Controlling Emotions

Momma Bears, I know (and you know) that we all get confronted with a minivan full of emotions on a daily basis. No matter what we have going on in our lives, emotions come and go and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. The one thing we can control is the way we react to them, or even better, the way we respond. If there is one thing in this world we need to learn to control, it’s the way we “respond” to things. If you are already doing this, kudos to you and congrats! After multiple experiences, I have learned that as soon as I allow my lid to flip (something my therapist taught me), there is no going back. I am upset, I am worried, and/or my entire day is ruined. At least that’s how it used to be.

Now I try to focus on controlling the things that are in my own bubble and if it’s out of my control I refuse to allow it to grasp my attention and worry me. This is not always possible with every single hiccup or with every single event that causes a bump in the road, but when you put effort into letting go of the nagging problems you can’t do anything about, right then and there, life seems a lot less stressful. Below I tell you how I taught myself to let go of things outside of my own immediate control! 

Steps to control your surroundings, without controlling your surroundings: 

  1. Awareness 
  2. Bite your tongue 
  3. Get busy 
  4. Reflect 

Steps Explained: 

Awareness 

Become aware of the things in your life that you have absolutely zero control over. This is the first step as well as the hardest step. When you sit back and think about it, it seems like it’s the easiest, right? “Of course, I know I can’t control anything but myself. How dare this woman insult my intelligence”? Let me tell you, it’s not so simple. When you’re in the moment and the temptation strikes to attempt to control a situation, one that won’t budge no matter how hard you try to mold the outcome to your liking, it will not happen.

If you are lucky enough to have others in your presence that will do anything you ask and you don’t have to lift a finger, well…I’m not sure what to say about that, really. Some people are very fortunate to have people that care so much for them that they will drop what they are doing at the drop of a hat and go tend to them. I know because I am one of those people when it comes to my grandmother. That’s a post for another time though. Even then, you cannot control the situation and the other person may not do things the exact way you expect them to. A great example of this is my own experience.

A while back I went grocery shopping for my grandmother. I stopped doing whatever It was I was doing and I ran to her rescue, so to speak. I picked up her grocery list and ran to the store. Upon my return to her house, I was putting the groceries away and I had picked out the wrong brand or type of bread. I had dropped what I was doing to please her and I still ended up disappointing her in the end. Fortunately enough for me, she is no longer picky about what I do because she knows how hard I work as a S.A.H.M. She is happy that I try to add her household duties in with my own. She had finally become aware that she could not control everything that surrounds her. She may get me to tend to her needs but I am human and I can mess things up as easily as the next human being.

My point here is this: You can only control the things that you can do for yourself. You can control your reactions and you can control your responses. You cannot control others, you cannot control the weather, you cannot control the way other people react to their own influences that weaken them, and you cannot control the stranger walking down the street that accidentally bumped into you and caused you to spill your steaming hot coffee all over your brand new Coach shoes…bummer. All you can do in situations like these is understand you couldn’t control what happened, but that you can control how you respond to it.

Becoming aware is vital because your mood and your emotions rely on the way you respond to different situations. For example: if I set my alarm for 8 am and I wake up at 9 am instead, I could either look at my clock and be upset and angry with myself for missing out on an hour of uninterrupted work or writing time, or I could be grateful for the extra sleep I received because I must have needed it. The world will not end because I woke up late and if I had an appointment I would use that very same phone to call the person I had an appointment with and I would apologize and reschedule if I can.

I know there are many people that have important jobs that they can’t/ shouldn’t be late for, I am not saying the important things in your life mean nothing, but self-care is the most important thing because it keeps you going and it keeps you healthy, both mentally and physically. Self- care is tending to yourself so that you can tend to that important job you have. If you are having a bad day or you feel extra frustrated for no apparent reason, ask yourself, “When was the last time I had that nice hot bubble bath that I love so much”? Or, “When was the last time I woke up early and ran my morning mile”? Or, “When was the last time I had a good nights rest with good deep sleep”?

