How to Control Emotions?

posted in: Sobriety, Wellness | 0

Whether you are in recovery or just living life, dealing with emotions is something everyone deals with. Sometimes it seems that it would just be easier if we could turn off emotions, or at least control them! Are we able to control our emotions? Can we just mute the negative emotions like anxiety and sadness? This post explores the idea of emotions being inevitable, and how we can best handle (control?) the emotions that pop-up in our lives.shutterstock_2692729251212

Emotion Overload

Unless you happen to be a psychopath, someone who lacks the ability to feel emotions, you are going to experience emotions constantly. Sometimes weeks fly by without any emotional crisis, til something dramatic happens (a breakup, your favorite t.v character dies, etc.) and the emotional floodgate breaks. Grief, jealously, fear, anxiety, anger, etc. When we are stuck in these negative emotions it can seem like life is going in slow-motion. When will these feelings pass?! Fortunately emotions are temporary, and we do have some control over how long they last.

One of our most basic human gifts is our ability to feel. This allows us to feel love and joy for our family, and to feel happiness or pride when we succeed at something.Unfortunately the gifts of feeling also has a reverse side. When someone upsets or wrongs us, we feel anger and resentment rising up. If days later we are still holding on to those feelings perhaps we need to examine why we feel that way and make an effort to let them go. We are powerless over the emotions that occur in our minds, but we do have power over how we respond to the arrival and presence of such feelings.

These difficult emotions can cause pain, despair, and even depression. Is there anything we can do to stop them? Unfortunately, it is not possible to numb only negative emotions. Brene Brown, a well-known researcher on emotions, has found that when we use drugs, alcohol, or money to numb our emotions we also numb the positive emotions in our life. If we try and escape from the painful emotions we also miss out on the joyful emotions. Other experts in psychology have found that repressing or numbing emotions is a temporary solution, and that the emotions will eventually resurface. So if ignoring or numbing our emotions doesn’t work then what solution is there?

Handling Difficult Emotions


  • Acknowledgement & Acceptance: When a negative emotion arises, take a moment to internalize it. Why are you feeling this way? How is this making you feel? The next step is acceptance; give yourself permission to feel the emotion. Jealously or envy? Don’t be ashamed, these are normal emotions!
  • Sharing With Others: “Emotions cannot survive being spoken. It can’t survive empathy. If I call you and something very awful happened to me, and I call you… and I tell you, and you express empathy, it can’t survive. Shame, guilt, and sadness  depends on me buying into the belief that I am alone” (Brene Brown). Negative emotions thrive when you keep them to yourself. Keeping these feelings to ourselves only allows them to grow and fester. When we expose them to another person, to light, they lose their power.
  • Patience: There is much truth to the saying, “time heals all wounds”. Remember that emotions are temporary, even if they feel permanent. Grief over the loss of a loved one can take months, even longer, but eventually the pain will decrease. Have faith that while you may feel sorrow now, you will feel joy again.
  • Spirituality: For thousands of years people have found relief from painful emotions in religion and spirituality. Practicing spirituality can be as simple as praying, meditating, or reading inspirational books. Eckhart Tolle, a famous spiritualist, has written many books on finding strength from within and finding inspiration from the world around us.



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