The more you know, the more power you have. Expanding your knowledge gives you the power to make better decisions and get ahead in life. However, emotions can sometimes cloud your wealth of knowledge. Fear can make you forget what you've learned, sadness may stop you from trying to improve and anger may prevent you from seeing the bigger picture, if you dwell on these emotions for too long. So how can we rule our emotions instead of letting them rule us?
In order to hack your limiting emotions, you need to know how they work first. Psychologists have developed multiple theories to explain our emotions. I find that some theories provide clarity in certain circumstances more sensibly than others.
When the Mental Leads to the Emotional
Everyday we're faced with countless of stimuli that make our body respond. Our alarm gives our body some level of urgency to wake up, heavy traffic makes us groan almost automatically, the smell of a delicious meal makes us salivate and so on.
The James-Lange theory of emotion holds that emotions come after we experience external stimuli, go through a bodily response period and think about the bodily response. How we make sense of the external stimuli can trigger our emotions, how we feel in the moment.
Parting from this theory, it could be said that our thoughts subsequently create our emotions. This theory would posit that in a situation where your significant other says something off-putting (external stimulus), you sense the adrenaline building up (bodily response), and you realize they wronged you (thoughts of bodily response) you would then feel angry (emotion).
Emotions are multifaceted. They're tied to physical and mental aspects. Our cognitive appraisal or interpretation of what we face can often predict the emotions we experience.
When the Physical Happens With the Emotional
There are times when things happen so quickly that you're left with little to no time to process. One argument against the James-Lange theory of emotion is that bodily responses and emotions can happen simultaneously without much conscious thinking.
I was going for a jog one chilly afternoon while listening to a good podcast. I had done about 4 laps in the same area, my shoe laces were securely tied and I still tripped on the side walk a few blocks away from my house. I landed on my thigh and elbow and the pain made it hard for me to get up. The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion would explain how looking at the sidewalk where I fell (external stimulus) results in increased physical tension (bodily response) that coincides with my fear of getting injured (emotion).
Being the Master of Your Emotions
Emotions are fleeting and don't make you who you are. Your reasoned choice is something you build over time, is a more permanent aspect of yourself and can make you who you are.
The discomfort or pain that some emotions bring is a necessary element for optimal survival because it leads to action in the face of threat. Understanding the use of negative emotions allows our true self to rule over them.
Emma McAdam, a licensed therapist on YouTube, demystifies the functions of emotions like anger, sadness and fear. For example, anger about getting a low grade could lead to a conversation about grading criteria and righting the wrongs. Also, sadness about not being able to launch a business can make us give up on the idea and pursue something else to save time. And the fear of losing our partner can make us more alert to what their needs and visions are to strengthen the relationship.
Knowing how emotions work is the first step in making them work for you. We cannot completely control the stimuli we face but we can equip ourselves with knowledge to face them in an emotionally intelligent way.
What do you think?
Sending you my best wishes, Yerika.