Controlling emotions is one of the fundamental competencies essential to lead an effective life. The extent to which your emotions help you or impede your ability to think, strategize, find solutions to problems, achieve goals etc., determines your capacity to use other mental abilities.
Thus, the degree to which your emotional competencies help you to utilize your other mental abilities becomes the determining factor of how well or poorly you do in life.
To understand the importance of controlling emotions, it is necessary to reflect back on those routine events where emotional imbalance paralyzed your reasoning ability. And made you act in a manner you later had regrets about.
So let’s find out how such emotional outbursts blot your mental clarity taking you miles away from achieving your goals, faring in an exam, rocking a presentation etc. And how to control your emotions when under such a neural attack.
Out of Control Emotions
Remember, the presentation that you screwed when fear took over you! Or that entrance exam where all you could think of was somehow passing the stipulated time for the test. The very sight of the question paper made you feel “I Can’t Do This!”
Instead of focusing on solving the problems, you fixated your attention on the consequences that you would suffer as a result of not doing well in the exam.
Further, repeated thoughts of not doing well in the exam got you jitters. This hampered your ability to focus and continue using your mental ability to solve the question paper.
The moment you came out of the examination hall, you knew that you would not score well. Even to this day you have the regret of fear overwhelming your reasoning ability that hampered your performance in the exam where you have done well.
So what exactly happened at that time? How your brain got overwhelmed with fear and anxiety instead of concentrating on solving the question paper?
Working Memory Gets Inhibited
When you are unable to focus as a result of the emotional attack, what gets inhibited is your working memory. It is the working memory that contains all the information that comes handy to deal with the situation or solve the problem that you face at a particular point in time.
Needless to say, all the functions ranging from speech to logical reasoning is undertaken with the help of information held by the working memory.
Further, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for bringing the working memory into action. Also, it is the prefrontal cortex where all the messages from the Amygdala – a part inside the human brain from where the emotions originate – are received.
Thus, when the Amygdala gets hijacked or emotionally triggered, it has a direct impact on the functioning of the working memory. So, whenever we are in the grip of an emotion, our cognitive abilities get hampered.
Working Memory Gets Functional
In contrast to the above case, you are able to give your best when positively motivated. That is why world class performers, writers, artists etc. achieve huge success because they are able to motivate themselves for the rigorous training or practice that is required to become masters in their field.
Self motivation, perseverance, persistence and enthusiasm are the competencies of high achievers. Average performers, on the other hand, are unable to motivate themselves for rigorous practice needed to become experts or masters in their field.
They focus their attention on being anxious and think about the consequences, thus inhibiting their working memory. Such average performers get overwhelmed by emotions to such an extent that they are not able to think cognitively as to what is needed for an outstanding performance.
How To Control Your Emotions?
1. Delay Desire
Walter Mischel, a Psychologist specializing in Personality Theory and Social Psychology, explains the meaning of Self Control. According to Walter, self control is the “goal directed self imposed delay of gratification.
In other words, the capacity to restrain oneself from seeking instant pleasure in order to achieve one’s goal, be it personal or professional, is what is meant by self-regulation.
Thus, people who have the fundamental skill of self-regulation are the ones who have competencies like:
- Self Assertiveness
- Ability to cope with the challenges of life
- Capability to work under stress or pressure
- Self Confidence
- Self Reliant
- Are Go Getters
In contrast, people who have no self regulation and want to satisfy their desires instantly are:
- Prone to frustration
- The ones who consider themselves worthless
- Unable to handle stress
- Overactive to frustrations
- Low performers
What Causes Impulse?
As per Sigmund Frued’s Personality Theory, a human psyche is made up of three parts: Id, Ego and Superego. These three parts develop at different stages of a person’s life.
‘Id’ is the oldest, unconscious and inherited part that is impulsive and reacts instantly to the basic needs and desires. For instance, a child’s personality consists of only ‘id’ when he is born.
‘Id’ works independently of logic, reality and the world around as it is the unconscious mind. It works on the pleasure principle which says that every urge or desire must be fulfilled instantly so as to get pleasure.
Thus, if the desire is not satisfied instantly, it makes the person discontent. So, ‘Id’ is unreasonable and selfish since it seeks instant gratification for its desires.
