Has anyone ever called you “emotional?” As a passionate young woman, it's definitely a word I heard often.
Have you worked with someone who lets their emotions overwhelm them? The tone of their voice, the adjectives and qualifiers they use, and the way they hold their body all play into communicating that emotion to everyone around them. It is hard enough to deal with our own emotions. Who wants to be submerged in someone else’s emotions?
Emotions serve a purpose.
Having emotions is human. Negative emotions serve a purpose. They send us a signal that something is wrong. Anger, fear, and intense frustration can all send us back to our lizard brain - the brain stem which is responsible for primitive survival instincts.
This is what triggers “fight or flight” reactions. Or paralysis, like a rabbit caught in your car headlights, frozen in the middle of the road. When you are in your lizard brain, your options are limited – fight, flight, freeze. It’s crucial to get back to your limbic brain as quickly as you can.
Mastering your emotions is not about refusing to acknowledge negative emotions and “forcing” ourselves to feel positive. It’s about recognizing that your emotions are trying to tell you something and focusing on the real problem to solve.
To master your emotions, you need to understand them. Abraham Hicks created what is called the Emotional Guidance Scale. It is a comprehensive view of negative and positive emotions and the escalation of them.
Notice your emotion.
If you are following my posts, you’ll see a trend: Step one in every process is awareness. When you are in the throes of emotion, recognizing that you are is the first step towards mastering it.
Now you need to identify which emotion specifically you are feeling. Note: You may be feeling more than one! Hicks’s scale is a great reference to help you work through which emotions you are feeling.
[Related: You Are What You Think]
Why am I feeling this way?
The next step is analyzing the "why." Remember: Emotions serve a purpose. What are your emotions telling you? Anthony Robbins walks through ten “action signals” for negative emotions in one of my favorite books, “Awaken the Giant Within.” I will draw on his perspective for some of the examples below.
Differentiating fact from opinion and being aware of when you are speculating are both key to disarming negative emotions. It’s good to start your analysis with a review of both the facts and the opinions that are at play. Asking yourself questions is the best way to get out of the lizard brain.
Let’s start with frustration, as it's one of the most common emotions I have dealt with in my personal and professional life.
"Type A” people experience frustration a lot. Why? Because the signal behind frustration is “this could be better.” Careful, because it may also be “this should be better.”
The standards you set and expectations you have in situations both impact this emotion. Our brains are telling us that there is a possible solution, but we just haven’t figured it out yet.
A few questions I make sure to ask myself as I am thinking through the source of my frustration are:
What is within my control?
Are my expectations realistic?
What do my standards of success look like compared to others’?
As we spiral down, we come next to overwhelm. Overwhelm signals a need to prioritize and evaluate our current path. This is another emotion that is extremely common, especially if you are t