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appropriate, encouraging their creativity, yet restraining them from foolish, destructive or discourteous behavior.” Mark Daniel, Self-Scoring Emotional Intelligence Tests.
In an age where things like “being happy” and living a successful life have become subject to so many scientific approaches and methods, and where every psychology section of every library has a growing abundance of books written by “life coaches” and self-development gurus promising you quick fixes to greatness, there are bound to be many misconceptions about emotional management, so I’d like to get some of those out of the way first.
What is emotional intelligence? Probably the best definition of emotional intelligence is how Steve Hein put it in Emotional Intelligence for Everyone by simply saying: ”emotional intelligence is knowing what feels bad, what feels good, and how to get from bad to good.” Emotional intelligence, in other words, is our innate capacity to recognize, understand, communicate, explain, learn from and manage our emotions. It has nothing to do with quick fixes, magic pills, modern life coaching therapies or any type of twisted manipulation. Isn’t it inhuman to control our emotions? It depends on what you mean by control. Nature has of course not provided us with an on and off button for our emotions, and to completely control them would not only be impossible, it would also defeat their purpose. Managing our emotions simply implies knowing why you feel the way you feel and how you can manage or cope with those emotions and their causes best. If you say “manage emotions”, are you saying emotions are bad?! To the contrary. The concept of emotional management is not one that in any way antagonizes emotions, the only real purpose of emotional management is to be able to lead a more enriching, more satisfying and intense emotional life while minimizing the danger that negative feelings take control over us or lead us to places we don’t want to be. Doesn’t emotional management mean manipulating our feelings? Emotional management is really nothing more than putting things in perspective and dealing with reality the way it is and not the way our emotional brain often misinterprets. If you remember any moments when you were sad, angry or upset only to find out it was unrightfully so (perhaps angry at a friend for not showing up and finding out you had the wrong place) then obtaining that new information that allows you to see things more clearly and consequently reducing your negative feelings is emotional
management. In fact, without emotional management one could say we are a lot more manipulative and unrealistic about our emotions, only in a subconscious way. This book teaches no manipulation techniques, no quick fixes and no methods for suppressing or ignoring reality or the feelings that comes with it. It is simply a guide to a proper interpretation of our emotions, where they come from, and how we can correct the misinterpretations or dramatizations of our emotional brain. What can I expect of this guide? This guide simply offers ways to logically acknowledge, identify and interpret our emotions as well as practical guidelines on when and how we can deal with them. It is by no means a guide about getting rid of your emotions entirely in favor of pure rationality (because that would defeat the purpose and value of emotions), nor of suppressing emotions unhealthily. What I also want to add is that not everything in this guide is my original work, I have borrowed here and there from various books and guides on emotional intelligence and management and this is simply meant to be a compact walkthrough of what I personally find to be the most important key insights to emotional management.
1. EMOTIONS: THE BASICS
I think, so I feel
In order to manage our emotions we have to first understand where they come from. A fundamental insight in this is that every emotion we feel is founded on a thought, value or belief that triggers it. People might argue that when a man points a gun in your face the fear grips you so fast there couldn’t possibly have been time to think about it, so the emotion must have preceded the thought, value or belief that should have triggered it, but the point is that you would not even have felt fear in the first place if you didn’t know what a gun was and what it could do to you. It’s the information we have (either through our own experiences, socially learned, or through genetic inheritance) and the thoughts, values and beliefs we constructed out of it that make up our emotional triggers. We generally don’t feel emotions that our brains don’t think they have reason to feel (and I say generally because factors like drugs and brain damage, and to some extent basic instinct, can influence our emotional circuitry as well.) This does however not imply that our emotions are per definition always reliable. Our emotions are simply the messages our bodies send us to indicate what we need to be happy and healthy, and they do this based on the genetic legacy of our forefathers as well as the memories of our own past experiences. This is also why emotions can be irrational. Some people can feel fear when confronted with a harmless situation simply because it reminds them enough of a similar past situation in which there was real
sound or even smell of the car triggers that fear. we end up feeling them rather than rationally recognizing them. It is of course natural to feel upset or sad when a good friend or family member dies for instance. the objective to emotionally charge these memories. reminiscing about the past can bring up the emotions we felt back then simply because our memories are linked to these emotions (certain parts of our brains have even been identified as areas tasked with.“I don’t know how to go on without him/her.danger.“It’s unfair that he/she had to die.” .” .” . among other things. As a defense mechanism our brains remember our past emotional episodes and register the scenarios in which they occurred so that they can warn us of similar situations in the future. These are all thoughts that because they are more often than not subconscious. but the death itself is not the primary cause of your emotions. Now I am by no means claiming that feelings of sadness are unhealthy or misplaced when a loved one dies. Obviously we feel this way because of the value we attached to this person and the thoughts and beliefs that his/her death brings about. value or belief we can also conclude that other causes of emotion are secondary to our own thoughts.) There is further biological evidence that indicates that our emotions are based on and triggered by thought. The primary cause of emotion Knowing that every emotion is the result of an underlying thought.“It’s unfair that I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.” While probably the most logical and understandable sentiment of all.“This is horrible. but are simply our own thoughts about the circumstances. or of simply getting into a car. If for example you had a heavy car accident once you might feel terrified of going on the freeway again. An example of common (and often subconscious) thoughts/beliefs in this scenario: . after all. To clarify. we’ll go over them one by one.” And so forth. as discussed in Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones. it is still an emotion that is caused . but it is nonetheless crucial to our ability to manage our emotions in general to understand that none of these emotions or thoughts are naturally linked to the death of a loved one. even if before the accident you would have considered it entirely safe. we don’t feel the same emotions when a stranger dies. nor that we should eliminate these feelings from our lives. but I want to keep this guide focused on the practical side without deviating into biological or technical details. -“This is horrible. your brain might simply register the situation as dangerous because the sight. For the same reason.