Control Emotions By Denying Impulses
Similarly, when you are engulfed by an emotion, say anger, you are unable to control your impulses and seek instant satisfaction. Hence, you get satisfied only when the anger is vented out or your urge gets fulfilled.
Given this, one way to control your emotions is to deny your impulses for achieving the bigger goals in life. People who have self control shine in every facet of life. Be it business, relationships, athletics, academics etc.
Whereas, those who do not have self control are the ones who suffer in every sphere of life.
2. Change Bad Mood
Imagine, you have to appear for an interview process and you are extremely anxious about your performance. You start sweating and feel as if anxiety has taken over your mind.
On being asked questions by the interviewer, you start fumbling. Moreover, you are unable to concentrate on giving answers to those questions as your attention is fixated on the thought that your interview will not go well.
The result of the interview, not to your surprise, is the same as you anticipated. That is, you were unable to clear the interview.
Consequences Of Worry
This is what worrying does. It turns the bad outcomes that it anticipated into a reality. Thus, anxiety hampers your performance by fixating your attention on the worry, thus making you unable to think cognitively.
This is the reason why anxiety ridden people are unable to do well in academics or undertake tasks that demand a high level of attention.
However, anxiety is a useful emotion that exists to help us undertake the task at hand. Some amount of worry is needed to motivate us to take up the challenging tasks. For instance, preparing for an exam, a presentation or an interview. But extreme worry intrudes our cognitive abilities making us perform poorly in whatever we do.
Impact of Switching Bad Mood
Therefore, it is very important to switch from a bad mood to a good mood. This is because good mood gives you the ability to think clearly and allows you to come up with solutions to the problems.
In fact, you must have experienced that whenever you are in a good mood, you are able to think broadly, creatively and positively. Needless to say that good mood enables you to undertake effective decision making.
On the other hand, an emotion say anxiety going out of control puts you in a foul mood. This inhibits your thinking ability and impairs your ability to focus, thus making you perform poorly in everything you do.
3. Think Positively
Thinking positively and being hopeful is another strategy that can help you curb emotional imbalance.
What is Hope?
Hope is a step ahead from the view that everything will turn out good. It is nothing but having faith in yourself that you have the willpower and know the course of action to come out of the problem at hand.
Thus, people who are hopeful do not get overwhelmed by emotions such as fear or anxiety. Rather, they have the conviction to come out of a difficult situation. Such people are less prone to depression and experience less emotional imbalances as they are able to motivate themselves to face challenging situations.
What is Optimism?
Thinking positively on the other hand means that things will turn good despite the challenges that one encounters. It is a positive attitude that enables people not to surrender and protects them from being hopeless, experiencing lack of motivation or depression.
However, the caveat for thinking positively is that one must be pragmatic and not be too positive about life. This is because being too positive can be devastating. In other words, how you interpret a failure or a challenging situation is what determines your success or failure in life.
People who think positively take failures to be an opportunity to improvise something at their end. They do not blame themselves for the wrong and do not take it as something that they cannot do anything about.
However, if you are overwhelmed by emotion such as anxiety, you are hopeless about life and achieving your goals. This is because you believe that the failures you face are because of some shortfalls in you that cannot be changed.
4. Use Emotions Optimally
This is one of the most important strategies to control your emotions. Accordingly, you use your emotions not to get worried or anxious about the task at hand or the upcoming challenging situation but to learn and enhance your skills for higher performance.
Thus, channelizing your emotions in this way would not only inhibit emotional imbalance but also give you motivation and energy to achieve anything in life, be it personal or professional. This specifically happens when you direct your effort towards doing something of your interest.
This is because when you steer your emotions for learning and performing what you are interested in, you get engrossed in it. Thus, all your attention is focused on learning and enhancing your skill rather than all the noise around.
This state keeps you away from worrying about how well or poorly you are performing and other petty issues of daily life. The very act of pursuing something you like doing gives you pleasure.
Thus, the desire to seek such pleasure would not allow emotional imbalance to take over you, thus making you more productive. This state of mind automatically helps you delay gratification, change your mood and find pleasure in the very act of learning the skills you are interested in acquiring.
We as humans are blessed with a range of emotions that are necessary for our survival. But these emotions are obsolete to deal with modern day challenges. Therefore, it becomes all the more necessary to control our emotions so that we are able to cope with the current day problems and issues so as to live a fulfilling life.