Ana María Ángel Esteban: Strategies to control emotions


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How many emotions to feel, express and control, sometimes. We do not always have and should not control all emotions because it would sometimes become physically and psychologically harmful to oneself.

We know that emotion is to feel something, a reaction as a result of something that happens in our context, including the behavior of other people…. they are subjective affects that have been modulated since we were little to now have one or another behaviours, sensations, typical and predictable feelings in each one…..caused by the emotions that we experience every minute. Emotions are also manifested in isolated physiological reactions or in sets of symptoms that we would call psychosomatic. The feeling of emotion and the externalization of it is partly genetically given and partly learned by trial and error or by imitation.

There are some basic emotions that in the absence of psychopathology are the following: surprise, sadness, contempt, fear, anger, joy and disgust. We all feel them, although the intensity and trigger of each of them may be different. Here we can establish a line between the normal and the pathological, which affects us and/or others and prevents us from leading a normal life. It is even said of the existence of 270 emotions … (what madness, if you already mess with 7 …!). And why emotions? To protect us, to socialize and to motivate us, mainly.

How to control them? The most important thing is to be aware that they are taking place and see if they are adapted or not. Recognizing and identifying what is happening to us, what is happening and our associated moods will help us model our relationships with others, always in a positive way, to improve them. It will also make us more capable of seeing emotions in others, setting limits without selfishness and without harm.

In short, being aware of what happens to us and knowing why or believing we know why it happens to us will help us to know ourselves better. In short, this is the basis of emotional intelligence, trying to keep emotions from getting out of control to produce anxiety, depression, phobias, obsessions, impulsiveness…

Emotional control depends a lot on psychological maturity and, after all, it is a capacity or an ability to modulate in a certain way and at a certain moment (now or wait) the expression of an affective state and thus achieve a goal.

There is a wonderful phrase: «The success of a person does not depend on the intellect or academic studies, but on their emotional intelligence». -Goleman- I never tire of repeating that academic intelligence serves to train us to a greater and better extent, to have more capacity to grasp, to learn concepts. It’s great to be an excellent professional, to be exceptional in everything that has to do with your work, but it lasts a few hours a day… and what? the personality and not the professional in whatever it is is what is permanently incorporated to live with the rest, social skills, self-control, in short emotional intelligence, which is essential to be able to relate, also within work, and to be or not, as Goleman said, more successful at all levels To give an example in which the way you are is very important: it is useless for me to have a husband (with whom I have to live) who is a brilliant professional, if when he leaves to do his work he gets inside the house and interacts with friends in a maladaptive or pathological way.

“Getting on your nerves” in the face of an incident, “don’t stop thinking about” something you know without much meaning, “cry uncontrollably” in the face of frustration, not being able to speak in public, yell, cry… all in its proper measure it is productive and adapted.

-It is essential what we say internally without realizing it; It’s automatic. When you work on it, once you are aware of that self-language, it is when changes begin to be generated that make us control ourselves and also feel good about the change; especially us and almost always also about others.

-Being aware of that self-language and being able to change it for a more positive one (most situations have their positive side) makes us more optimistic and less anxious. There is a certain calm and sense of control.

-Reinterpreting situations is always possible if there is an emotional conflict, in addition to the fact that there are as many points of view about things as there are people.

-Stop anticipating misfortunes is essential, you will have already realized that they do not always or almost never happen.

-Do not have rigid thought schemes about how things should be, people, ….. they make you freer and more tolerant with yourself and with others.

-Review from time to time what we think and do in certain situations that seem to be a problem repeatedly. Will we have to change something ourselves? And in addition to this self-control that can be perfectly learned, there are externalizations of emotional states that sometimes help and sometimes do not.

How to let off steam?

-Yelling, hitting… .and the like are a form of venting if done alone (in the field, for example, with a punching bag…) Never with anyone. Aggressiveness is never going to be the way to achieve anything effectively. You are submitting to the other and what you get by submission is not going to be lasting. Another option is that you make the other defensive and reactive and the situation worsens… Respect is essential.

-Cry, to undo the “knot” that gets in your throat when something hurts, YES, but crying to let off steam should only be for a minute and from there you should start self-language and self-instructions of the type “now, stop” and recompose yourself, reinterpret. Crying without limit only becomes a behavior that will lead you to regret and add an internal self-language while you cry of the type “everything happens to me, what the hell, what bad luck…” and also if it is associated with a behavior of ” get by crying”, then what we are learning to be victimizers and manipulate with crying. Not so bad. This ultimately has the effect that people avoid you.

-Laughing also serves to let off steam….but either you watch a movie, or you look for someone who makes you laugh, or you have the ability to laugh at yourself, when you have already begun to reinterpret….. Change and include a self-language in that moment that makes you see things even with “laugh” is a great ability, and it can be done, yesss…!

As you can see, you are happy, bitter, calm, unbearable, funny,… depending on how you see and/or want to see things… And let’s think that the head is a reason-emotion duality. That the emotion is usually prominent, and it is what we feel spontaneously before applying a rationalization in seconds, and that then it already makes everything different. Better or worse, and depending on what.

Revenge, arrogance and psychologically created defenses are not a good way to control situations or emotions or people. There are other much more elegant and effective ways for such purposes.

Ana M Angel Esteban

Clinical psychologist

Master’s in behavior therapy

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