Are you in control of your emotions, or do your emotions control you?
Tell me if you’ve had this experience: You stuff yourself at dinner, and later that night or the next day while you’re thinking back on what a glutton you were, you promise yourself that you’ll never do that again. Starting now, you’re turning over a new leaf. Things are going to be different! And they are…for a few days, maybe. But before you know it, your old eating habits have returned. Why?
A few years ago, I restricted myself to a special diet–vegetables and fruits only–for 6 weeks as part of a cleanse program I was doing. I was shocked by how difficult it was. I craved things like pizza and cookies, not out of hunger, but out of an emotional need for them. It was only when I stopped eating my “comfort foods” that I realized just how out of control I was–my emotions had been controlling my eating choices.
Maybe you’re aware of your emotional attachment to certain foods, maybe you’re not. But food choice is just one of the ways we are controlled by our emotions.
To understand why, let’s look at how the brain works.
Whenever you experience something with any of your five senses, that signal travels through your nervous system to your brain. It enters you brain at the back and travels across the brain to the front, where rational thinking takes place. But before it reaches the front of your brain it travels through the limbic system. This is the emotional center of the brain.
If these details don’t interest you, then pay attention to this:
What this all means is that every experience you have goes through the emotional center of your brain before it gets to the rational center!
This has two stunning implications:
- Every experience has an emotional component whether you’re conscious of it or not.
- If your emotional reaction is strong enough, it will determine your response before you even have a single rational thought about the experience.
As logical as you think you are–I know some of you think you’re Spock, but you’re not–you are first and foremost an emotional creature. To be successful in life, you must learn how to manage your emotions. The extent to which you can manage your emotions is referred to as Emotional Intelligence (EQ for short).
So I ask again, are you in control of your emotions, or do your emotions control you?
In order to make a lifestyle change like creating or breaking any habit, you must have a high level of personal EQ. Without it, your actions and reactions become emotional compulsions instead of rational choices.
Personal EQ consists of two parts:
Self-awareness of your emotions is increased simply by asking yourself throughout the day, “What am I feeling right now? Why am I feeling this way?”
Self-management of your emotions is increased by asking yourself the additional question, “What am I going to do with this emotion right now?”
The good news is that increasing your self-awareness has a snowball effect (it gets easier the more you do it), and it leads very naturally to increased self-management. Make it a daily practice to ask those questions and you’ll soon feel like an expert.
Break free of your controlling emotions, and start controlling your emotions now!
©2005 Curtis G. Schmitt