every emotion is hazardous; some can make us feel good for a short while. Nonetheless, all emotions can become harmful when they control us or interfere with our state of mind. If not handled carefully, some unwanted and unexpected triggers can transform our emotions until they feel like a part of us, entirely sabotaging our mood.
This can occur with negative emotions, such as anger, confusion, or jealousy, and pleasurable ones, such as ecstasy, desire, or even happiness. We often develop a sort of clinging to the reactions they stir within us and become identified with them.
There are various ways to work around our emotions without letting them control us. But the first step is figuring out how to regulate our reactions.
When something happens to us, our emotions are instantly stimulated. It can happen abruptly, and before we know it, our emotions are running rampant. For example, when our team scores a goal, our body is filled with a rush of excitement and pride. If we crash our car, our heart races and we can feel angry or frightened.
So far, all this is natural—the body is reacting to some external stimuli. What happens next is where things get tricky. Once the emotion arises, we either take hold of it or let it take hold of us. We usually—and unconsciously—become identified with the emotion; it has the power to alter our mood or state of mind in a matter of seconds.
And because the emotion is happening to us, it can be hard not to see it as us. But the truth is, we are not our emotions. From my own experience, the most effective way to turn the tables and gain control of our emotions is to create space between the moment an event occurs and our reaction.
By creating some space, we can understand our reactions better. If we allow ourselves some time to reflect on these emotions, we can see that they are something we feel, not something we are. We can stop ourselves from becoming attached to how we feel.
We’ve all been in situations where we thought we did something wrong only to later discover it wasn’t our fault. At the moment we realized we were not to blame, we were able to let go of guilt and anxiety. The same thing happens when we pause for a moment and remind ourselves that the particular emotion we are feeling, whether positive or negative, is only a reaction to what is happening now.
I’ve found that doing this instantly regulates my emotions, and whatever I think or feel or do next happens on a more conscious, aware level.
Suppose you receive some frustrating news from your boss. If you sense anger starting to arise, pause for a moment before you become the reaction, acknowledge that this emotion is the result of the news you received, and tell yourself, “I am feeling anger because of the news I heard, but I am not angry.”
Stay with this thought and observe the emotion as it happens. Watch for changes in your heart rate and your breathing. Notice any other physical symptoms that show up.
Any emotion that you closely observe is bound to dissipate in a few minutes. Then, when the emotion passes, we are only left with the impression and the thought of the experience, which allows us to make better choices.
By regulating our emotions, we can respond more rationally and not act out of conditioning or habit.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman