This week, we’re going to discuss emotional control, why it’s crucial to have it, and how to develop it.
How To Control Your Negative Emotions
“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” ― Oscar Wilde
What is emotional control? Emotional control is the ability to experience feelings while preventing them from influencing your thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. A lack of emotional control reveals itself in a multitude of different ways. Some people may overreact to minor inconveniences, while others will emotionally detach during a challenging time. Overall, when we lack emotional power, we respond poorly to external stimuli instead of providing measured, mature responses.
A majority of people lack emotional control. For example, many people express rage at the smallest inconvenience, such as fast food taking longer than usual or someone disagreeing with them on Twitter. On the flip side, many people are apathetic to things which do matter. Try and get the average citizen to express outrage at the national debt or their shortcomings. People who lack emotional control only seek easy emotional highs instead of stable long-term solutions to problems.
As an individual, lacking control of your feelings will drain you of your time, energy, and focus. Without emotional power, you will be at the mercy of your changing feelings. Instead of using feelings as guideposts in the pursuit of a virtuous life, you’ll exhaust your resources trying to satisfy every mood swing.
The Dangers of Lacking Emotional Control
- You’ll waste time and energy overreacting to everything – Someone cut you off in traffic? Did an actor you’ve never met die? Was your friend late for your lunch date? If you overreact with anger, sadness, and irritation, you will waste your time being moody and uncooperative instead of productive and engaged.
- You’ll fail to understand when something is important or not – Those who lack maturity cannot see why an offensive Tweet is less critical than overcoming their vices. When you seek emotional highs, your direct your life towards whatever is most accessible and immediate. And virtue, by its very nature, is neither easy nor immediate. Therefore, without emotional power, you’ll never pursue virtue, grow your character, or increase your personal power because you’ll be too focused on the small things in life.
- Weak emotional control blinds you to the beauty of life – Those who are continually over-responding to small issues will make mountains out of molehills. Eventually, their overreactions will make them ungrateful and entitled. They’ll only see problems and inconveniences but never solutions and beauty.
- The world has to cater to you – You’ll demand the world provide for your hyper-emotional states instead of you being responsible and empathetic to others; Your lack of maturity will make you a burden to your friends, coworkers, and family. They will have to tiptoe around your volatile, weak nature instead of enjoying your company.
The Value of Emotions: How Emotions Help You Become A Better Person
“One ought to hold on to one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
I wanted to cover the downsides of lacking emotional maturity. Next, I want to talk about solutions. However, I need to take a quick detour and highlight a very crucial component to this conversation: your emotions are fundamental, and they will help you get through life.
Your emotions are “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” Your feelings are your way of understanding your response to the world around you. We should approach the world logically, critically, and theoretically. However, we need emotions to give us our human insight.
You should be angry while stuck in traffic – it is highly inconvenient. You should be sad during a funeral because the death of a close friend or relative is depressing and disheartening. You should feel joy at victory because you have worked hard for your greatness.
How To Avoid Becoming An Emotionless Robot
With emotional control, our goal is to experience emotions but to prevent them from influencing our actions. Your feelings will provide a flag for how you should respond. Remember, it is perfectly reasonable to be angry at traffic or a rude customer. The goal is to experience this emotion, then react in a positive, productive, and constructive way. Traffic is infuriating, but you need to use your anger to deliver solutions such as finding a backroad. A funeral is somber. However, you need to remain strong for the loved one you’ve lost, and your loved ones still alive. Victory is joyful, but you need to celebrate responsibly and be ready to return to work.
Lastly, you cannot be in control all the time. Extreme situations such as the death of the child or the loss of one’s possessions in a house fire can bring the most reliable individuals to their knees. However, the same rules apply: stay consistent, rebuild yourself day by day, and don’t drown in your emotions.
Why Emotional Control Is Important
“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
There are many benefits to developing emotional control. Some benefits include:
- You will be a joy to be around – Emotionally stable people can handle a joke or talk about nuanced, complicated topics with a leveled head. Such people will respond appropriately to minor problems and significant disturbances. Additionally, they can handle criticism and give useful advice. In short, when you have emotional control, you become a joy to be around in business and pleasure.
- You’ll waste less time – The more emotionally stable you are, the less energy you’ll lose on emotional outbursts.
- You will be happier – When you can control your feelings, you can decide how you respond even during difficult times. Even if you’re sad, if you can reason with yourself, you can rework your sadness into fuel for your gratitude, which can help increase your happiness.
- You’ll increase your confidence – If you can control your actions during a heated argument, then you can overcome many other challenges in your way. The more you can manage your emotions during minor problems, the more you can direct your willpower towards accomplishing great things.
1. Strengthen your emotional control by abandoning emotionally-charged people
When you step away from people who cannot control their emotions, you become more capable of controlling yours. Some people over-respond to the smallest thing. They become enraged when having to wait for lunch or pissed when others disagree with them. Such people will influence you and make you more emotionally unstable by association.
Your goal? If they’re reasonable people and only have a few areas of emotional weakness, then try to help them. We all have our hot button areas (mine is traffic) which good allies can help keep under control. Therefore, express your concerns at their emotional outbursts and work with them to deliver solutions.
However, some people exist to create drama. They love emotional highs and seek their next fix. Abandon these people. They are usually weak individuals who will drag you into their pointless schemes and desires. Never let these people rock you emotionally – get away from them and seek better allies among the emotionally stable.
