Part of being human means experiencing and feeling a whole range of emotions.
But as humans we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
This has served us well as a species throughout history.
But is it still serving us?
Research shows that when we avoid emotions by bottling them up, pushing them aside, or numbing them (with all sorts of things--from alcohol, drugs, social media, or--my personal favorite--food), they actually get stronger.
This is problematic because eventually we explode--and instead of controlling our emotions, our emotions end up controlling us.
So how do we avoid this conundrum?
4 Steps to Getting Control Over Your Emotions:
1. Name the emotion when you feel it. It sounds so simple, but this act of naming the emotion helps you identify it and gives you a little bit of leverage over it. It will also help you identify the thoughts that are causing the emotion.
2. Write, write, baby. Write like no one will ever read what you've written. Get it all out on paper. You might be surprised at what your brain is thinking. I call this a brain dump and it's so therapeutic.
3. Step outside of your emotions just a little bit and become the watcher of them. Instead of declaring, "I'm so freaking angry!" you might instead think, "I notice that I'm feeling a lot of anger right now--why is that?" Stepping outside your emotions also helps you avoid the trap of "being angry about being angry" or "being frustrated about being frustrated" and reminds you that you are NOT your emotions.
4. Remind yourself that, contrary to what popular media messages try to sell us, part of being human is experiencing ALL kinds of emotions. Life wasn't meant to be only bliss. Experiencing negative emotion doesn't mean something is wrong with you.
It means you are human.
For an excellent Ted Talk on emotional courage, watch Susan David here.
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