Have you ever wondered how to control your emotions or tame your inner beast?

By that I mean the emotions that explode or creep up on you from out of nowhere. It could be anger, resentment, sadness or other feelings. Even love can feel out of control and scary at times. The important thing to know is Controlling emotions isn’t about pretending they’re not there. Often people say ‘let it go’ or ‘distract yourself’ in order to deal with overwhelming emotions.

A better first step is to, simply, name the emotion. But that is easier said than done 

 The language of emotions is harder than you might think.    

Here’s a Feelings list to help you out.

I ask clients how they feel and instead of saying scared, sad or frustrated, it comes out as “it sucks” or ‘crappy”. I get what that means but there’s more to it. It’s helpful to be clear on the finer details of the emotion. ‘Crappy’ is vague and general, same as the word ‘anxious’ and we just accept them without asking what that means. Certain words are over used regarding feelings. Getting clear on the emotion will help you get to the root, process it and then… let it go. 

For example the finer emotions that may be hiding under the term ‘crappy’ or ‘frustrated’ are: embarrassed, confused, hurt, sad, afraid or rejected. That’s more of a symphony of emotions rather than just one note. There is always more than one feeling. Those finer emotions are what you want to feel and understand to be able to recognize the underlying messages and then begin to control your reactions. 

Try it yourself, think of a time you felt crappy, or that time when life sucked or frustrated and angry. Now look over the feelings list and see if you can identify other emotions. Try to find 5 from the list that you’ve experienced. 

To gain any control over emotions you must know yourself. 

Start to become a detective of your emotional ups and downs. What triggers you and what makes you feel good? What are the emotions you experience most often? Include the ‘little things’ too. Start to get really clear on your triggers. Honesty is important here. We don’t even like to admit to ourselves if we think we’re being shallow or ‘bad’. Remember..You are not your emotions. Emotions come and go they don’t have to define who you are. So be honest and write it down, everyday if possible, to get to know yourself. 

Emotional Awareness leads to Self Empowerment

When you start to have more awareness of your subtle (or not so subtle) change of moods. Then you can start to feel more in control and self empowered. Because now you’re able to create a space between reaction and behaviour. That space allows you to make a different choice about how you want to behave. Your perspective grows and your options and choices open up. As opposed to being ‘in’ the emotion where your perspective will be narrow and you’ll see limited options to reacting. Labelling it then is the first step to taming your inner beast of emotions.   

The more you do it the more options and bigger tool box you’ll have to draw from rather than the old habitual (possibly destructive) reactions.  

Here’s some more help to build your….

Emotional Toolbox

  • Step back and take a deep breath
  • What just happened that has triggered me?
  • See what role you may have played in the upset or situation
  • Take responsibility- My judgement of another says more about me than them.
  • And Vice Versa. Don’t take other’s actions/words personal. Your emotions are your own.
  • Gain clarity around the environment and situation that may have caused or added to the problem. eg. lack of sleep, hungry or multiple problems
  • Remember your true feelings about the other or others. eg. I’m mad right now but I love them.
  • If anger or energy is really strong find a healthy physical way to release it eg. walk, jumping jacks, yell when you’re alone in the car (just remember to stay safe to not hurt yourself or others)
  • Write all your thoughts and emotions down without editing
  • Remind yourself of your goal of who you want to be in the relationship or life eg. honest, open, accepting..
  • Share your experience and emotions with people you trust

Liz Coleman, RTC, is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor based in Surrey, BC. She specializes in anxiety, anger, insecurity, and relationship problems. If you have any questions about this article or would like to schedule an appointment, please call Ms. Coleman at (604) 809-8947 or use the convenient form on her Contact page.