-“I don’t know how to go on without him/her. Again the death itself does not cause this emotion. If all the criteria for an event or situation are met. Fairness is not a law of nature. You might find that someone who may have fiercely hated the deceased actually feels positively about his/her death. while acceptance is necessary for any coping process. however it is not so that this is ever impossible. value. If you had never met this person you would have never felt this miserable about his/her absence or even his/her death in the first place. or fear because it wasn’t your car but for instance your parents’. . but a horrible one to assume as a natural law. And the last one is simply the same expectation of fairness as the second one. You might meet devoutly religious people who find a bittersweet joy in the passing of a loved one because they believe he/she is in a better place now.” This sentiment is brought about by the value you placed on the deceased person and the relationship you had with him/her.” Many people often feel more intense feelings of anger and sadness in situations where they regard what has happened as unfair. Most people would assume that (A) the act of vandalism inevitably causes (C) feelings of anger. belief) -> C (internal emotional response) Let’s say one day you go outside and find someone has keyed your car.solely by our thoughts. A (external event occurs) -> C (internal emotional response) While in reality our emotional circuitry works more like this: A (external event occurs) -> B (thought. Learning to recognize and separate internal and external causes Without the insight that emotions are based on thought. but the idea of needing this person in your life to be happy (although irrational) does. or perhaps worry that you don’t have insurance. an A to C reaction if you will. so they might not find it horrible at all. and that whether or not something is fair should not be a measurement of how negative our feelings should be. a sport or a game. skipping B altogether. most people assume that feeling an emotion is simply an inevitable reaction to the situation. Saying something isn’t fair is often just a way of saying we cannot accept what has happened. In order to cope with situations like this we have to first accept that life does not deal in fairness. Depending on how much a part of your life this person was. or smashed the windshield. -“It’s unfair that he/she had to die. If the death itself caused the emotion of deep sadness. which is an excellent belief to judge your own actions by or to apply in a courtroom. The problem with this thought is that it is based on the belief that things should be fair. it may be very difficult to imagine being happy again without him/her. beliefs and values that determine the emotional response. it simply occurs. As said before it is simply the individual’s thoughts. then it would be universal and wouldn’t differ from person to person.
The most important thing to do here is first to eliminate our blame mentality. This is how you will find the majority of people deal with their emotions. To take control we need to take responsibility first. values and beliefs) as our own responsibility we can never hope to manage them. It’s a very common response to. our internal emotional response (C). . and that the external event in itself actually holds no sway over how we feel. that is the problem. How this plays into managing our emotions is something we’ll discuss in a later chapter. even against rational insights.” Separating justification from usefulness A last and very important part of recognizing and understanding our emotions is to learn to separate the cause of our emotions (both external and internal) from their usefulness or purpose. when something goes wrong. as we saw with the example of the deceased loved one. by figuring out what external event led to them. Now in many cases it can obviously be debated how much blame we can put on the external factor. However. It’s important to realize the power of this state and the fact that every strong negative emotion inevitably wants to justify itself. but first and foremost we need to cultivate the capability to acknowledge. to the contrary it usually makes us feel more upset and powerless and puts us into a victim mentality where we expect others (or external factors) to fix our emotional state for us. When we feel a (primarily negative) emotion we tend to enter what Paul Ekman refers to as a refractory state. which effectively hinders all emotional management. This is the time following the initial onset of the emotion in which we interpret what is happening in a way that fits how we are feeling and ignore all knowledge or facts that do not fit. this person should be held accountable for his/her actions. In a very real sense we temporarily become blind to information that does not support or justify our feelings. we know that all of these emotions are the results of our own thinking. “Of course I feel upset. because as long as we don’t accept our emotions (and our thoughts. Of course. Or as Stephen R. By externalizing the cause of our emotions we are avoiding looking at ourselves and what causes us to really feel this way. it is commonly accepted to be an inevitable and natural result of the external circumstance. my car was vandalized!” We look at the external event (A) and directly link it to. after all if someone vandalizes our property or hurts us unprovoked. as well as use it to justify. whether it’s in your control or not. it helps no one to blame others for our own emotional state. recognize and understand what really causes our emotions. and how it was responsible. Covey put it: “When you look for the solution to the problem outside yourself. want to dump all those negative feelings onto one external scapegoat.Whichever emotion you feel.
