How to control your emotions is something we all start asking ourselves very early on in life. We all know how pesky our negative emotions are sometimes and how they make us feel less confident.
Most people start learning in childhood that they need to keep some of their emotions under control. As small children, our parents keep telling us that good boys don’t cry and that good girls don’t express their anger. To avoid punishment, humiliation, and pain we learn how to control emotions that we don’t want to feel; in other words, how to repress and deny them.
This trend continues at the school where our teachers and parents expect us to behave like little adults. They force us to be serious, to put all of our emotions aside and focus on what the teacher says. We usually have little interest in doing that and we try to endure it for 45 minutes. We try to fit in and avoid the pain of rejection and punishment from our teachers, parents and even our classmates. Like every child, you’ll quickly learn how to control your emotions that you believe would cause you pain if you expressed them.
Though you might be an exception, most people reading this article will have found their way here with one goal in mind. Their goal is to improve their skills in pushing their emotions aside at will.
This article is NOT about this kind of control because this control is about emotional repression, based on a fear of judgment, of failure and of rejection. This type of control over our emotions is going to further enslave us rather than set us free.
It will be more helpful to talk about how to have control over what emotions can have a chance to arise from you at all. Or the very least, what emotions can gain a permanent foothold in you. Instead of learning how to be a more repressed but socially acceptable person, you’ll learn how to be freer and happier. And without appearing immature or out of control.
Because this approach is about happiness and freedom, let’s take a look at what defines happiness. According to psychology, our happiness depends on experiencing infrequent negative feelings, frequent positive feelings and high life satisfaction (Diener, 1984). How often we experience positive feelings compared to negative ones weigh the heaviest in the equation.
The clever scientists have again stated what we have known all along: we need to experience more positive emotions in order to feel happy than negative ones. Duh.
The truth is it`s not so simple, but merely knowing this information is a whole different ballgame to actually mastering your emotions (and your life) so that you can enjoy lifelong happiness. And by the way if you are reading this to only learn some interesting information without acting on it, let me quote Bruce Lee so that you can decide to change your mind:
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
I trust that you are a person of action. This article is my gift to people like you who are fully committed to taking massive action to learn how to control your emotions. If you are one of them, please ponder these questions for a moment. What would it be worth for you to gain mastery over your emotions? To get rid of suffering? Remind yourself of your answers whenever you need to keep yourself on track.
What prevents you from creating lasting happiness in your life is that you have the wrong idea about what creates your negative emotions. Even if you know this little-known secret, you still don`t know how to control your emotions and your mind because of a lack of experience and a proven system.
What is your idea about the immediate cause of your negative emotions?
Is it other people? Events? Making mistakes, or facing the unknown? For most people, these are among their answers and they try to control or avoid each and every one of these.
You might be surprised, but actually none of the above causes your emotions. I will tell you what really does in a moment, but let me ask you something first.
Imagine that it’s your wedding day and you’re getting married outside. There’s torrential rain on your wedding day and having nowhere to hide you get completely soaked, feeling wet and cold with your hair and clothes sticking to your body, hardly able to see anything. How do you feel? Horrible, don’t you?
Now imagine that if it rains on your wedding day, in the culture you grew up in this means lifelong happiness and abundance for the couple. How do you feel now? You are probably feeling over the top, celebrating.
Now imagine that you are sitting on your bed preparing to go to sleep and you are watching through the window as it starts to rain outside. How do you feel now? You’re likely not feeling anything about the rain now.
Finally, imagine that you are a farmer and it hasn’t rained for many weeks. All your crops are dying and the future seems bleak. Then you notice it has started to rain. How do you feel now? You’re probably feeling excited and grateful for it.
All roads lead to Rome
Did you notice that the difference between these people experiencing different emotions about the same rain was the meaning they gave to it in their head?
Some gave it the meaning that “I`m going to get cold and I won`t look good”. Others thought “How wonderful, we are truly blessed! Let`s celebrate”. The farmer gave the rain the meaning that he`ll be able to provide for his family and they can survive. Sometimes we don`t give meaning to events if we think it won`t affect how our needs can be met. We`ll then be able to simply observe the event.
