Other people don’t control your emotions. No one can make you mad, upset, sad, frustrated, happy, or ecstatic. How you feel is up to you. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to believe other people’s actions determine how we feel.
All your life you’ve heard statements such as, “They make me so mad,” “I can’t believe they did that, it makes me sick,” or “I can’t think straight when they’re around.” These declarations cause your self-talk to reinforce your emotions. You’ll tell yourself things such as, “I’m so angry I can’t think,” I’m just so upset it’s giving me a stomach ache,” “I’m so confused,” or “I’m so mad my head hurts.”
Although we have total control over our thoughts, we have been conditioned to believe our thoughts are a result rather than a cause. So, when someone acts, we react. We link our emotions to what other people say, think, or do.
We then blame the other person for making us feel a certain way. By blaming other people or circumstances for your emotions, you assume the role of a victim. In so doing, you abdicate control over your emotions to external forces. This leaves you feeling frustrated on top of your other emotions.
You have no control over what others say or do. Attempting to change people is a endless source of stress. Your energy is best expended changing from reacting to responding. A reaction is emotional and unplanned. A response is thought out and planned.
For example, you typically react to being yelled at by raising your voice. Instead, prepare to respond by visualizing lowering your voice and speaking more slowly the next time someone yells at you. This approach enables you to avoid becoming embroiled in a confrontation.
Reacting to what other people do is normal. It does feel as if they are controlling your emotions.
Even though this is a conditioned reaction, you don’t need to be governed by your emotions. You take control of your feelings by altering your emotions through your thoughts. You won’t necessarily avoid your initial emotions, but changing your thinking minimizes the time you spend enmeshed in negative emotions.
Your thoughts program your brain. Your brain believes whatever you tell it. If you tell yourself you’re angry, you will feel angry. If you say to yourself that you are stressed, you will be stressed. Changing your thoughts changes your emotions.
Suppressing your thoughts or emotions doesn’t work well. You can’t stop feeling a certain way or thinking specific thoughts. Instead of suppressing your thoughts, you change them. If you don’t like the way you are thinking, think about something else. So, think about how you want to feel better rather than how bad you feel.
Consciously choose pleasant thoughts. Think the way you want to feel. Reinforce your thoughts with positive self-talk. Tell yourself things such as, “I’m going to remain calm,” “I will be OK,” or “I’ll figure out an appropriate response.”
Your mood influences how you react. If you are stressed out, you have little patience. If you’re happy, problems tend to roll off your back. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions. Don’t take action or make decisions when you are at an emotional extreme. It’s hard to alter your thoughts when your emotions are at a high or low. You stabilize your emotions by thinking about returning to a steady state.
Start taking control of your emotions by taking control of your thoughts. Be aware of how you are feeling and why. Then actively think about how you want to feel. Use your self-talk to program your desired response.
NOW AVAILABLE: “Dare to Live Without Limits,” the book. Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at email@example.com or write him c/o this paper.