Managing Anger: Can we Choose our Emotions?

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Being able to manage emotions, especially our own, is challenging.  Any emotion I experience is mine to hold and appropriately manage.  When uncomfortable emotions enter into my body I often want to either:

  1. Chase them away through the perceptions of denial
  2. Blame someone else for the emotion
  3. Feel the emotion and give myself permission to be irresponsible with it.

Can we Choose our Emotions?

The truth is that I am completely responsible for how I feel at any given point during the day.  I am being affected by others for sure, and I get to experience all of my emotions and be accountable for all of them.  Our emotions are choices.  They are energy in motion.  Emotion comes quickly into our body/consciousness and so emotion doesn’t feel like choice, but the truth is, you get to think about how you feel and then reframe your thoughts.

People will say, “I know I don’t have to agree with Megan on this project and that we are coming at it from two different angles and yet I feel responsible for her frustration and I feel badly that she thinks I was being manipulative with our boss.”  OR  “I know that my mother is emotionally volatile and that I did not do what she is accusing me of and yet I still feel like it is my fault that she is mad and upset with me.”

These are examples of individuals who are feeling emotions and not being able to frame the content correctly.  Consequently, their emotion is going to follow their thoughts and give them an experience that mirrors and reflects what they ultimately think about themselves and others.  Their belief systems are in charge at this point and they are reacting to what they have believed about themselves.  Their values, morals, traumas, hurts, entitlements come into the picture and choose for them if they are not conscious and if they do not deliberately create new and conscious thoughts that are accurate for each situation.  If I have a belief that says, “I am responsible for others” (Faulty Core Belief).  Then I will feel responsible for others even when it is clearly not about me or that I had nothing to do with the situation.

Taking Steps Towards Managing Emotions

Managing anger (or any emotion) looks like this:

  1. Know when I am experiencing emotion and be responsible for my feelings
  2. Think about the emotion and give the emotion a correct name / label.
    For example, “I feel sad and disappointed when I watch you ditch school and then you become angry at your teachers for holding you accountable.”  If you can’t figure out what you are feeling, go to someone you trust and who allows you to have emotions and talk with them to get some assistance as to why / what you are experiencing.
  3. Once you identify your emotion(s), either you or someone else needs to validate them.  It is best to have both you and at least one other person validate your emotion.  Remember: validating emotion does not mean agreeing with you around the situation.  It only means having empathy or understanding with the emotion you are experiencing in the situation.
  4. Once validated, think about how you want to hold this experience.  Remember that you can’t make someone do something and that you are culpable for how you feel.  Think about the reality of the situation and get into a place where you feel ready and emotionally centered to manage yourself and not become reactionary towards the person or the event.
    For example, “When you chose not to go to the store like you agreed to, we now do not have the ingredients to make the pie.  As a result, I feel ignored, mistrust, sad and frustrated that you would agree to do that and not follow through.”
  5. Once centered and clear about your feelings, you are ready to go and talk with them and share how you feel, why you feel the way you do, and how you have been impacted and affected.  Be responsible for choices, your behaviors and your feelings.  This type of sharing is not meant to shame the other person, or coerce them, or attack them in any way—it is an opportunity to share with them the power of your connection. Because of that connection with them, you are affected by them in very real ways.

In addition to the information above about managing emotions & managing anger, visit www.JodiHildebrandt.com to learn more.

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The Author

About the author: I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Utah. My work in addiction treatment has taught me that everybody can overcome addiction, destructive habits, and the shame that drives those things. The most important factors for healing are honesty, responsibility, and humility. When we learn how to provide these things for ourselves and for others, we become powerful and full of joy.

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