practice recognizing these states. If that is not possible it is often still a better reaction to excuse yourself. because while they cannot always be controlled in the heat of the moment. they can be minimized and our irrational behavior avoided. but when it comes to which emotions to use in our problem-solving or to act upon in a social situation. but what the angry person should really ask him/herself is if using or expressing anger is at all beneficial to the situation. We too often link our emotions to action without questioning their competence in being a proper reaction. and you would like to continue to talk about this when you feel more in control of your thinking. the majority of people seem to be in what you could call a ‘cold’ refractory state most of the time. Refractory states are however not something we should inevitably give up our control to. is if it is at all healthy. As I said before I’m by no means an advocate of suppressing or stonewalling our emotions. our brains just don’t seem capable of accepting that our emotion is misplaced sometimes. especially with people close to us since they have the ability to hit us the hardest. What we rarely if ever ask ourselves. intensify or express it. when we remain angry despite someone explaining to us the uselessness of our anger or how we wrongly interpreted the situation to begin with. however. In a conversation you can simply as politely as you find yourself capable say that this conversation has made you emotional or has clouded your thoughts. What is interesting is that while Ekman refers to the refractory state as something that happens in the heat of the emotion and causes its afterglow. This typically only occurs in human interactions. we tend to look to causes and justifications as a reason for intensifying and prolonging our feelings. . so even if an emotion is unhealthy we need to handle it responsibly and not just try to ignore it. Even when we are not experiencing heated emotions. productive or useful to feel that way. leave and explain later than to react with anger. “I feel sad because she hurt me”. etc.) This is usually all we need to dwell on a situation: a justified cause that makes us feel it is natural to feel this way. emotional behavior whilst in a refractory state. Accept that you are capable of irrational. intensifying or expressing them. You can justify your anger at someone by explaining what set in motion your reaction. The proper thing to do is in this case also one of the hardest things to do. we simply resort to explaining what might justify the emotion (“I feel angry because he betrayed me”. and practice postponing your potentially harmful reactions or behaviors. namely accepting our state as emotional and possibly improper and postponing our response.We have all been there. the first step to understanding which emotions are healthy and which are harmful is to choose not to accept justifications for our emotions as the reasons for keeping. Never just accept the justification for an emotion to be a reason to keep. When asked why we feel how we feel.
I was wrong. you can’t hope to lift 40kg dumbbells if you have never worked out before. rather than mustering up the will to deal with reality. we need to first assume - .Why we often cling to negative emotions: It seems to be quite universal that people usually keep a negative emotion alive (or even intensify it) when they feel they have the “right” to it.” Then you can decide whether or not anger (in this case) was the desired. this process cannot take place. “I feel like… (an idiot. grateful. try to write out the ABC reaction to clearly separate external cause. As long as you put the blame on the other person. accept and take responsibility for our emotions is something everyone can do. How to practice Learning to acknowledge.). Just because you know how to deal with your emotions doesn’t mean it will always be easy. but we are basically holding on tightly to the one thing that’s ironically making us hurt. sad. To many negative feelings we basically respond as though we have found something shiny. and whether or not you might want to work on this. but it is specifically true for the ones that inspire others to help us. thoughts and emotions. but when it is used as a substitute for real emotional management. Compassion is a valuable human sentiment and is by no means negative.)” What’s important about this is identifying emotions. use actual 3-word sentences ending with an emotion. thoughts or behaviors (i. Write (or think) out every emotion you feel in simple 3-word sentences. Keep track of all blaming and correct yourself after. To assume control. “I feel … (angry. so no writing in labels. Here are a few practical things you can do: Keep an emotional diary. “This is mine! I have the right to have this and don’t you dare take it from me!” – I’ll refrain myself from making geeky Lord of the Rings references on this one. proper or at all constructive emotion to feel. but the process is not dissimilar to physical muscle training. jealous. we often don’t want our problems solved. your failures will be what teach you the most. so give yourself the time and practice to get better at this and don’t beat yourself up for your failures. happy. A big mistake is assuming knowledge is skill. When people feel they are the victim of a negative emotion they often expect others to fix them rather than try to fix themselves. we want sympathy for them. you’re trapping yourself in a victim mentality where you’d rather receive other people’s sympathy to feed your own self-pity.e. You’ll be surprised how little most of us actually do this and how out of touch we really are with our feelings. This is of course not true for all negative emotions. There is no such thing as for instance “She made me angry. In fact. Every time you feel a significant enough emotion being triggered. so we cling to the problem (and the negative emotion) as a free ticket for other people’s compassion. vengeful.” only “I made myself angry because of what she did/said. etc. etc. development and progress. calling her. but with practice and patience you most definitely can.
