One of my biggest interests within the area of self-development, is how to control your emotions. By this, I don’t mean: how to not feel anything, how to be a stoic, or how be more rational than emotional. I love having many emotions, and I think they are one of the most relevant and meaningful parts of life.
But they can also feel like a big burden, which gets in the way of manifesting your dream life. So, we might want to learn how to find a sweet spot here. A spot in which our thoughts really are the deal-breakers.
To me, the emotional sweet spot looks like this: I feel and experience as many emotions as I can, without trying to numb them down. But when I notice one (or some) really heavy, negative emotion(s) ruling a large part of my life, and causing negative effects in my behaviour (like acting on fear, insecurity or depression instead of love, abundance and inspiration), I try to change them into something more positive, or I try to make them less dominant. These are the insights that can help with this:
You are not your thoughts
The first step in having more control over your emotions, is realising that emotions are caused by thoughts. Some of these thoughts are very present, others have become so familiar that you’re not even aware of thinking them anymore.
Whichever thoughts cause your emotions, one way of gaining more power over them is realising that you are not your thoughts. For that matter: you are not your emotions either. You are not ‘what is thought’ or ‘what is felt’ – you are the thinker. You are the feeler. And the logical consequence of this, is that you can (and are allowed to!) step away from your thoughts, take a break from them, make some space between you and them.
Try to observe your thoughts and emotions from a distance, look at them as if you are looking at a distant movie screen, and decide to analyse and understand them or look away from them if you want to – because they are not your essence, and you are so much more.
We reason our way into ‘truths’
Another step in gaining more power over your emotions, is to understand that your reasoning or the thoughts that cause them can be faulty. We often overestimate how (and that!) we judge certain situations. We try to think for someone else, creatively fill in the gaps that someone or some event has left us, and reason our way into some explanation or deeper meaning as to why this certain thing – which caused certain thoughts and therefore certain emotions – happened to us.
However, we often forget that this whole chain of experiencing, interpreting/judging and feeling is in between the factual situation and how we suddenly feel. We experience negative emotions as a direct result of something that happened in our lives, while actually, they are the result of our reasoning about the thing that happened.
This makes you an actor, not a victim. And this is a good thing: once you see that you are actually the designer of your truths and emotions, not the actual thing that happened, everything changes.
Thoughts can stem from (ill-placed emotions)
Thoughts cause emotions, but certain emotions can also cause thoughts. Think about that time you broke up with your ex, and as a logical consequence, you missed them the weeks or months after. This feeling might have made you think that your ex was someone you should be with, someone really valuable to you, someone you needed in your life – why else would you miss them so much?
This is a fault we often make out of convenience, comfort and habit. Your feelings about a person (or situation, for that matter) are in no way connected to whether or not it is a good idea to have them in your life, you probably see that now in the case of your ex. What was ‘thinking’ here, was your fear of being alone, the emptiness inside you, the discomfort you felt from simply having to give up something that was safe and familiar to you.
But these thoughts don’t get to decide what is true: they are an ancient mechanism showing you the easy way, not the right way. And once you start listening to them, they cause new negative emotions, which in turn cause new negative thoughts. The same mechanism can happen when we experience fear, insecurity and depression, and start to listen to the thoughts they give rise to.
So what now?
Not everything we think is true. We know that now. But how do we deal with that? If our emotions are based on our thoughts, and we can’t be sure of our thoughts, how do we know what to feel? The point here is this. In many cases, we are actually very capable of judging whether or not a thought is true, and whether it is justified to tie certain emotions to them. Being more mindful and critical on your own thoughts already helps a lot in dealing with negative emotions.
But in the small percentage of cases in which we really have no idea what to think, we have to learn to be comfortable in the unknown. It is ok to not know everything, or to not know how you feel about something. It is ok to say: I don’t know enough of this person/situation/subject to judge it, and I will keep myself from feeling anything else than (calm) uncertainty about it.
At the end of the day, our thoughts and emotions are here to help us survive and thrive, to cater to our fulfilment and happiness – not the other way around. If you stop acting like a slave of your thoughts and emotions, and realise you are the actor and creator of your life, no matter what you think or how you feel, you will see that negative emotions will disappear slowly but surely. After all, we are thinkers and feelers – now let’s start enjoying that beautiful design.