Learning to Control our Emotions
I’ve written about fleeting nature of emotions a thousand times by now. I feel, in some capacity, drawn to this subject. It’s such a consistent part of our experience that we mostly forget about it. In the same way that we take our ability to breathe for granted, we also take for granted how much control we have over our emotions.
The downside to this is that we fail to realize how often we let our emotions take control of us.
And we often only let negative emotions take control. It is rare that we allow ourselves to be consumed for days by happiness or joy. But we often allow ourselves to feel anxious for days on end, or sad for weeks. We succumb to the onslaught of negative emotions so much because we don’t realise that we have control over how we feel. And so we think we cannot influence how we feel emotionally.
Life is just a series of things happening followed by how we react to them. And sometimes there are days where enough things happen to make us feel upset or downtrodden. We’ve all had these days and we’re all have them again. And you’ve gotten through every one of those bad days so far, despite a belief in the moment that things will never get better.
We tend to believe that a negative emotion will last forever, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We think that we’ll always feel sad or frustrated or stressed forever, that the bad day will never end. Yet we never get caught believing that happiness will last forever. In fact, we’re certain happiness won’t last. We can accept this when we feel happy, yet we cannot exact the same when feel sad.
And this is where you’re ability to control your emotions becomes important. A bad day can stretch into another day if you allow it to. If you refuse to accept how you’re feeling, and you refuse to allow that emotion to be expressed, you will live in that denial. You will experience thhat emotion for longer than you need to. However if, when the bad things happen, you accept the emotion and you allow yourself to work through it, you’ll only ever be in a state of discontent for as long as is required. It will not fester and cast a shadow over the rest of your week if you simply admit to yourself how you feel.
This concept is a very old Stoic one. It is not that we shouldn’t feel emotions – of course we should. It’s that we shouldn’t be dominated and controlled by our emotions. When we learn this, when we learn that emotions don’t last forever, then bad days don’t feel so daunting.
If you can understand that no negative emotion you’ve ever experienced has lasted forever, then you can find solace when you experience another bad day.
You can accept the negative emotions because you know that soon the stress, or anger or sadness will pass, as it always has.