Enlightened Satisfied Supported Negative Uncomfortable Rejected Ignored Unappreciated. Hated Unlovable. angry. The more you do this. Here’s an example of such a list from Steve Hein’s Emotional Intelligence for Everyone: Positive Comfortable Accepted Acknowledged Appreciated Loved Lovable. so first we need to establish an accurate emotional vocabulary in order to help our understanding of them and help us identify them more specifically. the closer you get to recognizing them when they occur in real-time. AND WHY Meet your emotions Real emotional management boils down to the process of acknowledging. After all. Sad. but in most cases just being a bit more precise will be all we need to lift confusion and get us going in the managing process. bad. sad or joyful. names of countries and cities. Undesirable Angry. Resentful. Practice recognizing refractory states by writing about them when the moment has cooled down. there’s not much hope to managing our emotional state if we can only describe it as good. Bitter Unloved. Hurt. but we cannot hope to manage our emotions if we do not know what we’re dealing with. Squelched . of rivers and mountains.- responsibility. Disappointed Unaware. Desirable Happy Aware. The easiest way to do this is by simply using a list of emotions and circling the ones you identify most with at the time. but no institution ever taught us the names of our emotions. 2. We’ve all been taught mathematics and grammar in school. accepting. The first thing we need to do in the identifying process is to pinpoint as precisely as we can which emotion we are feeling. UNDERSTANDING WHAT WE FEEL. identifying and ultimately taking responsibility for our emotions in order to assume what control we have over them and to work on their underlying thoughts. Confused Frustrated Unsupported.
guilty for feeling proud. and get a clear view on what’s going on inside your emotional brain. but the price you pay only gets steeper over time. Emotions are the messages our bodies send us to indicate what we need. On the other hand if you ever do find yourself feeling guilty. Needy Nervous. That we truthfully acknowledge and accept how we feel. Insecure Tense.eqi. Numb. There is a big difference between feeling upset because you missed your bus. and moreover that our emotions are in fact the reality of the things. shameful for feeling lust. Deserving Excited. Obligated Dependent. Ashamed Unworthy. Insulted Afraid. Relaxed Motivated Focused Free Independent Confident Competent. so it is essential that you are honest with yourself.htm For us to identify our emotions only two things are required: 1. much like trying to cover up a broken arm with band-aids. Frozen Empty. 2. Our . that ignoring them. yes. and feeling upset because your brand new car has been stolen. Scared Incompetent. Stupid Guilty. Worried. Controlled. Dumb. size matters. Undeserving. suppressing them or wishing them away can only ever make things worse. Secure Peaceful. Inadequate. etc. Lonely A longer list can be found here: http://www. Lethargic Lost Trapped. In order to be honest with ourselves we have to realize that there is no shame in feeling any particular emotion. Capable Proud Worthy. Isolated. Hopeless Disrespected. write them down. Frustrated Bored. That we find the name of the emotion. Size matters? When it comes to our emotions. Use these lists and again identify those emotions. shameful or angry at yourself for feeling a particular emotion (for instance people can feel angry at themselves for feeling insecure. Energetic Fulfilled Validated Connected Discouraged Pessimistic. Needy Invalidated Disconnected.org/fw. Embarrassed. Inadequate Depressed. Self-deceit ultimately cripples this process. to discard these messages is to discard the underlying conditions they try to call our attention to.Encouraged Optimistic Respected Safe.) don’t beat yourself up over it. You can temporarily ignore them.
for example you can easily feel invalidated. Moreover. these autoappraisal mechanisms can be wrong about interpreting what’s actually going on around us. In modern society however. this happens through what Ekman calls autoappraising. and these reactions can sometimes be all but useless. Magda Arnold. or to talk to a stranger we find attractive. The shadow side of this genius evolutionary system is that the system can be fooled. the psychologist and contemporary theorist who coined the appraisal theory of emotions simply defined it as “the mental assessment of the potential harm or benefit of a situation. In ancient civilizations danger often required an immediate fight or flight response. We don’t need to pump more blood sugar to our muscles and elevate our heart rates in order to be able to do our jobs. so the perceiving of a threat logically set in motion an emotional reaction of fear. but how strongly you are feeling them. but rather on . This can be done by using simple adjectives or by rating them on a scale of 1 to 10 depending on your personal preference. but our bodies perceive such stressful situations as dangerous and indiscriminately treat them as they would a truly threatening one. to not simply register which emotions you are feeling. meaning that if you keep an emotional diary. disrespected. social learning or evolutionary baggage) and then leaves the appropriate response largely to the autoappraisal mechanisms that cause you to experience fear when a man points a gun at you before you even had time to formulate any conscious thought about the situation. Most of these triggers are pulled by our subconscious mind without us having had any time to analyze. accompanied with the necessary stress and hormonal changes to prepare you for action. For our bodies there is little difference between running from a tiger and being approaching a cute boy/girl and fearing rejection. Just like we pull our hand away from the fire on impulse. discouraged and angry all at the same time) so needless to say the same emotion might be felt in many different situations. intercept or prevent the reaction. One of the uses of this is to later identify which “hot triggers” in your life set off strong emotional reactions and which only mildly influence you (or perhaps affect your more long-term mood.” For emotions to have survival and evolutionary use they by all means have to be faster than our conscious thoughts. simply because they rely not mainly on logical interpretation of current events. It can be very useful to while identifying our emotions gauging or measuring their intensity.) Identifying triggers and their potency can be a very valuable process in the actual management of our emotions. in which it may only differ in intensity. emotions are designed to be the knee-jerk first responders to situations that require us to act quickly. Our brains learn to establish which circumstances or events are threatening and which are desirable (either through personal experience.emotions are not specific to one situation (and often do not come alone. an event or circumstance to which the emotion is the triggered response. How we see the world – identifying hot triggers Every emotional reaction has a trigger. most if not all of our problems are more complicated and long-term.
