Six Steps To Controlling Your Emotions - Step 3

The third step we need to initiate in order to manage our emotions is really about taking control. We can’t take control however if we don’t take responsibility first. The question, “who has control over this situation” only has one answer, and it is “me!” 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 Three - Responsibility: Who Has Control Over This Situation?

“It’s all her fault!” Ever hear this before? Of course you have, but the bigger question is, how many times have you heard it from your own mouth? Most of us want or need to blame others for a reaction to any given situation, but the truth is, we are responsible for how we react to everything. There are many responses to any given episode. Jack is asked to give a speech and is elated, but when asked to do the same, his co-worker Brandon breaks out into a sweat and becomes paralyzed with fear. Sally meets a new guy, Scott, and happily projects into the future, envisioning herself in a wedding gown standing next to him at the altar. Scott, however, becomes anxiety ridden when he imagines being tied to a mortgage and a nagging wife. If the sun rises the same way every day and causes one person to yawn and smile, but another to yawn and frown, who is responsible? Not the sun, that’s for sure.

Understanding and taking responsibility for our participation in the creation of our emotional state gives us power. Gaining power puts us in control, and that is the only way to begin to turn a seemingly negative episode into a positive. The best way to start this process is to seek the truth. 

Story excerpted from my book “The Ten Commandments of Divorce”

Malcolm, a divorcing father, complained about his ex wanting him to take the kids on an off weekend. Even though he had no plans for that weekend and was just days before complaining to me about not seeing his kids enough, he denied her the switch. I asked why. It was the “principle of the thing” as he put it. I asked him to look at the truth in the situation. He didn’t understand my request so I prodded and pushed the issue. I said to him, “Didn’t you tell me just a short time ago that you love spending time with the kids and wanted to have more time with them?” He said yes.

I held up one finger and said, “Truth 1. Now didn’t you also tell me you had absolutely nothing to do this weekend and are having issues lately with being alone?” He nodded his head and said yes again. I put up a second finger, “Truth Number 2. Okay now tell me the real reason why you said no.” He thought for a moment and went on to confess it was because his ex-wife was going away for the weekend with her new boyfriend and he was jealous. I raised my hand and gestured with three fingers. “So now we have our third truth!”

Perception“Malcolm”, I said, “If there isn’t a legitimate reason why you shouldn’t take the kids and there are three truths or reasons why you should, can’t you turn this around?” After some soul searching we concluded that he really wasn’t jealous of the new boyfriend but instead he was jealous of his ex-wife’s ability to move forward in her life and in finding someone to share it with, because, to date, he could not. I asked him to use the emotion he felt and transmute it into something worthwhile. That prompted him to be open to a potential compromise, and we came up with a new rule he could pitch to the mother of his children. He suggested that if she wanted him to take the kids on an off weekend, the schedule would need to stay status quo the following weeks. So in essence, he now had three weekends in a row with them and that made him feel more in control instead of being used.

During this third step, we need to stop pushing and blaming our negative reaction onto someone or something. If the reaction comes from within us, then so is the answer (within us), along with the attitude and energy we need to manipulate all of it into something we can use. Here is where the saying “the truth shall set you free” applies! Always seek out the negative source within yourself and every episode you encounter in your life will have a happy ending.