Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. – Aristotle
How to gain mastery over your emotions
I love this quote by Aristotle but I don’t completely agree with him. I believe anyone can gain mastery over their emotions. We all have the ability to take control over our own thoughts and beliefs and thereby having control over our emotions. And because of that the power to control our behavior without being blown away by feelings and circumstances.
But to achieve this, one needs to realize that there is an alternative to their behavior, and we need to know how to make the change. And of course, we have to be willing to change.
Without the decision and commitment to change a behavior, nothing will change, period.
First step: Identify your feelings.
When you want to start you first have to be conscious and curious about what you are thinking. Listen to yourself. What are the thoughts that are spinning through your mind? What is the language you use in your thoughts? Are they unproductive negative victim thoughts (why is this always happening to me), or are they empowering you? What emotions do you feel? If you find it helpful, you can write them down.
Second step: Acknowledge your feelings:
What is your emotion telling you? How you feel about something tells a whole lot about you. A particular moment in your life might give you anxiety while another person might get pleasure out of the same experience. But there is often another meaning to feelings as well. You just have to dig deeper to find it.
I will give you an example: a few years ago, I told my children to get ready for school. After repeatedly asking and reminding them, I saw them playing with Duplo, while the clock was ticking, I found myself feeling angry and stressed out.
When I took a closer look at my feelings I noticed that it wasn’t so much angriness and stress that I felt, but the feeling of disrespect because they weren’t listening to me, and the feeling of shame because I wouldn’t meet the school’s standards by being on time.
I could change both situations: I explained to Tycho and Sem what I felt, and guided them more in their morning tasks. We became happier morning persons because of it ;-). Next to that, I learned to give less importance to what other people might think and so I became more relaxed and therefore I gained more energy throughout the day. Energy that I didn’t spend worrying about others.
Third step: Take back control
When you have thoughts like: “Well, if she just hadn’t said this” or “If he would have done that, I would feel…” you are giving your personal power away. Others seem to have the power to control your emotions. Remind yourself that you are the only one accountable for your emotions and instead of blaming, find ways to solutions, and make the experience useful.
To feel happiness you will need to redirect your energy of “poor me” into “powerful me!” Give limited space to the things that are draining your energy and that you can’t control, and give attention to the things that give you energy and that you can control. Your life will go where you focus on, so focus on where you want to go, not by what you fear or makes you feel powerless.
Change your thoughts: If you think: “What drains my energy right now,” you focus on what drains your energy and you will feel empty. But if you think: “what gives me energy?” Your focus is on all the things that give you energy and you will feel completely different because the latter empowers you instead of draining you.
Which language do you use?
It is as simple as this: no person or situation in the whole wide world makes you feel sad or happy..
“But hey Alianne, wait a minute” – you might think- “when he did this to me and when I felt…” Yes, I know, I hear what you are going to say, but let me finish. No one makes you feel sad or happy because your emotions are based on how you’re interpreting each situation and event in your life, see?
What makes your neighbour feel happy, might be different from what makes you happy. And what feels disastrous and gives anxiety to one person, may just feel like a tiny bump in the road for another.
What makes you feel pressure in the form of anxiety and stress? How can you turn this around? Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time and what action can you take to get there? Those are questions that will help you move forward.
In which direction are you going?
Imagine how you want to feel: Close your eyes and take deep belly breaths. Feel your mental pressure and let it go with a deep exhale. Imagine yourself feeling relaxed and happy. Think of what makes you feel happy and feel relaxed. Realize that you are the only one in control over your thoughts and thereby the moments of your life. The only thing you need to feel happy is to imagine it.
What are the actions you can take to become where you want to be? I recommend you do this guided meditation of Jason Stephenson and enjoy his beautiful Australian accent: https://goo.gl/kaJP1o
Use your experience:
The truth is that you most likely have experienced this emotion before, although maybe in another context. What did you do previously when you felt that emotion? What was the outcome? What can you do now to get a better outcome? What kind of action can you do now to feel the way you want? What do you need to feel the emotion you want to feel? And how can you give that to yourself?
If you are feeling stressed, it is important to implement more fun, spontaneous actions. So go out, have some fun, and relax a bit!
No harm can come from that!