How to Manage Your Emotions

By Melvin Hayden 

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How to manage your emotions -  it's the life lesson we should have been taught in school. 

We all suffer from emotional overreactions. In the heat of the moment we say something to a person we love without stopping to consider the shockwaves. To navigate through this emotional battleground, we need to make some important distinctions:

We cannot turn emotions on and off like a tap. They will come and go whether we like it or not. Once this is clear in your mind, you can stop waiting for unwanted emotions to go away. 

Emotions are not positive or negative. The human brain is wired to categorize things as positive or negative and is particularly alert to threats. This made good evolutionary sense for our ancestors, who learned to react to external threats for the purposes of survival.

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You are not your emotions. Emotions are, by their very nature, strong. However, it is important to get clear that you are not your emotions. You are a person with values and commitments who happens to have emotions that are triggered on a regular and ongoing basis. This point might seem semantic, but it isn’t. When we become fused to our emotions – thinking that ‘they’ and ‘we’ are the same thing – they effectively hijack us. 

We always have a choice. A thought or feeling in itself does not prevent you from taking any action. It is easy to think, "I’m frightened and can’t speak," but this is a trick of the mind. It would be more accurate and authentic to say, "I’m frightened and I’m choosing not to speak." Being able to observe our emotions – even when they feel overwhelmingly powerful – creates a space in which we can reference our commitments and values. While we cannot always choose our emotions, we can choose our response to them. This gets to the heart of responsibility and responsibility is probably the closest thing to a superpower that human beings possess.