Emotions are the driving force behind motivation, feeling, behavior, and physiological changes in our bodies. If we can learn to control emotional impulses, we will have greater mastery over our inner and outer beings.
If you find yourself constantly at the whim of your erratic emotions, it’s time to slow down and take the time to understand why you’re experiencing what you’re experiencing. By learning to control emotional impulses, you will learn how to navigate the often tumultuous waters of your subconscious emotions, passions, and desires for greater autonomy and success.
Emotions vs. Feelings: Not the Same
Emotions and feelings play a powerful role in how you experience and interact with the world. But contrary to popular belief, emotions and feelings aren’t quite the same things.
There are distinct differences between feelings and emotions:
- Emotions – are physical and instinctual, and can be recognized by blood flow, brain activity, facial micro-expressions, and body language. Scientifically, emotions are lower-level responses that originate in the subcortical regions of the brain (the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices). The amygdala causes emotional arousal and regulates the release of neurotransmitters essential for memory. The meaning you apply to emotion is entirely individual to you.
- Feelings – are sparked by emotions and influenced by your thoughts and memories subconsciously linked with that particular emotion. Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain and are mental associations of emotions. Feelings are essentially an expression of a certain emotion, influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories
By becoming aware of your emotions and feelings – fully understanding them, determining their root causes, and applying conscious thought followed by deliberate action – you can choose how you navigate through life and experience your world. You can learn to control emotional impulses so that they no longer govern your self of sense.
If you can learn to control emotional impulses and the feelings they trigger, you can transform your body and mind from chaotic reactivity to a calm, proactive state.
Different classifications of emotional response
Paul Ekman in his book, Emotions Revealed, presented six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise). It is said that our most basic emotions evolved in response to the ecological challenges we faced as more primitive beings. These emotions are now hardwired into our brains, and each corresponds to a distinct and dedicated neurological circuit.
Basic emotions are innate and automatic. They are part of a universal experience we all share. It’s entirely natural to feel angry, afraid, or sad. But we judge these emotions and experience negative responses to them that only exacerbate the problem.
By learning to control emotional impulses, we can better navigate our responses to negative emotions and be less swayed by them during periods of critical thinking and decision-making.
How to Control Emotional Impulses
If you tend to react quickly and often feel that your emotions are getting the better of you, it may be time to invest in some cognitive training that can help you learn to control emotional impulses.
While this may seem like an arduous task, it’s certainly a worthwhile skill to acquire, and can profoundly impact your life for the better.
Here are 11 ways to better manage emotions and control emotional impulses.
11 strategies for conquering your emotional reactivity
Identify the emotion you are experiencing. Ask yourself: What am I feeling right now? Am I really feeling this [emotion], or is it a disguise for something deeper? The more clarity you can gain here, the more effective you’ll be in controlling the challenging emotion.
No matter what emotion you experience – do not resist it. Accept it. Appreciate it. Resisting it will prevent you from turning this emotion into something that you can learn from as you move forward. Acknowledge the emotion and search for its personal meaning and significance.
Look at the emotion from all angles. This will open doors to new perspectives and opportunities that can help you gain unique insights. Ask yourself: What does this emotion offer me? What is the true value of this emotion? In what specific ways does this emotion serve me? How can I make things better?
4. Get confident
Consciously choose the new emotional response you’d prefer to experience in future encounters of this nature. See if you can recall a time in the past when you handled this emotion successfully and found a way to transform it into a learning experience.
5. Become resilient
In order to strengthen your resilience, build an emotional fortress. Your emotional fortress is a safe place you create in your mind that keeps you strong during difficult times. Imagine a special place, your personal sanctuary, that will help you find solace, strength, and guidance. Here, you can communicate with anyone you desire for guidance. Use your emotional fortress when you need to remove yourself from your circumstances, which will assist in responding in more desirable ways.
6. Psychological transformation
Your thoughts, expectations, self-talk, and perceptions all work together to create the reality you experience and influence the emotions that follow. Choose your thoughts consciously and monitor your self-talk for self-sabotaging scripts.
When you are feeling emotionally drained or charged by negative emotions, center yourself by breathing consciously. When we’re stressed or upset, we tend to breathe much higher in the body, up near the top of our lungs and into our shoulders and neck. Navigate your breathing back down into the belly. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
Learn to communicate your needs and desires. Also ask others how they feel, why they feel that way, and how they would like to potentially resolve their feelings. Learning from others will help you better understand others and yourself.
9. Get physical
Research from Harvard published in the journal, Cognition and Emotion, recently discovered that acute exercise can help you regulate your mood and boost your resilience to emotionally toxic states before they happen. Exercise also helps combat the stress hormone, cortisol, to give you a healthier, happier brain.
10. Make the conscious decision to be in control
You are always in control of your emotions, no matter how overpowering they may feel. You have the ability to choose how to interpret the emotions you feel in your body. Stay present and conscious when challenging states threaten to overwhelm you.
If you’d like to learn more about how to control emotional impulses and responses in just three minutes, check out this video by Mindvalley Masterclass teacher, Jon Butcher: