Keep three words in mind when you want to use more tools to teach yourself and others the management of emotions. They are: distract, disconnect, reframe. All three are ways to change our focus, thus robbing our emotions of their energy. Starved, they wane and die — at least for a while. Their resurrection can take place at any time when we restore our focus on what set them off in the first place.
How Can We Manage Emotions?
Emotions can be all-consuming. They can drown us when the storms of life overtake us. They have to feed on something to maintain their hold on us. They often feed on themselves and they do that by focusing on the feelings they produce, gorging on them if they are plentiful and passionate. Feelings of pity, anger, revenge, hate, and all those negative damaging emotions are potent foods for escalating emotions. So, how do we manage emotions? How do we become distracted or disconnect and reframe?
Distraction is the easiest of the three to learn.
Remember, physical action is something we can do no matter how we feel. Changing our thoughts is much more difficult.
Physical activity can create a new focus. Going for a walk can offer new sights for our eyes and sounds for our ears. Eyes and ears are excellent tools we can use to change our focus.
We all have watched something on TV, for example, and our undesirable mood has vanished, replaced by opposite feelings. Changing the environment successfully changes undesirable emotions. Children have to learn this, too. Ironically, sometimes they show us how well they have learned it when they resist being distracted. Controlling our emotions does not come naturally to us, but it requires a decision and deliberate actions.
Disconnecting is more difficult, but essential.
We must let go of whatever has disturbed us. The focus has to be broken completely at times. Hence the goal of all practiced disconnectors is a complete divorce. Someone who is hurting us must be shunned and ignored as we move on to someone or something else. Become an expert at this with well-developed self-control.
Reframing is a mental exercise.
Reframing also requires a change of focus that will enable us to think calmly, rationally, and realistically — three mental skills all of us cannot live well without. We have to change how we are seeing the thing or person who we have allowed to upset us. Teach the skill of thinking from different perspectives — the other person’s perspective or “walking in their shoes,” as we say. Think from another point of view. Think from values that produce the best in us, not forgetting to make sure our goal is rational, realistic, and has carefully weighed the truth in the matter.
You may find it helpful to seek a place to go that is yours alone. If you are teaching someone else to manage their emotions, encourage them to find a special retreat. It may be a place with things that distract or please and it should be located close at hand. It’s a place to stop, think, and reframe our minds. Do you have a private retreat? If not, make one, and grace it with your presence. It will take you captive with its many memories and become a place of distraction, setting your mind more easily on the task of thinking straight.
Next: How crooked thinking destroys our peace and calm.
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