are in fact a result of our neurobiology. Our brains quite literally mirror the other person’s neural activity. We have discovered that for example a monkey grabbing a peanut activates very specific neurons in his brains that are responsible for the programmed action “the grabbing of the peanut. this joke is still likely to be a hot trigger for anger and other emotional responses the autoappraisal mechanism deemed appropriate to combat bullying. why we subconsciously find ourselves mimicking body language. and you as a child often experienced physical abuse from a male authority in your life. our subconscious mind is constantly trying to identify the aspects we do recognize and can link to people or situations in the past. we don’t see people and situations as they are. We are constantly labeling people and their actions as entire programs before they are in effect executed. This is how we often intuitively decide who looks trustworthy and who doesn’t (though facial expressions and body language enter into that as well). if a monkey were to try and grab a peanut but miss (so the action is not actually performed completely or correctly). ensure our survival by completing what we see . Emotions Revealed calls this process the process of importing scripts from the past onto your current situation. and as an adult finds himself at a job where a coworker makes a playful joke about him without any malicious intent. which is something our brains do quite relentlessly. your brain might fire up the neurons that stored the scenario of someone using physical violence against you.” These neurons fire only when he grabs that peanut. For instance. and in order to get our bearings and know how to react to this person/situation we automatically try to fill in the blanks by using puzzle pieces from our own past. we see them through the ghosts of our own past. Neuroscience has explained this phenomenon by the discovery of mirror neurons in the brain. or we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation. they do not fire when he performs any other motions! What’s remarkable about this is that those same neurons do also fire when he sees another monkey grab the peanut. which what Emotions Revealed doesn’t mention. In other words. and thus inspire fear. but the intention behind it. A clarifying example: if a child has been bullied and abused all his teenage years. What this means is that our brains are constantly prejudiced. even if there was no rational reason to believe such a thing would happen in this situation (for instance if the man’s anger was clearly not directed at you. If a man walks in the door with an angry face. both him and the other monkey watching him would still fire up the neurons for “grabbing the peanut” – it is not the actual motion that triggers the program. they are the hardware so to speak for the program that is writing specifically for this action.comparison to previous events. and why we are capable of intuitively feelings what others are feeling (emotional empathy) without conscious thought.) In other words our autoappraisal mechanisms as Ekman calls them. This is also how we can biologically explain why we yawn when others yawn. why we smile when others smile. or how a situation is going to play out. the monkey is able to recognize what is going to happen because it knows the sequence of the action and completes the picture automatically. When we meet a stranger. The importance of this fact for identifying the hot triggers of our emotions is that we have learned that our brains have programs and scripts stored to identify specific situations and perform specific actions.
why people can be so easily misunderstood. When you identified your emotions and their triggers. healthy or useful. recognize the futility of this. examine if despite your strong feelings about this you might not be missing something. we practically can’t. Find out what your triggers are and if your emotional responses are at all justified. the purpose - - - . we can be more open-minded towards our own mistakes and misinterpretations. - How to practice Open-mindedness is absolutely essential to being able to accept that our emotions may be inappropriate or ill-advised at times. We don’t see them as they are. Despite all of this. our conscious minds are still quite capable of correcting and rewriting already written programs. Next time you feel very strongly about something. Avoid beating yourself up or creating more negative emotions about negative emotions. This is why the man cracking a benign joke at work can be seen as a bully. By knowing how our automatic appraising systems work. If you are keeping an emotional diary (which I do recommend) in which you keep track of all at least all the times you had an unwanted or disproportionate negative emotion. identify what you feel as specifically as you can. This is why we so easily subconsciously import scripts from other situations and other people onto current ones. Get in touch with your actual emotions and get rid of abstract concepts such as “feeling bad” or “feeling good” to define your emotional state. but rather flexibility of insight. identify the aspects of the situation that made you feel this way and then subject them to a reasonable analysis. and consequently ask yourself if you may have misinterpreted or if the emotion you felt was at all a reasonable reaction (let alone a useful one. we are even physically capable of reducing the function of neural pathways and creating and enhancing new ones. simply acknowledge and accept them. play the devil’s advocate inside your head. try seeing it through the other person’s eyes or through the eyes of an outsider. Use your rational mind to learn from your mistakes. which is a very important step in accepting and recognizing our emotional flaws. try analyzing what triggered them. which is an emotion that cripples your confidence and is never really useful. This does not encourage self-doubt. he may have been wrong.and experience with spare parts from our past if you will. Keep a list of emotions handy (either on your computer or in paper form) and go over it every time you feel a significant emotional reaction to something. A very useful practice to open your mind is to try and always be aware of the possibility that you’re wrong. think about what happened. in proportion.) For instance the man who gets angry at the colleague who cracks an innocent joke might later realize that while he was sure the colleague was bullying him. and his reaction ill-advised by his own brain. Analyze your emotional hot triggers after the emotional episode has cooled down. our brains have seen to it that we consider the likelihood of what’s to come (and what the intentions of people are) by looking to our past for clues.
