Back in prehistoric times, our ancestors needed to quickly react to their surroundings. They’d hear a noise, fear that it was a dangerous animal, and prepare to fight or flee.
Fast forward to today, and this trait is still present despite the absence of everyday danger. Emotional reactivity is living at the mercy of your thoughts, emotions, and external circumstances.
As the celebrated psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
So by taking advantage of the power of choice, you can invite emotional freedom into your life.
What Is Emotional Reactivity?
Emotional reactivity is the tendency to regularly experience powerful emotional triggers activated by outside circumstances, people, or events. These triggers may prompt you to lash out and express your emotions in an aggressive, dramatic, or impulsive manner.
However, it’s important to note that these emotions won’t always be released in an exaggerated way. For some people, high levels of emotional reactivity might be expressed by feeling disconnected or by trying to suppress their intense emotional experiences through other means like food or alcohol.
Think of it this way: On the one hand, you have the emotions you’re experiencing. On the other hand, you have your thoughts and actions. Emotional reactivity occurs when there’s no filter between the two.
When someone is emotionally reactive, they are often at the whim of their emotions. They go where their anger or fear takes them, even if it’s in a direction they’ll later regret.
What Causes Emotional Reactivity?
Being emotionally dysregulated and processing emotions in a dysfunctional way can have root causes in different aspects of life.
- Childhood trauma. Studies have shown that children who experienced trauma during their upbringing are more likely to express their emotions aggressively. What is more, they were observed to feel more negative emotions that they don’t know how to handle.
- Genetics. A 2014 study suggests that “the ability to regulate emotions is influenced by genetic liability.” Additionally, trauma has been shown to modify the mechanism through which the genes are expressed. Therefore if parents or grandparents went through traumatic experiences, they would pass on genes that make an individual more emotionally reactive.
- Environment and lifestyle choices. Because your emotional regulating abilities are strongly linked to the health of your nervous system, lifestyle choices impact the way you react to stressful situations. So lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and a sedentary routine may affect the way you control your emotions.
If you can’t pinpoint exactly what’s causing your pattern of emotions to get you overwhelmed, it’s always advisable to seek a licensed professional for help.
With that being said, it’s still beneficial to identify a few signs that you’re dealing with to create more self-awareness and accelerate your healing journey.
Signs of Emotional Reactivity
Here are some signs that you’re dealing with a high level of emotional reactivity:
- The feeling of lacking control over your reactions
- Your anger is overwhelming and makes you say hurtful things
- You have mood swings often and can’t really predict how you’re going to feel
- May have experienced depression or anxiety
- Feeling like you’re not good enough
- Your emotions tend to overwhelm you
- Lack of feeling grounded and supported
- Suppressing emotions through self-sabotaging behaviors
- Emotionally disconnecting when emotions get intense
Creating awareness takes you one step closer to mastering your emotional freedom. But there are a few more ways to help you dive deeper into the world of your emotions.
How to Decrease Emotional Reactivity: 4 Tips From Mindvalley Experts
Regulating your emotions is a skill that all humans have naturally within them. But due to unhealthy coping mechanisms, we unconsciously learn that it’s better to run away, repress, or vent out our emotions.
However, there is another way.
As the saying goes, the only way out is through. Connecting back to your emotions means accessing a deeper wisdom that has always been within.
Here are a few ways to do so, explained by Mindvalley trainers.
1. Come back to your body | Jennifer Partridge
In modern society, the concept of “feeling” has been turned into a rational, intellectualized, overcomplicated thing.
But how does one feel anything? Through your senses. And how do you go back to your senses? By connecting to your body.
Jennifer Partridge, trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest, explains how all feelings can be felt in and through your body. And one way to make it easier is by practicing EFT tapping therapy.
During the Quest, Jennifer guides you through daily practices that help you access your body’s wisdom and make space for your emotions to come and go. So you can feel your feelings, as simple as it sounds.
Create your own tapping practice: 5 Ways to Heal Your Pain and Traumas With EFT Tapping.
2. Tell your mind what you want it to do | Marisa Peer
Marisa Peer, trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest, highlights the importance of telling your mind what you want it to do. This means observing your inner narrative.
What do you usually tell your mind? “I’m so anxious”? Or maybe “I don’t know how to handle overwhelming situations”? So ask yourself: How do your beliefs about the world sound?
When you’re constantly reiterating a narrative that is self-deprecating, your mind will follow and give you what you want. You may end up constantly identifying yourself as someone who can’t control your anger. Then, it’ll come as no surprise that you’ll find yourself constantly lashing out at the people around you.
You can rewire your thought processes by listening to the free guided meditations Marisa offers on the Mindvalley app.
3. Connect deeply to the present moment | Juan Pablo Barahona
Juan Pablo Barahona (JuanPa, for short), trainer of Mindvalley’s Ultra Presence Quest teaches you how to go back to living in the present moment.
According to him, living in the moment means aligning your body, emotions, mind, and spirit with the present, where lies the greatest potential you can achieve.
When you create this kind of connection, your ability to regulate your emotions expands, making it easier for you to extend the space between trigger and reaction. There’s nothing more powerful than knowing how to live so presently that your intuition is aligning to guide you through anything you’re experiencing.
Practice being in the present moment: How to Live in the Moment, According to Quantum Flow Healer.
4. Learn to be proactive instead of reactive | Jon & Missy Butcher
Jon and Missy Butcher, creators of Lifebook and trainers of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest, underline the power that you hold within to take control over your life.
And when it comes to your emotions, instead of an immediate reaction, create a response that is in line with your core values. It doesn’t mean you have to be emotionless; it means you’re in charge of yourself and your responses.
You have the freedom to operate the way you want, but you must take responsibility for the choices you make and the actions you take.— Jon Butcher, trainer of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest
It also means you don’t shift blame or responsibility. Someone else may have angered you, but it’s your responsibility to choose the appropriate response.
Your emotions, external events, and other people will always influence you. But it is up to you to decide whether to simply react to them or come up with a thoughtful response.
The more control you take over your reactions and emotions, the more you can steer your life in the direction you want it to go.
Get inspired by Mindvalley students’ stories of transformation in the Lifebook Reviews.
Go Back to Your Essence
The beautiful thing about learning to overcome emotional reactivity is that you slowly connect to who you are authentically. Going further on this journey will reveal that you are neither your emotions nor your reactions.
Your essence goes beyond the angry conflicts or the hurtful comments that might come out. Slowly but surely, by connecting to that peace within, you discover how beautifully humane your emotions make you.
And then you can see how they act as powerful guides through your transformation. If you need some guidance along the way, Mindvalley can step in for you. With quests packed full of wisdom and powerful insights, you can explore:
- How to use EFT tapping to release emotional blockages in the Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest with Jennifer Partridge
- The way you could wire your mind to receive abundance in the Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest with Marisa Peer
- How to transform your reality by using the power of the present moment in the Ultra Presence Quest with JuanPa
- Designing the life of your dreams by addressing all of its aspects in the Lifebook Online Quest with Jon and Missy Butcher.
You may sometimes be afraid to jump into the pool of your emotions. But with the right guidance along the way, you’ll easily learn how to flow with them all.
It only takes the courage to begin. You can now take the first step.