Meanings cause emotions. Not other people, events, gains or losses, words or actions, pain or pleasure.
For example, let’s take this very obvious and fundamental one: pain and pleasure. You might be saying now, “Of course pain and pleasure create emotions, are you kidding me?”
Well, when they do create positive or negative emotions, it’s because of the conscious or subconscious meaning in our mind that is telling us that we can survive (in the case of pleasure) or that we can’t (feeling pain a.k.a. receiving damage).
Take people who enjoy feeling pain for example. They might gain sexual pleasure from it because they have a meaning in their head that allows them to do so. Or they might think that if it hurts, it means that their exercise is working. Or if they study or work painfully hard, they might believe it builds character or more commonly, that by enduring this pain it will make them better persons worthy of attention, love or other rewards.
Most people would avoid consistent pain because it means consistent damage and eventually death. Unless they have a different meaning in their heads about it. Controlling the meaning in your head is how to control your emotions.
Two young women, customers at my current day job have asked me recently: “My friend’s boyfriend hasn’t texted her back for an hour. Do you think she should be worried or be mad at him”?
My answer was: “His phone’s battery might be dead. Or his phone might be put on silent or is switched off. Or maybe he’s dropped or lost his phone. There could be an infinite number of reasons why he hasn’t answered. Your friend’s emotions are created by the meanings she gives to him not texting her back. Meanings like he doesn’t care, he is cheating on her or wants to leave her. She needs to realize these are not real, just some arbitrary meanings in her head that trigger those emotions. To learn how to control her emotions, she needs to take a step back mentally. Then take a few slow, deep breaths and start finding 5 or 6 alternative interpretations of why he hasn’t texted her back yet. Her negative emotions will be gone and her relationship with him will improve”.
Our partners/friends not answering our texts or calls are very common themes that can trigger our reactions through the meanings we give to these situations. These are great practice in learning how to control your emotions.
We also have underlying limiting beliefs that generate these meanings. Beliefs, like “Men/women cannot be trusted”, “Relationships don’t work”, “I am not worthy”, “I am not lovable”, “I am not important”.
Can you see that all roads lead to Rome? In this case, they lead to the beliefs and meanings in your head that create your emotions moment to moment. In this article, you’re only going to learn how to become conscious and get rid of the meanings that are the direct precursors of your emotions. I’ll discuss in later articles how to get rid of limiting beliefs.
Looking at your own life
If you still need to understand how this works, think of the last time you were afraid, angry or sad. What was the meaning in your head that you gave to what was happening, just before the emotion appeared? To understand this, pause for a moment now and take your time until you really have found that meaning. This is a light bulb moment for many people who want to learn how to control emotions.
Maybe you thought that someone didn’t care. Or didn’t respect you. Or that you were not in control and couldn’t get what you wanted. Or your survival was in danger. Whatever it was, can you see it now that this meaning in your head has created your emotion and lack of confidence and not the event itself?
You might still be attached to the idea that it was the event that caused your emotion. This is because the meaning we give to it almost always appears to be a built-in, organic part of the event and it feels real to us. Beliefs and meanings filter our experience of reality so that we feel a distorted version of it. Like contact lenses, we can’t directly see them while we are absorbed in experiencing reality. Often they are tricky to even get out so that we can begin to have a closer look at them from a little distance.
Events have no inherent meaning
You see, an event can mean anything. It could have an unlimited number of positive or negative meanings. It is our mind that will come up with a completely arbitrary one in the moment and attach it to otherwise completely meaningless events. Because events have no inherent meaning.
This is important so I’ll repeat this. Events have no inherent meaning.
“Wait, how come they don’t have any inherent meaning?” “They must have some meaning!”
No, they really don’t.
Remember the example we started with? There was no inherent meaning in the rainy weather. Based on what we need in the moment, our minds will give it a meaning that will have nothing to do with the true nature of the event, which is being devoid of all meaning.