and this is the meat of effective emotional management. So if we want to change our emotional responses we need to deal with their causes. but it will put you on the right path. much like the physical pain you feel when you are wounded. but that doesn’t mean the original cause for the pain is treated. you can take a painkiller for the pain. by neglecting the cause you are only making things worse. value. The emotion itself is a messenger. MANAGING EMOTIONS Reprogramming ourselves In the first chapter we went over how every emotion is in essence caused by the thought. fighting or suppressing our emotions. but it helps no one. belief) -> C (internal emotional response) In this process “B” could also be dubbed the autoappraisal mechanism (the way our mind subconsciously interprets external circumstances based on previously gathered information and translates it into “C” – the emotional response that is deemed appropriate).of emotional management is to minimize unwanted negativity. and knowledge alone won’t give you control. What you have realize is that there is no simple quick fix or magic pill to do this. The first step is to draw out an ABC(D) structure as above. not to battle it with more negativity. So how do we begin to manage our emotions? Very simple: by controlling our thoughts. emotional management is a skill that needs to be practiced. belief or value on which it is founded. and what emotion are you feeling as a result? . The next chapter will go deeper into how to deal with these emotions. What’s the event that triggered your appraisal mechanism. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of being angry at yourself or loathing yourself for your negative emotional episodes. 3. what are the thoughts your appraisal mechanism is basing itself on. We cannot hope to manage how we feel by ignoring. We know that emotions come to be through the following process: A (external event occurs) -> B (thought. clearly separating the different steps in the emotional process. worse yet. but what we want to focus on now is how to prevent or change unwanted or irrational emotions. whether this thought/belief/value is socially learned or instinctive (evolutionary heritage). denying. and we could also add “D” – the behavior or actions we perform based on the emotion.
Let’s ask ourselves the four questions of reason for each: 1) 2) 3) 4) Is this thought objective and based on facts? Does this thought help me to reach my goal? Does this thought make me feel better? Does this thought help me avoid unnecessary or unhealthy conflicts? This ruins my day . A (I experience: my car breaks down in the middle of traffic) B (I ‘think’: this ruins my day. you will easily find out whether or not you’re being rational. if what you’re thinking (and feeling) is at all productive or healthy. and furthermore. so if we want to reprogram our emotional responses. it’s usually what we make of it in our heads. you can control your emotions. why do things like this always happen to me) C (I feel: anger at the situation. The simply method we can use to find out how reasonable our thoughts are. we tend to feel a lot better simply because reality rarely is horrible to us. beliefs or values regarding the event we would ultimately feel differently about it. and the reason is that the thoughts our appraisal was based on here were completely irrational. you will have reality on your side. Your thoughts control your emotions. you will usually find that when you try to see things realistically. A thought that passes none of these questions with a ‘yes’ is by default irrational and usually destructive. this is unfair.” So how do we reprogram our thoughts? Do we have to manipulate them? Trick ourselves into thinking differently? Not at all. Thus. for if we had different thoughts. Let’s take an example. realistic and reasonable. unhealthy and useless to aid the situation. So how do we figure out which thoughts are irrational or unfounded and which are rational and healthy? After all. things aren’t always black and white. Effective emotional management is a very simple process that adheres to a very simple syllogism: “You can control your thoughts. we want to focus on the underlying thoughts. fear for the consequences.Doing this makes it very clear that “B” is always the cause of what we are feeling. frustration) D (I act: angry and anxious) You can already clearly see that everything from B down becomes unproductive. because by simply eliminating irrational thoughts and replacing them with rational ones. is to subject them to what I like to call the four “questions of reason”: 1) 2) 3) 4) Is this thought objective and based on facts? Does this thought help me to reach my goal? Does this thought make me feel better? Does this thought help me avoid unnecessary or unhealthy conflicts? By subjecting any thought you have to these questions. in fact.
