Taking Control of Your Emotions: The Art of Responding Instead of Reacting

I love this dude’s facial expression 😂. Photo Cred = Andrea Piacquadio

Relationships are hard. 

And I’m not just talking about romantic ones, all of them are. 

They’ll break you and grow you, get you messy and make you happy. 

But if you don’t want to drown in the constantly changing emotions of everyone around you, you’re going to have to learn emotional independence: being at the same place as others without absorbing their energy. And instead?

Craft your own. 

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist, psychologist, relationship advisor, etc. This is all based only on lessons I’ve learned from my own life. But like everyone, I’m wrong sometimes and I’m still growing!

Why Emotional Independence is Necessary

There are times you can feel joy and exuberance simply radiating off of people. Like sound waves that carry beautiful music to the ears. Of course, you gladly absorb these feelings. 

And when this isn’t happening, and the people around you aren’t bursting with joy, they may feel normal. And that’s all good and fine as well.

But other times, and especially for certain seasons in life, tension is just thick in the air. The moment he/she walks in a quick glance at their face plops a huge weight on your heart, plonk. Well isn’t that wonderful. You may want to get out/get away. Or loathe the words that you just know are going to come spilling out of him/her and attack everyone.

While purposeful avoidance can be healthy and even necessary at times, what offense can you deploy in these situations? What can you do instead of leave the situation?

This is where emotional independence comes in. Instead of letting others’ moods dictate your own, there’s a way to craft and decide what mood you will hold.  

How do you know emotional independence is possible? Well you do it when you’re angry and you stubbornly refuse to let go of your sadness/anger. You do it when you’re hangry and you refuse to smile with everyone else. You exert this power all the time. 

Let’s use this power to our advantage.

How To Be Emotionally Independent 

Emotional independence deals with the changing emotions everyone feels. Since these are feelings, very similarly to thoughts, you might not be able to control the initial ones that burst up when something happens. And that’s totally ok! Usually emotions aren’t the problem, what one does with them is. 

So when your brain first sees that person, when it senses tension, or when anything annoying, hurtful, or unwanted happens, you’ll have immediate feelings. 

But there’s a beautiful element of control. An opportunity that arises.

Although it feels like forever, eventually you’ll reach a state where you have the strength to present yourself with the option of letting go of those negative feelings you don’t want. 

In fact, what felt like forever? Is just 90 seconds according to Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor:

“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Note! Thoroughly processing/forgiving someone and feeling ok after 90 seconds are two totally different things. One doesn’t replace the other! In the everyday emotional battles of of life, equipped with this 90-second rule, you may have some say in how drastic your roller coaster is. But when it comes to life issues, and forgiveness, and healing, obviously feeling ok after 90 seconds doesn’t cut it.

The important thing in this situation is to not go with the flow. After that 90 seconds, firmly decide what you will think of this situation, this will lead your feelings. Want a beautiful way to reframe almost any situation? 

“What if it was a gift?”

Dr. Robert Glover

It takes so much less willpower to be thankful when you see yourself as the beneficiary. And they usually don’t deserve to make you feel this bad anyways.

Just remember, everything in moderation. Toxic positivity is definitely a thing. After all, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.”- Rob Link. Balance is imperative in all of this.

The key here is not to suppress feelings, but decide not to drag them on, even if others around you are still feeling them.

When you decide how to frame this situation, your feelings will follow. Don’t wait for the feelings! Just go on with life. 🙂

But Am I A Bad Person for Not Empathizing?

A lot of you reading this are very empathetic people. We all know people emotionally struggling around us, and when interacting with them we sometimes feel like it’s the right thing to do to match their energy. 

While empathizing with people is usually kind, the only person responsible for keeping you ok, and happy, and all that good stuff, is YOU! So it is absolutely essential that you prioritize your emotional health first and only be there for others (i.e. match others’ feelings) when you actually believe you should AND when you have the capacity to do it. 

So please use your common sense. Don’t jump for joy (even it it’s unrelated) if someone tells you their mom passed away (that joy better not be related 😄). And on the other hand, don’t feel the need to always match others’ negative vibes either. 

You got this. 🙂

– Cynthia 

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