10 different people of various ages and gender, from completely different backgrounds, will come up with vastly different arbitrary meanings for the same event. Imagine these people watching the event that you thought was the cause of your emotion. Listen to the different meanings each will give to your event. This proves that there is no inherent meaning in any event; we give those arbitrary meanings to events that will, in turn, determine how we feel about them.
How to control your emotions
So the next time you react to something and want to feel happy and confident, remember that you are creating your feelings with the meanings that are running through your mind on autopilot and often below your current level of awareness so that you are only aware of your emotion or energetic state and think that`s the be all and end all.
“So how can I control my emotions? These meanings in our heads usually go under the radar and even if I can notice them, what can I do to be confident? Shall I fight against them?”
If you’ve tried fighting against your thoughts you’ve probably realized it was an uphill battle and the thoughts only came back stronger along with the negative emotions they created. This lowered your self-confidence too. Sometimes you distract yourself from these negative emotions with food, drugs, alcohol, sex or doing something extreme. You certainly realize now that this is not the way to find happiness, gain natural confidence and is not how to control your emotions.
A very useful way to take the fang of the negative meanings out is to first identify and then detach them from the pure event. Events have naturally got unlimited potential, including the positive ones and giving them meanings will limit your ability to respond to them in an optimal way.
The good news is that this process can be done playfully and it can become a habit too, so you can automatically notice and dissolve negative meanings as they arise.
This is a lot like mindfulness practice and it will reinforce neural pathways in your brain that will make you more aware of what’s going on in your mind. You`ll even be able to distance yourself from those negative thoughts and meanings with committed practice, just like people who regularly meditate are able to. The difference is that this will be effective even when you are just starting out and gives you similar overall benefits. You`ll also gain more wisdom and understanding of how your thoughts are creating your emotions right from the beginning. Becoming rooted in mindfulness will help you eliminate most limiting self-esteem beliefs automatically because this creates a new context in the brain for those beliefs.
Are You An Empath?
There are a number of usually spiritual people who will read this post who consider themselves an ’empath’. Empaths take on people’s feelings and often they are helpless to this happening.
Because of weaker personal boundaries and an identity that was not formed healthily in childhood the quality of the energetic states of empaths are more subject to the environment and the people around them.
Having little control over their own states, the frequent pain, powerlessness, and frustration will get them stuck in identifying with their current feelings and energetic states. Because energies feel more permanent than the physical body, identifying with energies is an answer to their unconscious existential fears that we all have. It gives them a sense of certainty as they failed to adequately form a strong and healthy identity early on in life.
Identifying with energies and making them more real than other contents of our experience will push those other contents into the subconscious, including what is causing those energetic states. This getting lost in and being identified with their subtle energies prevent them from becoming aware that their beliefs and meaning in their heads create their feelings, emotions and energetic qualities. Because they focus on feeling these energies and treating them as the foundation and root cause of reality, they lose touch with the real causal level: their beliefs and meanings.
They won’t realize either that what they think they are is just a phenomenon in pure consciousness. Their belief systems and spiritual egos are constantly controlling their states subconsciously.
This identity will justify itself by keeping the forces that influence it hidden and by filtering the person’s perception of reality.
Because of their resistance to most things I will talk about, these people won’t be able to benefit from this website much except for learning to understand and identify human needs and how to change their state in an instant. This site is going to challenge their identity too. It is important to me to be upfront about this in the starting article to avoid wasting their time if they are not open to what I am going to share with them. This wasted investment of time and energy would make letting go of this site more painful.
If you are one of them and haven’t clicked away yet congratulations! You are likely ready to shift your limiting identity and the beliefs attached to it that have created your powerlessness. You can benefit greatly from following these 8 steps below.
Overview: The 66-day Emotional Mastery Challenge
To make this a part of your life, this is what I’d like to invite you to do for the next 66 days. There are less than 100 days left before we step into the New Year and I’d like you to start the New Year strong. The perfect time to create any positive change is always now.