Thinking something ruins your day doesn’t exactly put a smile your face. these severe emotional responses are rarely if ever in proportion to how serious the matter at hand actually is. 3) Nein. 2) Not if your goal is resolving the issue. but it is rather rare. Know that your emotions are messengers of underlying (conscious or subconscious) thoughts. this fear is logical and even useful. It makes no sense to feel emotions that we don’t even agree with if we think about them for a second. but we can just as well experience intense negative emotions about things that have no logical significance to our lives. You’re cursed. 4) Nay. When the criteria for an event are met. No. Things like this always happen to me 1) Yes. 3) Clearly not. It’s likely to be just a subjective exaggeration. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to be permanently affected by certain serious turns of events in your life. We see a snake and we become afraid because the snake is a potential threat to our survival. or experiences a dreadful setback – even to the extent of things like losing a limb. it takes place. This will in no way help you more than keeping a clear head and thinking constructively. Fairness is not a natural law. By simply trying to see things for what they are and correcting your own irrational thoughts by applying these logical steps.1) No. you will over time find that your negative emotions become a lot more manageable and are automatically reduced in situations where they might have previously been severe. We don’t even know how the rest of our day will play out. because you’re inspiring anger in yourself. 3) Nope. - An immensely interesting find in the area of emotional research is that apparently whether someone experiences an amazing stroke of luck such as winning the lottery. however drastic or emotionally turbulent at first. which we assume it would be. They always do. not at all. and those messages are proportionate to the problem or even at all logical to begin with. 4) Quite the opposite. - This is unfair 1) No. This is an entirely subjective interpretation of the situation. Try to see where your emotions come from. The change. . what they are conveying. 2) Presuming your goal is to resolve the situation. did not have a significant lasting impact on their emotional wellbeing. 4) Even more nein. after a period of 6 to 12 months the vast majority of subjects felt no different than they had before. Placing yourself in a victim mentality isn’t precisely going to motivate you. It’s fate. 2) Nopa. of course not. and we clearly always have a measure of control over that. The point being that while things may happen to you that cause a whole lot of emotional turmoil.
So where self esteem is a natural emotional state. humiliated or subjected to other social influences that usually bring down our sense of self-worth (if we use our ego rulebooks.4. In a nutshell my view is that we can be happy and confident even when our social situation tells us we cannot. EMOTIONS AND SELF ESTEEM What is self esteem? Self esteem could be defined as the collection of feelings you have about yourself. About a year ago I wrote a little piece on ego where I said the following: Self esteem: is the unconditional state of feeling confident about oneself. we can never fully believe or accept emotions other people have for us that we don’t feel for ourselves. or in any way influenced by external factors such as social validation or situational aspects. where a person with low self esteem will obviously feel more negatively or doubtful towards himself than a person with high self esteem. you must have a reason. and when one cannot. and does not answer to influences from without. even when we are mocked. Ego: is the rational construct one creates to justify and regulate when one is supposed to feel confident. it will be . What the complications and problems are of having a strong ego is something that can be discussed in detail and could fill an entire book on its own. but if you ask me the definition goes further and makes a clear separation between self esteem and ego. It is never more useful to feel self-loathing or hatred than self-love and confidence. but I’d like to focus on the relationship between self esteem and emotional management for now. ego is the rulebook we create to regulate or justify when we can feel confident and when we cannot. It is a collective of rules and barriers that inhibit your confidence and natural positive emotions and subordinates them to external factors and conditions.) Self esteem is a birthright. It is simply the core sense of self worth that comes from within. For instance if we do not love ourselves. Why do you love me? As sort of a general rule in our emotional landscape. Ego is what dictates that you cannot simply feel good about yourself. It is not dependent on. and in particular about how the emotions we have about ourselves affect our interpretation of emotions other people have towards us.
etc. Furthermore if we don’t understand ourselves. In other words. In order to feel loved by others we have to love ourselves. The ego is a construct that is directly and proportionately related to your social environment. because your life has value and you have all the natural capabilities to feel confident and happy about it. Even if you would come up with a reason that sounds feasible to you. in order to feel valued or respected we have to value and respect ourselves. We don’t have to sit around and wait for things to happen that facilitate our feeling good about ourselves. lines like “Why do you love me?” shouldn’t sound unfamiliar if you’ve been in a relationship or two. If you find yourself disagreeing with this on any level. You are worthy and valuable because you exist. or your own behavior toward others.) If we don’t respect ourselves. our emotional relationships with others start with the emotional relationship we have with ourselves. ask yourself: why should you feel bad about yourself? Sure. EMOTIONS AND COMMUNICATION There are a thousand and one reasons why we get overly subjective and emotional in our communication with others. a constant. we don’t ever understand why someone else might. we can simply feel that way because we recognize self-worth is our birthright. but true self esteem is founded on the concept of natural self-worth. but I’m talking about you as a human being. Projecting ourselves onto other people . but I just want to go over a few very common and usually unnoticed ones here that could avoid many misunderstandings and heated debates. shyness. we often have the feeling no one can or will. because you would have no reason to. why it would at all be productive or useful to harbor negative feelings about you. hence you usually end up liking yourself as much as other people like you.extremely difficult to grasp that someone else truly loves us (and as low self esteem is an extremely common problem. ask yourself if self-doubt. Some people might argue that you cannot start loving yourself if other people don’t love you. Self-worth is a given. as a life form almost if you will.) 5. you can feel bad about your behavior or feel the drive to change it. insecurity or self-hatred is ever useful? If it ever helps you change the behaviors or characteristics in yourself that you would like to change? Chances are they never do (which again boils down to separating cause from usefulness. but that’s a matter of confusing self esteem with ego. it is simply the value you have as a human being. It is in no way tied to other people’s behavior toward you.