The things you enjoy doing are a part of your self-care routine, and when you don’t have these things for a while you start to wear down. Most people don’t notice that all they need is that good sleep or that one phone call to their loved one they haven’t spoken to in a few days. It could be as tiny as getting to read one chapter before bed every night and last night the baby was up and down so much that you didn’t get to finish the chapter. Now it is swimming around in the back of your mind nagging at you to finish reading it. Reading one chapter every night is a part of your mental self-care. It makes you feel good. It’s that little piece of yourself that you give to yourself! Give that little piece to yourself. Our subconscious tries to tell us things all the time and it helps if we try to listen. Become aware. 

Bite Your Tongue 

The next step is pretty tough to learn. Especially if you are one who loves to put your two cents into every conversation. Most definitely the hardest skill to learn if you are one who has to have the last word. This is the second step because once you become aware of all the things you can’t control you have to learn how to stop trying to do the controlling part. The good thing about this step is the lesson of restraint and the feeling of achievement once you master the art of defying conflicting situations.

Whenever the need to control a person, an outcome or an environmental factor scratches the surface of a situation, this little bubble of conflict looms overhead, just waiting to be popped open. Control is such a nasty habit to have and so many people are taught to fight for it. I say we stop fighting for control and start fighting for peace and freedom. Oh I know, I know, this is a free country, right. Compared to so many less fortunate countries, yes, we are very free. But that freedom is only on the surface. All of the control is underneath and behind the curtain. This is how control always is, indirect and brought on by fear of someone or something.

Start biting your tongue for yourself, start biting your tongue to learn how to restrain yourself from conflicting situations. Bite your tongue to be the bigger person if you have to. Learn how to do this in whatever way you need to do it to experience the release you will have from avoiding a fight or ruining a great relationship, or what could be a great relationship if only words were not exchanged. Once you start biting your own tongue, trust me, people will follow suit, and soon enough there will be no exchange of words at all. Who wants to bicker back and forth over nothing? I don’t. My fiancé doesn’t. We have taught ourselves this skill, first me, and then guess what…HE followed suit. Bickering is a thing of the past. Having control of a situation is no longer a thing that enters either of our minds.

I have even gained more patience with my children just by biting my tongue and thinking through a situation instead of reacting through my emotions! Don’t get me wrong, emotions still come and go, words still come out of our mouths that we wish we would have kept inside. We are human. But it is so much easier to catch ourselves and stop a bad thing from happening, now that we have become aware of things that are out of our control and practiced keeping our controlling thoughts and words to ourselves. Sometimes biting your tongue and allowing the other person to believe that you agree with them is better than telling them they are wrong and bickering about it back and forth. Even with your kids.

There comes a point in a conversation where speaking is no longer useful, it has crossed the stage of a meaningful, useful, back and forth conversation and has entered into a battle of words. This is where the controlling side is fighting for a win. I’m right you’re wrong, and I won’t quit until I believe that you think I am right, too. What is the use in that? Just let them think you feel the same and give yourself some time to process what just happened. Maybe you will be able to prove your point at another time, in a way that is logical. Maybe you can get the other person to understand what you are trying to say in a future conversation, a more relaxed conversation.

A lot of people try to take control of a conversation or situation because they feel threatened in some way. They feel the need to defend themselves for some reason. This usually has something to do with a childhood issue that still affects them to this day. Maybe something was said as a suggestion and not an accusation, or as a question and not as a threat, and the other person felt the need to step up and show they will not be downgraded or insulted. Even though your intentions were to ask a simple question or give an opinion and they took it the wrong way. Now their lid is flipped and there is no listening to you now. So give yourself that opportunity to explain your true intentions or the meaning behind your words they took offense to. First, by biting your tongue. If nothing else, at least you didn’t feed the fire and as soon as the conversation ends you will, both, most likely never bring it up again anyways. If it happens to be brought up again you will have a better chance explaining your true intentions of the conversation after reflecting on what went wrong in the last attempt. Try a new way of wording whatever it was that may have been offensive to the other person and let them know that you mean no harm in what you say. Letting someone know why you are asking something or implying something, does a lot toward keeping a conversation out of the red zone.

