I’m guessing that, like me, you probably fall somewhere between the two extremes of each of these instances, with different stimuli causing varying degrees of reaction, some of which you comfortably control and others raising reactions which can even cause you to be surprised.
- a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others
- instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge
The first definition I think we can probably accept without argument, although I find the second definition slightly more challenging as it suggests that we are victims of our emotions with limited capacity to control them, and that’s a notion that I find difficult to accept.
Sometime ago I seemed to come across different versions of the following quotes almost on a daily basis:
“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens..” Wade Boggs,
and this one from Mia Hamm:
“Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.”
Having read these and a number of other similar quotes, I began to think carefully about my own reactions and how they were affecting the results I was seeing in my life. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, Life Changing Words, it’s important to try something new if you’re not seeing the results you want and since I wasn’t happy in all areas of my life, this warranted a little introspection to see what could be changed.
It’s an exciting process to be ‘working on myself’. I’m quite fascinated, as an external observer, at some of the reactions I have!
Attempting to control, or at least minimise, my reactions to certain stimuli though can be quite difficult, but when I do succeed, it’s worth the effort. This attempt at emotional (or self) control has become a conscious endeavour to not allow negative (or sometimes positive) emotions to derail my efforts at achieving my goals.
When something or someone bothers me, my immediate response is still generally to react with the ‘appropriate’ emotion, but I’m learning to halt mid-emotion and tell myself not to let it stop me doing the important goal-achieving work I intended to do. And I’m getting much better at this.
When I first started this journey, my emotional reactions would override my rational responses and the ensuing mood would set in for the next few hours and the work wouldn’t get done. But now that’s not usually the case. Whilst the mood itself may still be hanging on to the periphery of my psyche, I force myself through the lethargy or malaise and just do the work. The upshot is that I feel much better afterwards!
And this really is the reason why we should attempt this attitude shift. Quite often, when we react negatively to a person or situation, we effectively absolve ourselves of the responsibility to control the outcome of the circumstances. By allowing our moods to take control we are duped into thinking that we are the victim and that others should make allowances for us or just put things right! Nothing could be further from the truth. In any situation, we are 100% responsible for our own reactions. Expecting that someone else will be able to make good on our behalf is risky at best, and at worst, allows the situation to perpetuate, leaving us with limited options for retraction.
On the other hand, by keeping our emotions level (it may be reasonable to be sad, angry, frustrated, or happy, within reason) and our reactions composed we will be much less likely to cause any longer term harm. Additionally, we will also be more likely to continue with our plans for that day without constantly feeling like giving up because of the emotional turmoil that surrounds us (if you’ve ever continued a disagreement in your head long after the other person has left, you’ll know what I mean!). Then, by pushing through our feelings and completing our planned tasks, we will feel much happier and in control.
Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that I have mastered the art of emotional control! No, sadly I am still very much a student. But, compared to where I was, there has been improvement. And really, that’s all I’m aiming for. I’m confident that by making small, consistent improvements in this area of my life I will see improvements in other areas of my life also.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Taking some time for this kind of introspection is a valuable activity if it helps us to identify some of our weaker areas; we can then create strategies that help us manage ourselves better.
Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on this topic? Let us know by leaving a comment!