In Control of Your Emotions: Stop Blaming Everybody Else

As an adult, we can choose to express our anger in the middle ground between the two extremes: saying everything we feel or nothing at all. Instead, we can tell the truth about it. We can choose to say, “You know, it really makes me angry when you do that!” We have just made an active effort to let others’ know how their behavior makes us feel by using our words rather than our behavior to make implied feeling explicit.

When we use our words to share our feelings, we are making a choice on our own behalf, in reality, at a time and place of our choosing. This is done in a way that is not too strong like lashing out (yelling) or too weak (internalizing). This is control. The antidote to feeling stressed by the need to control the future, is the feeling that one is in control of their choices and efforts in the present.

If we want to experience positive control, we must make an active effort to make it happen. The next time we are angry, for example, we can relieve our frustration by reminding ourselves that we have a choice now that we did not have as children. As a child we sought to get control in the wrong way, by a) “losing it,” erupting like a volcano, or by b) suppressing it. But now as an adult, we can choose to express it the right way. That means taking responsibility for our own feelings. We can choose to relieve the pain of our anger in an assertive way. We are not a doormat, letting people walk all over us. Rather, we are using our words to get these emotions out of our system. We are not adding another log to the fire that is making us burn up inside.

To promote a healthy and happy life we have to deal with our own insecurity. We can choose to confront the idea that if people behave unfairly toward us it’s a challenge to out worth as a person. This only shows that we are relying on other people’s approval and acceptance to feel good about ourselves.

However, their judgment is no better or worse than ours. So their opinion is really just a reflection of their own personal taste. Their view is not an objective measure of our worth as a person. They do not possess some God like knowledge of right and wrong. They really do not know what is best. So rather than dwell on how to please them, we can choose to deal with the underlying problem, the idea that we have to do things to better to become a ‘worthy’ person.

Human mistakes and imperfection are regrettable, but forgivable. In the privacy of our own heart, we can identify the anger and choose to forgive them: “I forgive you for what you’ve done, for being so terribly imperfect.” It is not for their good that we are doing this; it is for our own relief. We earned this relief and we deserve it. We never have to let them know about it. We don’t have to give them the satisfaction. It’s none of their business. This is our choice, too!

In that moment, we solidify control over ourselves as an unconditionally lovable person, acting on our own behalf, as a worthwhile human in our own right. By writing we are affirming our ability to manage our feelings and, by extension, the validity of our own control. We confirm our sense of self by writing our feelings. Writing out what’s on our mind and in our heart gives legitimacy to our existence in the real world: “This is me talking.” As we journal, we will experience a feeling of being ourselves independently. Not a husband/wife, mother/father, brother/sister, employee/student, friend/neighbor, but just ourselves, on our own terms. We are the one who is making it happen. We have control and influence over our world. It is us making it happen in real time, not in our dreams, imagination or fantasies. We are not merely reacting reflexively to someone else’s provocation, we are making a conscious effort, and we are in control of everything that is happening.

We can learn to ask ourselves the questions: “What am I trying to achieve?” and “What difference does it make?” We may have assumed since childhood that every word or gesture was important, that everything made a difference. Our childish judgment was not sophisticated enough to make fine distinctions between the extremes of important and unimportant. Our naive judgment as a child predisposes us to overreact as if every occasion of unfairness were equally earth-shaking.

Now, we can at least ask the question, “Does it really make a difference?” Most of the time, the answer is no, that these things don’t amount to a hill of beans. It is quite reasonable to feel displeased about things we do not like. It makes no sense to lash out when we do not get what we desire, or things are not as we want them to be. However, we can use this anger constructively to energize us to change situations we are unhappy with. In this way, we can choose to see anger as being neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ just human.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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