So many people take things so literally anymore. It really is tough trying to have simple conversations with certain types of people these days. When it gets tough, bite your tongue! 

Get Busy 

Step three is for your own sake. For your sanity. Do something to take your mind off of the thing or person that made you bite your tongue. When I bite my tongue I immediately do something else that catches my attention. I clean or I write. If I clean that is all I am thinking about, and if I write I am unable to think about anything else but my writing. Eventually, I clean or write so much that when I am finished I have forgotten what had even happened that either got me upset or made me feel something I didn’t want to feel. This is a simple step but it has a lot of meaning and it also has a huge impact on what happens next in your day- once you have had to bite your tongue.

To make myself clear, let me add emphasis to this truth. These steps can prove helpful for someone that tends to cause unnecessary worry to themselves by trying to control so much around them or someone who is being controlled or feels this way about someone else(feels like someone is trying to control them). It is best for both to learn these techniques. One’s entire world and/ or perspective on life can have such a bright insight by learning self-constraint in these ways. You start to see the bigger picture instead of only the moment, the here and now. It makes you think about how you want to feel and not about how you think you are supposed to be reacting to any given situation. You start doing things for yourself and for your future- self.

How do you want to feel? How do you want this moment to be remembered? What do you want your relationships to be like? Just because one person reacts to things a certain way doesn’t mean you or a friend has to behave the same way. Show someone that it is possible to control an outcome, your own outcome, by not controlling the situation or event that is trying to unfold.

Again, you can only control your responses. Responding, to me, means being more in- control of your own actions. You respond to something appropriately depending on what you want the outcome of the situation or event to look like. How do you want to feel when this event is said and done? Do you want to feel exhausted? Do you want to be able to revisit the situation in the future? Do you want to lose a relationship that means a lot to you? Reactions are how you act, without thought, to something that causes an emotional feeling that you think you have no control over.

These are the simplest ways I feel I should use to explain the differences between the two. In no way am I trying to insult anyone that knows what I am talking about here. If this seems a bit too simple of an explanation please keep in mind that there are people that have never been introduced to a perspective such as this. As sad as it is, it is true. I want to help people make their lives as easy as possible. This is a daily battle that so many people experience I was one of them) and I hope that the people I reach become happier and healthier every day that they practice this technique! 

Reflect 

The final step is the most important. You get to realize so many things during this stage of reflection. Think about what started the situation or event. Try to become aware of the things or the people that brought this on. Keep a diary or journal (I keep a Bullet Journal). Think about what you were doing before it happened and ask yourself how you normally would have reacted had you not responded instead. Reacting with emotions will always make you lose control of a situation in the end and you will have to fight yourself to gain control again. They are emotions and we cannot control them. We can only control what we do with them.

It is healthy to feel, it is good to have emotions, but learning how to deal with emotions is an entirely different level of awareness. This is a start. You are restraining yourself from causing more emotions, negative emotions that will only cause you or someone else harm. When you are in a safe place to reflect without interruption you can feel these emotions safely with zero influences. Feel YOUR emotions, not emotions that come from someone else’s words or actions, or reactions, or behaviors. Feel the real emotions that are deep down inside, the ones that you try to push down when people are around. Let these real emotions surface and evaluate the situation that you handled so well when you bit your tongue.

Examine the environment in your mind’s eye. Doing this will help your intuition( that gut feeling we always ignore). This will help to learn how to prepare for future situations that are similar if they arise again. You will learn how to watch your own back and train yourself to see the signs of a negative situation about to happen. Then, you will be able to handle these events or situations better and faster as time goes by. Soon enough it will happen without you having to think about it. Instinct will kick in and your body and mind will know what to do to keep you safe from a negative conversation or a need to control something (or a fear of being controlled). As I said, these techniques are for everyone. Anyone can gain something great from following these steps.

Reflection is great to do every day, even if you didn’t have to bite your tongue that day. Be proud of yourself once you are able to control the things you truly can control. Yourself. You will be happier for it.

Good luck! If you have any questions or advice please leave them in the comments below. If you would like to share a story please do! Rock on Momma Bears! 

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