How To Stop Being Controlled By Your Emotions
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Human animals are fascinating creatures, aren’t we? I am using a machine made of metal and plastic to press buttons that display random-ass characters in a certain order, that you interpret as words that your brain actually understands the meaning of.
The funny part is, language is one of the most fundamental basics of our species, but how often do we stop to think of how interesting and complex it actually is? Like gravity or air – we just…accept it as existing, without marveling at it nearly often enough.
Like anything else, though, there are pros and cons. We can also be fearful and impulsive. Violent and divisive. Reactionary and primitive when ruled by our instincts. We are, after all, ‘only human.’
The good news is, as self-aware primates, we have the intellectual capacity to understand what we are feeling when we are feeling it. We can educate ourselves on brain chemistry and physiology. Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that you can literally change your mood and physiology by forcing yourself to laugh or smile?
Seriously, take a minute to laugh out loud to yourself, and then tell me that you’re still pissed off.
What does this mean? It means that we literally have the ability to control our emotions and how we feel at every moment – yet, why don’t we? Because we feel emotions as they flood our neurons, and we accept them as truth, or as the best possible response to the situation at hand.
Here’s the problem: The instincts embedded within you through millions of years of biological evolution, are still the same primitive instincts that helped our ancient ancestors survive in the wild. Why do we hate rejection? Is it because it hurts our sense of self? Or, is it because being ostracized from a social circle meant certain-death for a neanderthal who didn’t have a group to rely on for protection? Or, is it both?
Regardless, the underlying truth (I’ll get to that in a minute) is that your instinctive emotions may not actually be the most effective response to serve you in the situation you are in.
This one single simple piece of knowledge can literally alter your entire life.
Let me say that again: The instinctual response you feel, may not actually be the best response to the situation you’re in.
Consider for a moment the infinite power this realization gives you. You can literally feel an emotion slap you in the face like a giant cartoon-character hand, and have the ability to pause in order to determine whether or not this instinctive, subconscious reaction, is your best option at this given time.
Because of the intensity of emotions, this is – no doubt – a difficult task. Nobody is saying it’s easy to ignore what your mind is telling you is real and true, but this is why so many people can never break out of habits or change their circumstances in life: Because they don’t realize that they can.
Stop worrying about being right, and start worrying about what is true.
How many times have you argued an opinion that you secretly realized might be wrong? Maybe you listened to the other person’s reasoning and thought to yourself: “Shit, that actually makes a lot of sense.” But, you still refused to change your position. Why? Because feeling right in the moment, was more important to you than what was actually true.
You see, truth doesn’t care what you think. Truth doesn’t take your opinions, feelings, or emotions into consideration. What is true is just…true. In a black and white or right and wrong scenario, there is only one truth. In my opinion, we need to start seeking truth in life, regardless of how it makes us feel or what we thought was true.
If we automatically assume every thought, opinion, or idea we have is intrinsically true, this is a dangerous way to approach the world. How can we learn, grow, develop, and improve, if we just operate with the tacit assumption that we already have it all figured out? We can’t. And worse than that – nobody will ever want to be around us.
If we start focusing on what is best rather than what feels best, then we can reach more effective solutions and conclusions to problems we face – whether it be personal, professional, or intimate. If we let go of the need to be right, we can go so much further than if we hold on to it.
If we understand that we can learn something from every single person we meet, we gain a freedom and openness that could not be obtained otherwise. We become a sponge to the world around us, and learn new skills and mindsets that fundamentally change our way of thinking.
When we fundamentally change our way of thinking, we approach every single moment of our life in a new, fresh way. This means we can make more progress, we can become better, smarter, and more talented.
The human brain is capable of growth and change – just like the body. So, then, why do we think so often about what we put in our body, and so little about what we feed our brain? Perhaps it is because we can see the literal results of what we feed our body: Put crap in, look like crap.
The brain, though, locked in its tiny head-cage, doesn’t reflect back at us when we look in the mirror. The irony, though, is that what we feed our brain is infinitely more important than what we feed our body. For one, what we feed our body is a result of the decisions that our brain makes. So, if we feed our brain better knowledge, it will make better choices for our overall health and well-being.
Understanding these patterns and realities are not always comfortable – they are not always easy, or cushy, or guaranteed to make you happy. But, that’s the thing about the truth, remember?
It doesn’t care how you feel.
As I grow and improve as a human being, I gain the perspective of feeling and absorbing emotions in a way that I can assess and use to make better choices. If I understand that a feeling of rejection or sadness is actually my brain worrying about (literally) being killed because I am alone in the wilderness, it helps me to gain a greater understanding of why I am feeling the way I’m feeling, and choose my approach for how to act next.
I am certainly not saying to stop feeling your emotions or become coldhearted or apathetic to the world – just the opposite, actually.
I am saying that by understanding yourself and your emotions, you can actually take control of your decisions, your life, and your happiness, in order to maximize the positive emotions your brain feeds you on a regular basis.
You’ll never be able to conquer your goals, if you don’t first conquer yourself.
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Great post, as always James. 🙂
I discovered a breathing technique about a year ago that has taught me how to allow my body to feel without reacting. Since then, I’m better at waiting to deal with my emotions before acting. It’s still new to me, but the results are fantastic!
Nothing makes a point like using the word ‘literally’ 7 times in one article.