Wouldn’t you like to know how to control your emotions? The bad news is… you can’t. Emotions are going to occur. They’re part of being human. But there is good news: we get to decide how we respond to them.
I recently listened to a podcast interview with B.A.S.E. jumper Jeb Corliss. During the interview, he talked about how emotions are our body’s way of trying to get us to do something. Knowing this, we then have to ask ourselves, in the midst of a strong emotion, “Do I want to respond the way my body is telling me to respond?” That question is powerful, because it correctly implies that we have a choice whether we’ll act the way our emotions are prompting us, or to choose a different response.
I think this is a game-changing realization for anyone with a pulse! Just because we’re experiencing an emotion doesn’t mean we have react the way the emotion would guide us. We get to choose our response, not our emotions. I love that!
Armed with this common-sense awareness has allowed me to recognize situations this week where an emotion was demanding a specific response. In those moments, that awareness has helped me to turn off the emotion autopilot and choose a different (and usually more appropriate) response.
For example, my wife and I got a new cat last weekend. As a result of being stressed out and in an unfamiliar environment, our new family member decided our living room sofa would be a better place to relieve himself than the multiple litter boxes we placed around the house. Upon realizing he was doing this, I felt several emotions, primarily anger and frustration, which both wanted me to do something, namely wring the cat’s neck and put him on Craig’s List respectively.
What I really wanted to do was yell and complain. In truth, I actually started down the complaining path. Then I thought of Jeb’s comment about emotions prompting your body to do something. I realized pretty quickly that the way I was reacting was NOT the way I wanted to respond.
I then focused my thought on what was causing the cat to do this (being stressed out) and what could I do to begin to relieve some of that stress. The response after these thoughts were more in line with how I wanted to respond and made me feel much better than I did when I was on autopilot spewing complaints. I feel like I learned a new life-hack this week that will help me make better decisions in my future years.
Things will go wrong and we’ll have emotional reactions, but that doesn’t mean we’re obligated to move in the directions our emotions prompt us. Fortunately, we can choose different.
Pay attention to your emotions this week. If they’re prompting you to react in a negative way, first pause, then decide what your best response would be, and then act accordingly.