Yesterday we talked about self-mastery in relation to our thoughts. Another aspect of self-mastery is getting a handle on our emotions.
Most of the time, we are ruled by our emotions. For instance, we awake in the morning feeling tired and glum and this casts a pall over our whole day; we receive an unexpected pleasant note from a friend, and this buoys us during the difficult circumstances we encounter in our day.
We can be–and should be–informed by our emotions, but our goal is to remain in control. I don’t mean that we don’t feel or express our emotions or that we even them out to a monotone, but rather we acknowledge what we’re feeling–that we’re sad or worried– but we don’t get carried away by them. We listen to them for their wisdom but we don’t allow them to waylay us in the pursuit of our soul-prospering life.
As an example, instead of allowing anxiety to ramp up into a full-blown attack, effectively stopping us in our tracks, we can observe that we’re worried or tense or apprehensive and pause a moment to assess what the trigger is for this. We can ask ourselves what is going on around us–what’s our perception of our circumstances–and what thoughts are we thinking regarding this.
Once we have identified our thought pattern, then we can take back control. We can choose to feel the emotion, such as allowing ourselves to experience being fearful or worried, or we can acknowledge the emotion but insist upon moving forward: recognizing that we’re afraid to step out of our comfort zone but we’re going to take a small step anyway.
This pause doesn’t have to be for hours on end. It can be a matter of a minute or two of checking in with ourselves to determine what we’re feeling, what caused us to feel this way, and what thought patterns might be at the core of these feelings.
For instance, I went through a phase where I was unusually tense and apprehensive. A few minutes of reflection helped me pinpoint a thought pattern of this will be a disaster. I realized a difficult situation at work was triggering this thought pattern.
Once I had this information, I was able to prepare myself by closely looking at the statement this will be a disaster and determining the truth of it. I found I was thinking of this situation as being a disaster because I felt so helpless. When I thought it through, I realized that while a large share of the situation remained out of my control, there was a small portion that I could directly influence. This is where I focused my efforts.
Another aspect of thinking that the situation would be a total disaster stemmed from my worry that I wouldn’t always know what to do, how best to handle particular instances as they came up. I reminded myself that I had a wise friend who I could turn to for advice, which I did as I worked my way through the challenging situation.
Because I understood the context of my emotions, I was able to use what they were telling me and move through the challenging situation without being destroyed by it.
The next time you’re in the throes of strong emotions, take a moment to examine what you’re feeling, how and why you came to feel it, and, in light of this feeling, how can you use it to help you move into your soul-prospering life.
You can do it!
Your Friend and Pep Pal,