This powerful 6 (actually only 4) step challenge was inspired by Morty Lefkoe`s process. You’ll be increasing your ability to immediately become aware of the negative meanings in your mind and eliminate them before they can put you in a negative state. You will be free of negative emotions and suffering. You will also become aware of more opportunities and have the ability to act on them without procrastination and realize your full potential. You will be more happy and confident.
For the next 66 days, you are going to set up an alarm on your phone for every hour of your waking day to stop and reflect on what negative emotion you experienced in the last hour and what meaning you gave to what was happening that caused the emotion. Really come to a complete stop, take a few slow and deep breaths, relax as much as you can and listen to your inner world until you get in touch with the meaning.
Especially when you are just starting out, it can take some time to find the gold, so keep digging diligently. Forming habits can be challenging in the beginning so make a decision now that you will approach it with playfulness and curiosity to make it easier and more fun. See if you can find what excites you in this game of exploration and you might soon find that it has become almost effortless.
If you find it difficult to focus or make progress and become frustrated about it, notice that you’ve given this a meaning. Something, like: “I can’t do this”; “It’s going to take forever”; “This is not working for me”; “Mindfulness practices are not for my personality” etc. Notice that these are meanings in your head and not reality. These are your limiting beliefs and identity limiting you and holding you back from success and happiness. These will distort the reality you experience and you can`t trust your results either. Your results are the reflections of your beliefs.
Very often we can`t imagine ourselves making dramatic changes like doing this exercise 14 times from the very first day. If you find that this is true for you, start by doing it only once, with one alarm for one hour only on the first day and increase it by one more alarm every day until you reach the daily 14 hourly goals.
We hold on to our own identity and the beliefs that form it, more than to anything else. Trying to improve quickly is a trick of the mind to set you up for failure so that you can beat yourself up and reinforce some limiting beliefs that you might have like you can’t achieve what you want, you are not capable or worthy, or you are a failure. Being aware of the tricks your mind plays on you to prevent you from changing is very important. To set yourself up for success and prevent your mind from playing this cruel trick on you, you must make all changes in baby steps!
If the frustration persists, let go of any effort and resentment, give yourself compassion and congratulate yourself for actually taking action. Then go back to what you were doing before and give it your best shot again an hour later. And then another and another and another hour later. Focus on how this game of exploration feels fun and interesting to you and acknowledge any improvement. Stick to it and you’ll eventually notice that you’ve become better at this game. You’ll feel empowered, excited and liberated as you realize that you have more control over your emotions and thoughts.
When you make a clear distinction between the meaning and the actual event, you’ll see the event in its unadulterated state. Without the meaning and the emotion, you are finally free to deal with it in any way you want with peace of mind, clarity and remaining open to all possibilities.
Part of this process is to install a new empowering belief, “Everything that happens to me is there to support and guide me”.
Imagine how often you’d get upset about something seemingly negative happening to you when you have this belief. Every event happening to you will be another reason to trust Life/Reality/God/The Universe (or whatever your preference is) and be grateful for being supported, guided and being taught a valuable lesson that will make you a stronger, wiser or more loving person.
Just think about it. You don’t have to consciously think about breathing and making your vital life functions work. You don’t have to worry about having enough oxygen, a low enough level of cosmic radiation, water or the right temperature for your body to survive. You have plenty of mating partners on the planet and affordable food is in abundance around you too. It is easy to find shelter from the elements. You can truly and deeply relax into trusting life. This reality that you were born into was designed to support you with your survival and your reproduction and you were designed to thrive in it. Life wants you to thrive and you are fully supported. Make this truth powerfully alive and true within yourself by consciously focusing on it and reinforcing it many times every day, creating a sense of gratitude within you for it.
How an event can guide and teach us is something you might be wondering about too. It surely has happened to you at some point in your life that something that you thought was a bad thing that happened to you much later turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Like breaking up with your partner who wasn’t really the right one for you, but you only realized that when you met a new partner who was a much better match for you. Or maybe you had to move places and the new house or area ended up being a lot better than the old one was. Or you’ve lost a friendship because you realized that your friend was not honest with you or betrayed you but later you’ve found many more friends worthy of your trust.
