Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean ignoring them. It means you recognize them and act on them when you deem it appropriate, not randomly and uncontrollably.
1. Know your emotions. There are a million different ways you can feel, but scientists have classified human emotions into a few basics that everyone can recognize: joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. Jealousy, for example, is a manifestation of fear - fear that you’re not “as good” as something else, fear of being abandoned because you’re not “perfect” or “the best”.
2. Recognize that emotions don’t just appear mysteriously out of nowhere. Many times, we’re at the mercy of our emotions on a subconscious level. By recognizing your emotions on a conscious level, you’re better able to control them. It’s also good to recognize an emotion from the moment it materializes, as opposed to letting it build up and intensify. The last thing you want to do is ignore or repress your feelings, because if you’re reading this, you probably know that when you do that, they tend to get worse and erupt later. Ask yourself throughout the day: “How am I feeling right now?” If you can, keep a journal.
3. Notice what was going through your mind when the emotion appeared. Stop and analyze what you were thinking about, until you find what thought was causing that emotion. Your boss may not have made eye contact with you at lunch, for example; and without even being aware of it, the thought may have been in the back of your mind, “He’s getting ready to fire me!”
4. Write down the evidence which supports the thought that produced the emotion or against that thought. When you begin to think about it, you might realize that since nobody gets along well with this particular boss, he can’t afford to actually fire anyone, because the department is too short-staffed. For example, you may have let slip something that you should not have said which angered him, but which it is too late to retract.
5. Ask yourself, “What is another way to look at the situation that is more rational and more balanced than the way I was looking at it before?” Taking this new evidence into account, you may conclude that your job is safe, regardless of your boss’s petty annoyances, and you’re relieved of the emotion that was troubling you. If this doesn’t work, however, continue to the next step.
6. Consider your options. Now that you know what emotion you’re dealing with, think of at least two different ways you can respond. Your emotions control you when you assume there’s only one way to react, but you always have a choice. For example, if someone insults you, and you experience anger, your immediate response might be to insult them back. But no matter what the emotion, there are always at least two alternatives, and you can probably think of more: (i) Don’t react; do nothing. (ii) Do the opposite of what you would normally do.
7. Make a choice. When deciding what to do, it’s important to make sure it’s a conscious choice, not a reaction to another, competing emotion. For example, if someone insults you and you do nothing, is it your decision, or is it a response to your fear of confrontation? Here are some good reasons to act upon:
- Principles - Who do you want to be? What are your moral principles? What do you want the outcome of this situation to be? Ultimately, which is the decision you’d be most proud of? This is where religious guidance comes into play for many people.
- Logic - Which course of action is the most likely to result in the outcome you desire? For example, if you’re being confronted with a street fight, and you want to take the pacifist route, you can walk away—but, there’s a good chance that burly drunk will be insulted if you turn your back. Maybe it’s better to apologize and keep him talking until he calms down.
This works for me at least a little bit, at least sometimes.