Emotions, motions, reactions, actions
You cannot control your emotions or your reactions (that’s the initial feeling you get in response to something happening in your life) but you can control your MOTIONS and ACTIONS (what you actually DO in response.)
Learning how to control what you DO keeps you proactive in your life. Proactive people are happier, but they also assume responsibility for everything that they do.
You choose what comes next
If you snuck up on me and said, BOO!!!” I might jump or scream. This is a REACTION to the immediate situation. I cannot help that.
I can help what I do next. I have CHOICES. I can yell at you for scaring me, I could even strike you (I don’t believe in violence), OR I could laugh at how scared I was. I CHOOSE what comes next.
You can’t help your reaction but you absolutely can help your actions.
Emotions are designed to keep you safe. They are born in one of the most primitive parts of the brain, the amygdala. They are designed to trigger a quick response using chemicals called hormones. This response is a message to you such as, “Run so you don’t get eaten.”
These hormones trigger physical reactions in your body to make it easier for you to run. Your heart will beat faster, you will breathe more deeply, and your blood pressure will go up so that your body is prepared to get the heck out of there.
Emotions are telling your body that something needs to change. In the case of our caveman, what needs to change is his location!!!!
If we stay in this enhanced physical state for too long, we make our bodies sick (high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, etc.) Unpleasant emotions are designed to give you a warning that something needs to change immediately.
Staying in this unpleasant emotional state is like eating mental junk food.
The best thing to do is to make the change so that your body can return to its normal, healthy state.
I used to be a hot head. I would tell a person off in a minute. But I didn’t realize was that I was not only alienating people, I was making myself physically sick.
I learned a trick that helped me control my emotions to the point that I rarely, if ever get angry.
It has to do with another part of the brain called the cerebral cortex. This is the logical or thinking part of the brain.
If you wait a few seconds (after realizing, of course that you are not about to be lunch for a saber toothed tiger), control of emotions is transferred to the logical part of the brain – the cerebral cortex.
This is why people count to 10 (or 20 or sometimes 100) when they are angry. They are giving their brain a chance to transfer information to the calmer part of the brain. The cerebral cortex is the cool room in the brain while the amygdala is the hot part.
Once the logical part of the brain is in control, you can now decide what to DO with your emotions. This takes practice if you are an habitual hot head like I was, but eventually it will become second nature.
Remember, your goal is to return to normal.
First , ask what message is the emotion is trying to portray? What needs to change in order to get you back to a normal state?
For instance, disappointment signals that someone did not meet your expectations. What needs to change so that you are no longer disappointed? Maybe you need to lower your expectations. You can only change that which you can control. You can only change yourself.
Next, ask what you can DO to change the situation? Remember that trying to control the behavior of others will lead you to another negative emotion – frustration.
Frustration is a signal that things are not the way you want them to be. You go back to normal by controlling yourself, not others.
Finally, DO what you need to do, keeping in mind that the goal is to return to a normal state, not to necessarily get your own way.
Anger never gets you back to normal, so avoid it. What are some other actions you can take instead? Calmly discussing the situation, walking away, letting unimportant things go. Do whatever you need to do to get back to normal.
Normal is mental health food.
You control the situation
You can control most situations using this technique. You control your actions, your actions should never control you. Always be proactive in emotional situations. Stay in control.
You can help how you act in any situation. You are in charge of your own happiness.