she might automatically feel betrayed or hurt by this because her subconscious brain assumes her husband is being inconsiderate. this is the moment following the initial emotion in which we will feel the strong urge to justify and maintain it. Let's say a father tells his wife one morning that he cannot pick the kids up from school because his boss just called and needed him there today. but it's also probably the most common reason I know for why we misunderstand and misinterpret people's behavior towards us. Despite . we almost always see people more as we are than as they are. Someone who never believes we tell the truth even if we always do is most commonly a liar himself. Unless we consciously make an effort not to. this is simply how our subconscious brain chooses to warn us for what's (likely) to come. even if there is no indication of this. This usually happens completely subconsciously. This is logical. Crystal clear examples of this are for instance the boyfriend who cheats on his partner and will as a result be extremely distrusting and controlling over her because he feels she will cheat on him. Justifying our own emotions under the assumption that they are “right” Each strong (particularly negative) emotion usually wants to preserve itself in its refractory period. Projecting a past script onto a current person or situation Much like the first reason for being subjective. but we notice it through our emotions. The way we try to understand others is by imagining what we would be thinking or feeling if we behaved as they did. often without considering that our characters and our motivations for that type of behavior might be very different. Even if he gives the argumentation that his boss just called and there is nothing he could do. projecting." She is projecting the script from a past situation onto her current one because her brain recognizes enough similarities. The reason he does this is because it's often hard for us to understand that people tick differently than we do. When we are in a situation that is potentially harmful to our welfare (particularly in an emotional way) we tend to automatically compare this situation to similar ones from our past to look for clues on how to deal with it. We project our own flaws and ways of thinking onto them. Consider the previous example in which the wife assumes her husband is being inconsiderate. particularly if this happened often or early in life and left an imprint. etc. she might argue saying "You should have told me sooner. Someone who feels offended by the slightest prank might be someone who would only prank other people with malicious intent and cannot imagine you did without that intended cruelty. If the wife had in the past had relationships where her partner was inconsiderate towards her.The way we experience our lives is always the reference point for us to understand how others do." or "This is unfair.
. simply because the feelings they have for us don't make sense to us. How well and how fast we can make our brains believe that the emotion is unnecessary determines how fast we get over it and stop being overly subjective.the evidence that he is not. We might feel that people are lying to us. She might look to the past and say "You always do this. . In the traffic lane or with the man bumping into us we might be able to do this faster than the wife with her husband. it is practically impossible to accept that others have very positive feelings about us provided they know us as well as we know ourselves. 6. Being unable to accept people’s thoughts or emotions about us As said before. this is a very primitive hot trigger for anger in our brains because it is simply registered as someone or something obstructing us from reaching our goals. there is a possibility our emotion is still justified. Instead of accepting the information that clears him of the charges. which triggers a very primitive anger response. maybe he did enjoy telling her because it gave him a sense of power. if we have low self esteem and thus negative feelings about ourselves. For instance the husband who cannot pick up the kids is essentially "forcing" onto his wife that she picks them up despite her potential plans for that day. she will discard it and look for anything incriminating that confirms her emotion. or even being sarcastic. This anger is comparable to when someone slips in front of you in a traffic lane or bumps into you on the street. never even considering that we may just be wrong. the feeling will not simply go away." or simply sulk in silence if she can't find anything. in which case it can even be stronger ironically because there is a physical obstruction. so it's more difficult to convince ourselves not to feel it. remember the time when. Add one tea spoon of “hot trigger” et voila! On top of that most if not all of these often present in combination with "hot triggers" for our emotions that inevitably make us subjective. but in this moment she will almost inevitably feel the strong urge to justify the fact that she feels he is being inconsiderate. and then try to find out why. because there the situation isn't as black and white. This is a major cause of communication errors. just trying to make us feel better. We make the subconscious assumption that the emotion is right.. AFTERWORD So this is in a nutshell what I found to be the most essential fundamentals of emotional management.
ning. Covey) Emotions Revealed (by Paul Ekman) Waarom Ik Voel Wat Jij Voelt (in Dutch. but I just wanted to write a small. by Joachim Bauer) - . 10. e-guide to practical emotional management that contained all the basics. and if you’re interested in more I can already definitely recommend: - Emotional Intelligence for Everyone (by Steve Hein) Download here: http://ipower.It’s by no means a complete explanation of these fundamentals and this is in no way a complete guide to emotional intelligence. If you have any critique or comments on this.000 words or less. after all I’m continuously learning about the topic of EQ and emotional management myself.com/forum/topics/emotional-intelligence-free Your Erroneous Zones (by Wayne Dyer) The Emotional Brain (by Joseph Ledoux) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (by Stephen R. I’m always open-minded and interested.
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