Do you accept your emotions as they are? Or are you trying to change them?
Are you one of those who seek to control them, or do you automatically submit to them?
Do you think about them? Where they come from? Why do you feel good one moment and then bad a little while later? Why do they affect you so much? Why is a single stupid word or a devious act all it takes to deprive you of your good mood? Why can’t you rise above this? Why is it that some people can? What lies behind it?
As the first of you receive a new issue of my magazine, more and more of you are asking how you can control your emotions and how to avoid angrily choking on your sadness. You want to know how to find inner peace, and feel gratitude – even for the bad things. Here, I will try to show you 3 beneficial ways to regulate your emotions.
Common approach: water and door
Emotions are energy. They have the power to either lift us up or knock us down. They are like a stream of water and we are like surfers. So we tend to favour emotions, such as joy, that make us feel good, and then we try to surf that wave and get as far as possible.
Likewise, we furiously avoid so-called undesirable emotions such as fear. Sometimes we behave as if we are at home, behind the door without any peephole. Someone rings the bell, we open the door slightly and when we see an undesirable neighbour, we try to block the door with our hands and feet, so they don’t get in. We scream how bad they are, we fight them, we argue with them…. in short, we focus on them and waste all of our energy.
However, that neighbour is not trying to get anywhere. They simply stand at the threshold, laughing at how we are fighting our own door and how our actions leave us with the consequences. Then, when we fall exhausted behind the door, our neighbour will just put on our hat and leave. They didn’t have to do anything. We have exhausted ourselves.
What is emotional regulation: the way and the goal?
Will you allow me one professional definition? Emotional regulation is a set of processes by which individuals influence their emotions. These processes can be automatic; that is to say, we don’t even realize they are happening. Example: While watching a movie, if we see a scary scene we may automatically shut our eyes. This way we reduce our reception of negative information avoiding the creation of even worse emotions. Or – this is the second option – we regulate our emotions consciously, often forcibly. Example: When on a first date, despite being nervous and our heart pounding we try to smile. By moving our cheeks we activate the hormones that make us feel better.
We can also regulate our emotions with the ‘goal’ or ‘way’. This is what psychologists call the two methods we use to fight our negative emotions. The goal means focusing on the proven point. Example: To mitigate grief, we watch a familiar, funny movie. We remember how we felt the last time we watched it – how much we laughed. We want to induce that feeling again.
The way refers to an attempt to influence the dynamics and the trajectory of our emotions by giving our fate to something we trust and that has the potential, immediately or a little later down the line, to divert our attention to “other thoughts”. Example: I broke up with my partner and I feel down. I have absolutely no idea how to escape from this vicious circle. So I call my best friend. We go out and have a cup of coffee. Although I can’t yet see a bright light at the end of the tunnel, I believe my friend is able to reduce the intensity of my fears simply by distraction – another way of looking at our situation.
(Please note, ‘the way’ is what I choose to use when meeting you, the readers of my magazine or my book. To offer you a different view, some distance, a detached view; as if you were lost in a dark forest and I just took you for a moment to a nearby mountain from where it is easy to see which way will lead you out of the dark forest. Because the mountain allows you to see your position from another perspective it’s often enough. If you change your emotions – from hopelessness to hope – you suddenly believe in the solution and because you believe in it, you will begin to act positively. Improovio is no magic.)
How we control our emotions without even knowing it
„I feel sad,“ we say to ourselves. We believe that the feeling will disappear (by itself).
But let me ask you a question: Why should it disappear? Why shouldn’t the emotions develop instead?
Example: Do you ever feel that everything is just collapsing on you? How did it actually begin? You probably realized one serious problem and instead of looking for its solution (therefore beginning to think positively, constructively, proactively), you began looking for another problem; and then another. This domino effect will not suppress the negative emotions in your mind; on the contrary – you will develop them further. And it is all down to what you focus on – the problem or the solution.
We all have the ability to avoid dreaded situations; that is, negative emotions. Example: We don’t go through an unlit city park after dark because it can be too dangerous. Instead we prefer to go there during the day. We save ourselves from a lot of fear.
Or: We all have the ability, even if some negative emotion is already on the way, to change its energy or the physiological response of our body. Example: If, when we lose in sport we smile and take it easy the loss doesn’t hurt us so much. Jaromir Jagr says, “When after a lost match I go to give my opponent a handshake and I sincerely congratulate him because he deserved to win, I feel better too.”
So, what 3 ways help to influence our emotions, regardless of what we are experiencing?
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