Six Steps To Controlling Your Emotions - Step 1

The “Six Steps” came to me many years ago when I realized there was a process I was undertaking every time I encountered a negative episode. The first step is the initial reaction we “feel” when experiencing anything unpleasant and often it is real, but sometimes it is not coming from the present situation, or it is not the emotion we believe it to be. The following article may offer some insight into how we react and respond and what we can do to try and alleviate the negative emotions that encompasses our lives and sometimes defines who we are.

Step One - Reaction—What Is It That I Am Feeling?

When trying to “get a grip” of a situation and ourselves, we first need to determine what exactly it is that we are feeling. The second you start to feel an emotion, you need to immediately name it and own it. Most often, we start to feel and then look for something to blame it on, but if we gave ourselves a moment or two to react honestly, we could stave off some pretty unpleasant reactions.

PerceptionWhen my daughter Heather was 14 years old she gave me the scare of my life. She also gave me a profound insight into who I was and how I handled stress. It was dusk and she was not home yet from a bike ride. As the sun dropped behind the horizon, I became increasingly angry and started to pace wildly from one side of our one-acre front yard to the other. “Where is she?” I was chanting, “I distinctly told her to be home before dark!” My anger, I convinced myself, was due to her insensitivity to my feelings and her disobedience of the house rules. “How many times do I have to tell her not to be out late? What is it going to take to get her to listen?” Her behavior was my focus, but underlying that issue was pure panic. It was dark and deserted. We lived at that time in the middle of nowhere with no street lamps, and winding, wooded roads. I was not in tune with the alarms going off in my head, but there was no mistake about it…I was petrified. 

Suddenly a squeaking noise caught my ear and as I strained to see through the darkness, my daughter appeared, struggling across the lawn, disoriented, crying and pushing her mangled bicycle. For a second, I didn’t have an understanding of what was going on, but even if I did, I don’t think it would have mattered. My diatribe started the second she came into view and it didn’t stop until she was close enough for me to see the disheveled state she was in. “What the hell did you do to yourself?!” I screamed at her. “Why are your clothes ripped? Where is your helmet? How many times have I told you never to ride your bike without a helmet?!” “I was riding down the hill”, she sobbed, “and talking on my cell phone. I didn’t see the pot hole and my bike hit it and I fell into a ditch. I’m so sorry Mommy! I’m so sorry!” I yanked her by the arm and started to take her inside, but she pulled it away and instead was guiding me toward the road. “I’m so sorry Mommy, but we have to go back!” “Why would we need to do that?” I screamed in disbelief. “Because, I lost my cell phone!”

That was all I needed to hear to throw me over the edge. This was my daughter’s seventh cell phone in three years. Having lost or destroyed every one of them in the most inane circumstances (one dropped in a toilet, another run over by a car, still another soaked in a washing machine, and my favorite, “It fell out of my pocket when I was on the Ferris wheel!”) There was no consoling me at this point and the next half hour proved to be the worst mothering experience of my life. As the dark of the night got to us, we returned home, her without a cell phone, and me without a voice. As we entered the house and the light, I caught site of her dirty face, completely swollen and red from tears, and noticed a dark stain on her blonde hair. It was blood. I pulled her towards me and tried to find its source. To my horror, her ear was hanging off of her head!

Even to this day, I cannot write these words without crying in sorrow at my behavior. It hurts to know I could react so horribly to my child, but the fact is that I was not in control. I was also not angry. I was terrified and that was the day I learned how I handled fear. The mere thought of her being harmed in anyway set a reaction through me that came out in the form of rage, but that was my mask, not my reality. Yes, I was pissed that she didn’t listen, but she has not obeyed me time and again about many issues. The truth revealed that I was leading a life in complete denial of fear. In order to function daily, I put on a false bravado that came off in the form of strength and power. In reality, I could not fathom her being harmed or missing, and not having control over her safety was causing the explosive reaction.

Ten hours later we were home from the hospital only to sit in our own silence away from one another’s guilt and sadness. I took me some time to come to grips with my violent, insensitive reaction. Although it is human to blame others for our emotions, it is never anyone’s “fault” for how we feel. My daughter’s behavior could have just as easily caused anxiety instead of anger, but it didn’t. All of my life incidents, dramas, and traumas have molded me and my emotional state. It is up to me to stop my primary reaction to any incident I encounter, and it is the first step we all need to initiate in order to control the outcome of our life experiences. In the years following, I understood and accepted my anger and began to get in touch with my fears. Heather’s ear healed nicely, as did our relationship, and my reaction, well let’s just say, it has never been the same since.