Do you sometimes feel as if your emotions are out of control?
Exploring and understanding your emotions will enable you to gain control over them. By gaining control over your emotions, you will develop emotional strength.
What are emotions?
Emotions create a biomechanical reaction in your body, altering your physical state, which can be measured by physical responses like heart rate, brain activity, body language and facial expressions. Emotions originally helped you to survive by producing quick reactions. They are similar in all of us because they are instinctual.
Plutchik’s wheel of emotions
There are many theories in relation to emotions, but the one theory that makes the most sense to me is Robert Plutchik’s model based on our eight primary emotions identified in his Wheel of Emotions. These eight primary emotions serve us in two ways: they can either drive us forward or they can hold us back.
Eight Primary emotions
What are feelings?
Emotions and feelings are interconnected, but they are two different things. According to Debbie Hampton, feelings are a mental association and a reaction to our eight primary emotions. They are influenced by others, our memories of past experience, our beliefs and our fears. They vary in each of us because we lead different lives and interpret our lives differently. They are often subconscious and cannot be measured precisely.
How to understand your emotions
When I was experiencing menopausal symptoms I did not expect, I became fearful. I became fearful because I had no idea what was happening to me. In response, I started to focus obsessively on the things I thought I could control, such as people’s behaviour, health (mine and others’) and even traffic jams! My inability to control any of this made me feel frustrated and lost, and subsequently I became stuck in a place I did not know how to get out of.
I found daily mindfulness meditation a useful tool for becoming consciously aware of my feelings. Mindfulness meditation enabled me to create the mental space that allowed me to consciously become aware of my thoughts and feelings. This ability to observe my emotions without judgement helped me to feel calmer and more in control.
Focusing on all the things in life that were beyond my control drained me of my mental and physical energy. My emotional response to fear and the feelings I was experiencing clouded my ability to think clearly. But when I practised conscious awareness of what was outside of my control and my emotional responses, my stress levels reduced and I regained my sense of wellbeing. I did this by naming the emotion and how it made me feel and behave.
Give it a go!
Take back control
I have come to accept that I can (sometimes) influence other people’s behaviour, but I cannot control their behaviour. The one thing I have learnt to do instead is control my own emotional response to people’s behaviour. I still have an emotional response, but I have learnt to control my feelings in response to that emotion. Gaining that control means I have developed emotional strength.
How are you going to overcome obstacles and challenges?
Six helpful tips for developing emotional strength
- Emotions and feelings – understanding the difference can influence the way you behave.
- Name your emotion – this is a great way for making your emotions feel less intense.
- Know your emotions – while your emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke persist and grow over a lifetime.
- Mindfulness meditation – this mental practice involves focusing your mind on your emotions in the present moment and without judgment.
- Conscious awareness – this will help you to change unhealthy behaviours by becoming aware of your emotions and the feelings they trigger.
- Take back control – knowing your emotions and how they make you feel and behave will give you a sense of inner peace and emotional strength.