Have you noticed how, despite what their lives are like, some people seem way happier with their lot than others? Some people seem more able to stay positive and joyful even when life is being really shitty to them. Yet others can fall apart at what on the surface of things appears to be something quite trivial. I don’t say this in the form of judgement around what should be labelled as tough or easy; everyone has the right to feel as they feel. We also see some people taking great strides in their life whilst others with the same abilities are held back with fears.
Our ability to cope and achieve success tends to be assessed from the perspective of emotional intelligence, emotional resilience and mindset. However, I believe education in this area can often lead to people inadvertently controlling emotions rather than truly being emotionally in control - a key difference. Sadly, many people struggle immensely with poor emotional well-being and they hold themselves back, not specifically because of what is happening in their lives, large and small, but because of the lost wisdom of our Life Navigation System.
Misguided education around emotions leads to our emotions being seen as an enemy to be destroyed instead of as a wise friend here to guide us.
The first problem we have with regards to emotional processing is how we categorise our feelings.
I will start by asking you what comes to mind when you think about your emotions? Do you, like many other people, categorise them into good and bad, strong and weak, positive and negative? Perhaps sometimes seeing them as a bit of a nuisance or a massive pain, especially when you are struggling in some way, or they are holding you back. It’s okay when we are feeling good, strong, positive, and confident isn’t it? Of course, it is. When we feel bad, weak, negative or not good enough, those difficult feelings can get a bit of a bad reputation, can’t they? Especially our emotional responses that make us feel like we are being irrational (or others suggest we are being irrational).In modern society, we are taught to view our more challenging emotions as something that needs to be controlled, discarded or changed. When we show certain emotions, we are deemed emotional or that we have lost emotional control. We want to feel emotionally in control; of course, we do.
However, there is a massive difference between feeling emotionally in control and controlling our emotions.
We don’t obtain emotional control by keeping the more difficult emotions in check, distracting ourselves, or reframing them into a positive. All we are doing in these scenarios is controlling how we feel, which means squashing down our difficult emotions and leaving them to fester, ready to return even more vehemently on another day. Worse, they lead to something I call outdated and incorrect Route Maps subconsciously directing our lives in unhelpful ways.
There is another way.
Feeling emotionally in control begins with recognising that there are no such thing as good and bad emotions. Instead, all of our emotions are useful. They are useful because their purpose is to power your internal Life Navigation System, to guide you forward in the present, highlight unhelpful learnings from your past and help you to plan with flexibility and fluidity for your future. You have to know how to utilise your emotions, though; otherwise, your Life Navigation System won’t be able to guide you in the best way.