There are always people who say, “That person made me so mad,” or, “Man, she made me feel like shit.” It’s depressing to think that way — that other people control your emotions.
99% of the time people say that, it simply isn’t true.
Someone may do something shitty to you, but then — here’s the thing — YOU chose to feel bad about it. Don’t sweat it, though.
We’ll walk through how to recognize when that choice happens and how to develop more control so you can take control of your emotions and stop letting other people dictate them.
Understand And Accept That Your Emotions Are Under Your Control
This is the first step to empowering yourself to take control of how you feel, and it’s the hardest. Until you make this distinction, it’s hard to see it. You see someone being a dick to you, and it feels like they made you angry. In reality, there is a moment where you made a decision; it just doesn’t feel like it.
So, how do you make this distinction?
The easiest way to recognize it is to spot these kind of interactions outside of yourself. Someone makes a harmless joke directed at someone, and that someone — instead of laughing — gets hostile or defensive. “What do you mean?!” the person demands. The other person backs off and says something like, “Sorry, I was just kidding.”
In this scenario, a harmless joke was interpreted as an attack. It didn’t have to be.
Has this ever happened to you? It probably has. Everyone feels this way from time to time.
Have you ever noticed how this kind of thing happens to you more frequently when you’re in a bad mood? And when everything is going great, it rarely happens?
You play a crucial role in how you feel. The exact same joke can make you laugh or piss you off depending on how you feel. The more you can internalize that concept — and understand how much larger of a role you play in your emotions than outside forces — the easier it’s going to be moving forward.
Catch Yourself Before You Respond
When something happens to you or someone says something to you, there is a split-second before you emotionally respond. There always is. Tune your brain to search for that moment. You may have lived your entire life not realizing this moment even exists. It’s that small, and it’s that difficult to recognize. But once you do, you’ll realize that there is an opportunity for choice.
Put It In Context
When you’re able to hold onto this moment, you can take a moment to view this situation in context. What was the intention? Was it an accident? Is it worth getting upset? Are you actually being attacked?
By taking a moment — literally a second or two — to analyze your situation, you can take control of how you respond. Sometimes, it might be worth being angry about. OK, go ahead. Sometimes, you just want to ignore it. Sometimes, you realize that someone was just trying to make a joke.
Whatever the appropriate response, you are now doing it consciously — instead of letting your emotions do whatever the hell they want without your permission. The end result is more control over your emotions, which means more control over your life.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Look, this isn’t something that just magically starts happening. You have to work at it. You see, we’re programmed biologically and culturally to react to situations. It’s instinct. Programming yourself against instinct is no easy task.
Work On Your Overall State
Wanna know the easiest way to never get into this situation? Don’t feel shitty in the first place. One of the more common causes of jumping to a negative emotion is to already be in a negative emotional space.
The more you work on putting yourself in a positive headspace, the more positively you’ll automatically interpret things around you and the less you’ll have to use this technique to intervene.