Learning how to control your emotions seems like one of our biggest unsolved conundrums. It’s well-known in the science circuit that scientists have hard feelings about emotions, often struggling to define them.
What’s clear is that emotions are much more complex than they appear. And looking closer at them can unlock tremendous emotional freedom.
Does it imply controlling them? And if it does, what does it take to learn how to regain your emotional stability?
Emotional reactions are your vital signals, and you can learn to use them to become more in tune with yourself and the world around you.
What Are Emotions?
Emotion is a complex state of mind, reflecting the personal significance of an event or matter. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral and physiological elements.” Simply speaking, it’s how you deal with a personally significant event or matter, guided by your experiences.
These emotions are called “primary emotions,” and there are eight of them:
Emotions differ depending on the event’s significance. In other words, they are the meanings you make from a given situation and your responses to it — psychological and behavioral.
As you can see, your emotions aren’t uncontrollable reactions (though you can’t control them sometimes); rather, they are made by you.
Jennifer Partridge, expert in Emotional Freedom Technique and trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest, explains that our emotional patterns have supported us in remaining safe and connecting with our tribe to survive. She says, “Emotions make us beautiful human beings, but some of our responses no longer serve our survival.”
How Emotions Are Made
Emotions are made by you in reaction to your immediate environment.
According to Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of the book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, emotions are your brain’s creation. Lisa explains that your brain creates an emotion from what your bodily sensations mean in relation to what is happening around you.
You can say that emotions are organized as concepts, guiding your actions and interpreting bodily sensations in every waking moment. They serve as the brain’s tool to keep you safe and alive.
In fact, these concepts predict and simulate the outside world. Your brain continuously creates predictions and simulations, giving meaning to your experiences through emotions.
What does it mean? The world you experience is primarily subjective — it’s one of your own creation.
Why Can’t I Control My Emotions?
You cannot control your emotions, to begin with. But what you CAN control is your response to it. It’s a learned skill called emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation can be cultivated by taking a buffer of time between feeling the emotion and your reaction to it. This is what controlling your emotions essentially means.
Yet, there are some causes and medical conditions that make you being unable to control your reactions when unwanted emotions surface, such as:
- Alcohol or drugs misuse
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Bipolar disorder
- Head injury
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Postpartum depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Many of these conditions require long-term treatments to help people control their emotional responses better. Luckily, in most cases, you can learn emotional regulation.
7 Tips on How to Control Your Emotions
Humans aren’t just animals with flesh striving to survive. Rather, we are spiritual beings in a human form, discovering ways to balance our emotional system. So your emotions, according to Jennifer, aren’t to be feared but embraced with compassion.
Here are seven practices you can apply to learn how to regulate your emotions and manage your responses better:
Tip 1: Listen to your emotions and label them
Instead of puzzling over how to shut off your emotions, listen to them and acknowledge what you’re experiencing. Identify those feelings by labeling them.
It may sound simple, but emotions aren’t as linear as you think. There can be layers to them, where one emotion masks the other, or you can have multiple emotions at once.
When you put a name to what you feel, it discharges sensation and gives you a buffer time before reacting.
Your emotional system serves your human right to joy, love, connection, and prosperity.— Jennifer Partridge, trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest
Tip 2: Reframe your thoughts
Your emotions affect the way you perceive events. Moreover, your thoughts can either worsen or positively alter them.
For example, when your boss wants to see you immediately, you may feel anxious. So what’s the common assumption? You assume you’re going to be fired.
In other words, your emotional filter often gives you an unrealistic worldview. When you reframe your thoughts, you can change how you view the world. Most importantly, it can help you learn how to stop letting others control your emotions.
Tip 3: Practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is a moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Researchers from Michigan State University have found neural evidence that it can help regulate and control negative emotions.
So when you make a focused and deliberate effort to become aware of your emotions, you’re essentially practicing mindfulness meditation. It trains you to notice and observe the feelings that come through simply as they are and to accept emotional reactions as they arise.
Listen to this quick but powerful mindfulness meditation on Omvana by Mindvalley:
Tip 4: Give it a minute and a half
When a negative emotion hits you, it takes just 90 seconds for it to pass through your system. From the time your limbic system generates the feeling to the time that chemical reaction dissipates is a minute and a half.
So when you start to feel an emotion bubbling up, try not to engage with the thought that generates it. Once the sensation passes, you’ll regain your equilibrium.
And remember that you aren’t your emotions, so be wary of identifying with your emotions using the words “I am.”
Tip 5: Do what you love
Being immersed in activities you’re passionate about can bolster positive feelings. Maybe it’s reading a book. Perhaps spending time with your friends. Or it could be a sport like surfing.
Doing what you love uplifts you in many ways. So you want to do it as often as possible, not only when you are in a bad mood.
Tip 6: Be present with yourself
Many of us hide behind masks, only because we’re unsure of how to truly come into our authentic selves. So we always do something to distract ourselves from how we feel.
Every uncomfortable emotion is a signal from your mind that something needs your attention. For example, anger tells you to take action, fear informs you to be alert, and sadness is a cue to nurture yourself.
When you pay attention to your emotions by being present with yourself, they don’t have to shout loudly to grab your attention. You begin to experience more happiness naturally.
Tip 7: Practice EFT tapping
Tapping can help process your emotions as well as overcome negative thoughts and limiting habits. It’s known as EFT (emotional freedom technique), this tool combines principles of psychology, neuroplasticity, traditional Chinese medicine, and deep spiritual practice.
How does it work? The basics of it are, you tap on specific meridian points on the body and follow this recipe:
- Acknowledge your emotion.
- Love and accept yourself for feeling it.
- Create a new vision for how you want to feel instead.
According to Jennifer, tapping aligns you with the magnificence of your mind, body, and spiritual intelligence. “The result is an empowered human being, in touch with their highest potential and living in a state of love,” she adds.
What Happens When You Can’t Control Your Emotions?
If you’ve tried all the above strategies and still have trouble controlling your emotional responses, here’s what you need to know: some emotions are too powerful to handle at the moment.
Sometimes you can feel too overwhelmed by past experiences, traumas, and grief that you can’t reframe them. Jennifer explains that when trauma occurs, your nervous system stores a feeling of not being safe, which is then triggered again in situations that appear similar to the one that caused the trauma.
So to heal your fear-based responses caused by emotional, mental, or physical trauma, you need to create a feeling of safety and security in life. And this is what EFT can do for you — it allows you to acknowledge and accept your emotional responses and then replace them with a sense of safety.
Resetting Your Life With EFT
Jennifer calls tapping a cosmic tool that supports you in releasing your emotional baggage at hyper-speed. On top of that, it utilizes neuroplasticity to help you rewire your limiting beliefs.
Unlike other practices that focus on one aspect, tapping works on relaxing and resetting your body, mind, and spirit — all at once. In other words, it resets your life and realigns you with your highest potential.
If this healing method deeply resonates with you, join Jennifer on her Tapping into Emotional Mastery Quest. You can check out a sample class of the quest by registering to Mindvalley for free. Welcome in.