7 Ways to Manage Emotions and Increase Self Control – Part Three
If you’ve ever been in an argument you know how hard it is to stay calm.
Being angry and emotional is like seeing red everywhere in your vision.
Before you know it you’ve said things you wish you’d never said.
Or done things you wish you’d never done.
We’ve all been there.
What if there was a way to avoid that in the future?
What if you could learn to control your emotions?
Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to regret doing something in the heat of the moment?
How Is It All About the Director?
To control your brain you have to be able to bring your “director” out at a moment’s notice to take control of your emotions.
That takes training and discipline according to David Rock, a prominent neuroscientist who wrote Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.
It takes a lot of energy and willpower to stop an emotion like anger from completely ruining your day.
The 3 Ways to Control the Situation Before Emotion Kicks In
Emotion of dance (Flickr photo via BdwayDiva1)
David tells us that there are three ways to stay in control before emotions get the better of you.
They are situation selection, situation modification and attention deployment.
With situation selection you choose the timing of when you face a possibly stressful or explosive situation.
This could be something like re-scheduling a presentation to your bosses.
What if you can’t reschedule however?
Then you can use situation modification.
That’s where you change where a stressful situation happens.
Maybe you could do your presentation outside in the fresh air away from the stuffy office board room.
And what happens if that’s not possible either?
Then you can use attention deployment.
That’s where you try really hard to prepare for the stressful event before hand so that when it happens it is less likely to turn you into an emotional wreck.
Of course there are times where you’re never going to be ready.
When you’re caught by surprise.
What do you do then?
How Changing the Way You See Things Gives You the Power
Viewpoint at Bottle Beach (Flickr photo via Christian Haugen)
Once you get emotional however there’s only three things you can do to stay in control.
You can just let loose – probably not what you wanted anyway.
You can keep your emotions bottled in and risk blowing up at a bad time.
Or you can change the way you see the situation.
That’s “cognitive change” says David.
It takes a lot of energy and your director to pull this off.
Here’s the two ideas you need to know about.
Naming your emotion gives you power over it.
It’s kind of like fantasy stories where knowing the name of a demon gives you the ability to control it.
What if saying, “Anger” isn’t enough?
What if the emotion is too strong?
When the going gets tough, the tough look through a new pair of glasses.
What you need to train yourself to do is to find the silver lining in every dark cloud as David would put it.
Of course that’s easier said than done.
As I mentioned near the end of Part One bad health leads to depression meaning you’re less likely to even want to find the silver lining.
It’s nice that David gives you the 4R’s of re-appraisal to follow however.
You should think of this like a mountain climber who climbs a mountain and stops every once in awhile to get used to being that high (and having less oxygen).
It’s called acclimatization.
So what you’re doing is to get used to an emotion or stressful situation in small doses as you increase the amount.
That way when you’re hit with that kind of stressful emotion later you’re already used to it.
It’s also similar to the idea of taking a drug until you’re body is so used to it that it has no effect.
This is where you start seeing stressful emotional situations as “normal” for wherever you are.
It helps when others tell you that it’s normal to be a bit lost or confused at the first day of work and that you’ll eventually get the hang of it.
It helps to lower your uncertainty and stress.
It means you change your priorities and organizational maps.
What’s more important than before?
Where does something now go?
You change how your world looks in your own head in terms of power and place.
This is the sort of thing that happens when you go to work at a new company and have to figure out who you should be making friends with and where the new break room is.
This way of thinking takes up a lot of willpower and energy.
You look at something from a different point of view – a different angle or someone else’ shoes.
It could be from the point of view of your past or future self or a different culture.
Seeing it from another view angle helps you understand someone’s thinking decreasing your uncertainty and stress.
You’re getting into someone else’ head to figure out how they think and why so you feel more comfortable about what they’re doing next.
In an ideal world everyone would be in control of their emotions.
There’d be less arguments, bad blood and feuds that way.
And David Rock gives you several different ideas on how to change your thinking so you can keep a handle on explosive emotions through labelling and re-appraisal.
Now that you have some of the language to describe what goes on in your head you should practice labelling and re-appraisal whenever a situation arises until you’re a master of bringing out the director to help.
Then you’ll never have to feel like you’ve lost control of yourself when it counts.
Isn’t that what we all want?
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