Photo by MAJ Aaron Haney
By TSN Contributor Daniel Wong
“All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up;
that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being
and so distorts you.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
My teenage years were difficult ones because I got bullied all the time.
The bullies called me names. They made fun of me. They spread rumors about me. They took my belongings and refused to return them to me. They once locked me in a classroom.
Moreover, I developed a short temper and I’d react violently whenever I was provoked. I even allowed my emotions to overwhelm me to the point where I stopped talking.
It really scares me to think about the path I was headed down as a teenager!
I’m glad to say that the bullying eventually stopped, and that I overcame all of the hurt and pain I experienced.
Although I believe that bullying is never okay, I’ll admit that I did many annoying things, which indirectly encouraged the bullies to continue their behavior.
I’ll also take full responsibility for not disciplining my emotions and for not intentionally choosing to respond to the bullies in a better way.
I’ve since learned a lot about the importance of taking charge of my emotions. In this article, I’d like to share with you nine tips that have enabled me to keep my negative emotions in check.
1. Recognize the Power of Emotions
We like to think of ourselves as highly rational beings, but we’re usually not. We make impulsive decisions every day based on how we feel. We’ve all said and done things in the heat of the moment that we later regretted.
Being aware of how much influence our emotions have over our lives is the first step to taking charge of them.
2. Emotions Doesn’t Always Represent the Truth
Just because we feel a certain way doesn’t make it a reality. For example, we might feel that we’re a failure or that we’re unloved or that we’re stupid, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
Our feelings color our perception of reality. We need to understand, however, that these feelings can misrepresent the actual—and often less gloomy—state of affairs.
3. Avoid Toxic People
I’ve heard it said that we’re the average of the five people we spend most of our time with. This isn’t a scientific fact, but it’s a principle that holds true in general.
If we’re constantly hanging out with people who are angry, grumpy and discouraging, we’ll eventually become like them. It’s difficult to be in control of our emotions when we spend a lot of time with people who push our buttons in the wrong way.
4. Ask for Support
If we want to make any significant change in our lives, we’ll need the support of the people closest to us. Taking charge of our emotions definitely falls in that category.
Maybe you’re in a difficult situation where someone close to you is also someone who is a negative influence in your life. If that’s the case, you could try saying to this person, “I want to make a change in my life, and I need your support. You’re very important to me and I care about you deeply. But if you’re not able to support me, I think we need to limit our interactions.”
This might seem a little harsh, but it’s necessary for your growth and development.
5. Use Words as a Tool to Feel Better
Words are powerful, and we can harness that power to change our emotional state. When we’re feeling down, we need to train ourselves to use our words to improve—and even transform—our situation, rather than merely describe it.
For instance, even if you’re feeling disappointed, you could choose to say, “I’m going to try again and I’m going to be successful this time around.” This will make you feel much more empowered than if you used words as a tool to describe your situation: “I’ve failed. I’m just not cut out for this.”
It takes discipline and practice in order for us to cultivate this habit, but it’s vital if we want to exert our will over our emotions.
6. The Underlying Message
In communication, it’s not what we say that matters; it’s what people hear. When we’re constantly frustrated and angry at work, our co-workers hear us saying, “I don’t like my job and I don’t like being around people like you.”
When we’re frequently impatient with our family members, they hear us saying, “I refuse to be nice to you because you’re not important to me.”
Once we become conscious of the indirect and unintended messages we communicate every time we fail to control our negative emotions, we’ll realize the importance of exercising self-control in this area.
7. Wait Two Seconds Before Responding
It’s amazing how big of a difference two seconds makes when we’re upset. Every time we respond immediately—and instinctively—to an unkind remark, our words reek of spite and malice.
If, on the other hand, we intentionally wait for at least two seconds before replying, it’s far more likely that we’ll respond in a measured way that will help the situation.
8. Take Care of Your Physical Needs.
In The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe the four key areas of our life: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Loehr and Schwartz assert that we should strive to achieve optimality in each of those areas, and in the order listed.
This means that if we don’t attain physical optimality, it will be difficult to attain emotional optimality. If, for example, we’re sleep-deprived, it’s almost impossible not to be moody and irritable.
Thus, it’s essential that we take care of our physical needs—sleep, exercise, nutrition—if we want to be emotionally stable.
9. Ask “What’s one thing I could do right now?”
When we’re in an emotionally distressed state, sometimes it’s not helpful to be alone with our thoughts. This is because it’s too easy to allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity or to become overwhelmed by fear or hatred.
Instead, we could ask ourselves, “What’s one thing I could do right now?” This isn’t an attempt to ignore our problems; it’s a way to take our mind off of our problems temporarily so that we can gain perspective on our circumstances.
Additionally, taking action often changes our emotions in ways that thinking would never be able to.
Parting Words on Negative Emotions
Emotions are things of exquisite beauty. They form a huge part of what makes us human, and they enable us to be fully alive. Life would be incredibly dull if we weren’t able to experience such a breadth and depth of emotions!
But if we allow our emotions to swing us around wildly, we’ll end up hurting others and damaging relationships. We’re all on a journey of keeping our negative emotions in check so that we can lead lives of even greater abundance.
Let’s take the next step together. :)
About the Author
Daniel Wong is passionate about helping people to maximize their education, career and life. He is the author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success and he currently works as a project engineer. You can read his blog at Living Large and find him on Twitter.
Related Stories on Negative Emotions
- Surrender to Emotional Pain
- How to Free Yourself from Guilt
- How to Stop Negative Self Talk
- How to End Suffering
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