I’ve noticed that on a psychological level life will help us let go of the old that doesn’t serve or fulfill us anymore so that we can embrace what’s coming, that’s better for us and helps us grow as a person. If for no other reason, challenging events serve us by helping us to become wiser and more adaptable which means being more confident in our ability to handle any situation and learn from it. Understanding this will help you make the decision to adopt the empowering belief, “Everything that happens to me is there to support and guide me”.
Your 6 (4) easy steps to control your emotions
Follow this easy step-by-step formula to transform your life in 66 days. Make sure you are doing these now as you are reading this! You’ll only need to do 4 simple steps (steps 2 to 5) repeatedly every day and you’ll only do the first and last steps when you start.
- Set up an alarm now on your phone for every hour that you are awake for at least the next 66 days. By far the best way to do this is by using the free Habit Bull app for iOS or Android. Watch this video for instructions. You only have to do this step once but if you don’t do it, you’ll most likely fail. If you are still reading this you’ve likely suffered a lot. Demonstrate to yourself that you truly care about your future self’s level of happiness. Do this step now!
- Whenever the alarm goes off, stop what you are doing and mindfully reflect on what negative emotion you’ve felt in the last hour. Taking a few slow, deep breaths and finding a quiet area can help in the beginning, but are not necessary.
- Find the meaning that was in your head that created this emotion just before you felt it. Notice that this was only a meaning, not reality and not part of what was happening. The meaning you made up was in your mind, the event was outside, waiting for you to embrace it without interpretations.
- If you still have trouble realizing the meaning in your head was just one possible interpretation and not reality, do the following. Imagine 10 completely different people of different age, gender, profession and social status watching the video recording of that event. Listen to each person giving their own completely different meaning to the event. This will help you realize that your meaning was just one of many possible interpretations instead of The Truth and then your emotion will be gone.
- Now’s a good time to install the new empowering belief in your mind, “Everything that happens to me is there to support and guide me”. Choose to really believe this and feel the truth of it in your body powerfully and then create a feeling of gratitude within you too. Trust with gratitude that you’ll soon understand how this event was meant to support, guide and teach you.
- Make a public commitment on social media or to your friends and family in person that you’ll complete this challenge and ask them to hold you accountable for following through. This will put pressure on you and pressure creates diamonds. You only have to do this once.
Click here to quickly set up Habit Bull to help you learn how to control emotions.
Use the power of the `investment mindset`
This is an extra, powerful way of leverage you can create to make sure you follow through and create a habit of mastering your emotions. This is totally optional, however.
You might have noticed that when you buy a ticket for an event that you don`t really feel like going to when the day comes, maybe because the weather is not good or for some other reason, you`ll often push yourself to go to the event just because you`ve paid for it and you don`t want that investment to go to waste. The more you`ve paid, the more inclined you will be to go. Or to complete a course if that`s what you`ve paid for. With a free event, there`s no such pressure on you.
This article is completely free and therefore lacks this extra punch to keep you on track that the same article if presented as a paid “66 days course in emotional mastery, worth £97”, would be able to give you. You are financially invested in actually doing the course and this is called the “Investment mindset”.
On top of that, we usually perceive free things as lacking in value, even if they are powerful and life-changing, like this one here. And this wiring of our brains can prevent us from taking the program seriously and from succeeding.
However, there is a way you can to take advantage of the investment mindset now by donating through this link in exchange for the value you think this article can bring to your life. I`ve had this donation method set up on my site from the beginning anyway and because it can help you be more likely to succeed, you could as well help yourself to using it while supporting my work at the same time. You can support my work here:
If you still haven’t set up your alarm, please do it now and tell me about your progress in the comments below. If you’ve found this useful, please let me know by hitting the like button and sharing this article with your friends so that they can transform their lives too.
I’m wishing you all the peace, bliss and freedom that are your birthrights.
To your Emotional Mastery and Confidence,
This is the first article in a 10 part series.
The next one in the series will be titled “Why We Do What We Do – The Ultimate Guide”.
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