2. Identify then discard the media which gives you emotional highs
Emotional highs are when you feel elevated or angry after an experience. During an emotional rush, you will not want to think, consider, and listen. Emotional lows and their various discomforts follow emotional highs.
Some people, media, and ideas are designed to get you high on emotions while blocking your higher thinking. For example, most news media exists to drive up ratings by delivering shocking news. You’ll hear about crime, political gossip, identity politics, and other depressing, infuriating, and controversial news. However, you’ll never hear about people getting along, crime going down, businesses running smoothly, and individuals achieving personal victories. The former news cycle makes you a slave to your emotions while the latter will give you hope for yourself and the future.
Get Rid of Social Media and Negative Fiction
Additionally, avoid works which don’t inspire you. I don’t consume horror movies, for example. They bore and frustrate me. I fail to see the entertainment in watching people die over and over again.
Furthermore, I avoid social media. Twitter, Facebook, and other media empires provide emotionally charged meaningless content. None of this information strengthens me: it distracts and irks me. Why keep going back to websites which make me emotionally weak?
Remember that the product is you. When you are emotionally charged while consuming garbage media, you are not working towards your growth and development. Politicians, corporations, religious institutions, and collectivists can easily sway and manipulate you when you are wasting your time and emotionally unstable.
Therefore, identify the media which destabilizes your feelings. When you consume less emotionally-charged, frustrating, and deceitful media, you’ll gain better control over your feelings.
3. Familiarize yourself with real suffering
“In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it.” ― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Many people are emotionally charged because they lack perspective. If you want to be moved and humbled, then read. Reading the words of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Harriet Ann Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass has radically changed my perspective of race. No matter how bad I view the current times, they are nowhere near as horrible, terrible, dangerous, or hopeless as the past.
I’m humbled. Instead of being emotionally charged, I have to meet the few legitimate examples of bigotry with patient, generosity, and understanding. Read more while looking at the politics of current counties such as the slave trade in the Middle East and Africa, the failing economies in South American countries, and the violence in our inner cities. Take a step back, count your blessings, and stop losing emotional control in your world of comfort and peace.
Being patient, generous, and grateful develops your emotional control
Additionally, practice the “giving” virtues: patience, generosity, and gratitude. Through these three virtues, you can better control your emotions because you focus on giving instead of obsessing.
For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you’ll become angry. However, practice generosity by creating a narrative which paints the person in a positive light. Your kindness through the story you create for this person, such as they may be late for a job interview, will help calm your nerves. Your mind will fill with more positive thoughts, and it’s easier to control positive feelings than negative ones.
The more patient you are, the less you complain, and the less your flare your anger. The more generous you are, the less paranoid and annoyed you are at the world and your inaction. The more grateful you are, the less you have to worry about, and the more you can enjoy and cherish.
4. How to manage your emotions in a positive way: Gain Humility By Challenging Yourself
“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” ― Frederick Douglass
I firmly believe human beings need a meaningful, productive challenge. When we lack significant struggles, we become entitled, bitter, and angry. Throughout my life, the emotionally unstable people had no skills, talents, or life purposes: they drifted from pointless conflict to pointless conflict looking for something to give them an emotional high; i.e., a brief moment of meaning.
Look at any critic. They are always so passionate about how a movie, game, or book did not live up to their expectations. They declare the greatest hyperboles (“this movie ruined my childhood”) and express deep anger at entertainment. Why do they respond so passionately? Because all they can do is consume and consumption provides no purpose or challenge.
Avoid the fate of the emotionally unstable. You have to provide meaningful challenges in your life, which push you forward and help you grow as an individual. I overcame my emotional immaturity by going to the gym. I tested myself physically and found myself gaining more control over my emotions. I sharpened my body, and my mind soon followed.
Challenging yourself will humble you and bring you to your knees. Then you can learn to stand again and repeat the process. Comfort breeds entitlement, and when our expectations are not met, we lash out in emotional immaturity. Rid yourself of entitlement through constant challenge.
Get Your Unwanted Emotions Under Control: If You Can Change Something, Change It
Apathy is death. If you can make meaningful changes, then you need to focus on improving yourself. Emotionally stunted people allow life to happen to them – they are extremely passive. However, if you grab hold of your future, then you’ll strengthen your control over your emotions. Why? Because productivity makes you hyper-focused. A person who has daily responsibilities isn’t going to waste time getting into a shouting match with the local idiot.
Be stable and withstand the storm of your emotions
As always, you’re not perfect. There are times when your emotions will get the better of you. However, when such moments happen, save face and disengage. Leave the area if you feel like shouting or swinging. If you ever feel extreme emotions, do what you can to find a private place.
Get away from weakness and focus on strengthening your character. If you can control your feelings, you will be a value to yourself, your community, and your future.
- Which suggestions do you struggle with the most? Which technique is most comfortable for you to implement? Why?
- How different would your life be if you could develop emotional control? Would your life improve or not?
- Why do you believe you lack emotional control? Where do you think your weakness comes from?
- Who’s one person you know who has emotional control? What character traits do they have? Can you copy them in some way?
- How hard is your life? In what ways can you increase and improve the meaningful challenges you go through?
- Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant by Zen Habits
- How Not to Get Sucked Into the Emotions of Others by Zen Habits
- 10 Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Emotions by Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC
- 5 Ways to Get Your Unwanted Emotions Under Control by Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
- Sunday Fireside: Beware of Emotional Contamination by Art of Manliness
- Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence: The Keys To Your Best Self by Daily Stoic
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.