Can you remember a time when you became a little irritated with someone and made a sharp comment that may have hurt, one which you later regretted? Have you ever writhed in the pain of emotional agony over some loss or missed opportunity? Do you recall a time when you felt so overwhelmed by emotion that you withdrew from everything and everyone? In any of these cases to a lesser or greater degree the emotional part of your brain has produced a questionable response or perhaps a response that you may have regretted later.
Researchers generally agree that there is an appropriate ‘alarm’ system in the brain. This system effectively overrides the thinking part of your brain in emergencies and causes an action or reaction that can be life saving.
The same system causes you problems when it creates inappropriate and unreasonable responses in your daily life in non-life threatening situations. Maybe your loved ones see your anger and it hurts them or your relationship to them. Perhaps you experience other consequences that would have been averted had you greater control over your emotional brain.
You can exert control over the reactionary part of your gray matter. The first step is realizing why these unwanted and seemingly uncontrollable responses happen. Just being cognizant that your emotional alarm system sometimes triggers at inappropriate times is half the battle. With awareness, you will be primed to take the next step.
Using your will to produce a calmer state is the second step. You’ll want to exert some effort from the rational or thinking part of your brain. Your thinking mind must not be timid and should be a bit stronger in applying a conscious influence over your emotional reactions. You can learn to control the alarm response with persistence and patience and reset the threshold to a more appropriate ‘setting’.
Once you begin to recognize the emotional response before it happens, you begin to develop the ability to stop that response and engage the more rational part of your brain.
When successful, you will find that you no longer ‘snap’ at others. You will be happier and your emotional side will not run ramped like an out of control team of horses racing away with the wagon of your rationality.
Instead, you may find yourself becoming calmer, more relaxed and better able to handle situations in a way that helps everyone and allows the wonderful person that you truly are to shine through.
Developing a more compassionate and kinder nature may help. Becoming less quick to judge a situation and more understanding of the perceived transgressions of others may be useful in resetting the threshold of your emotional alarm system.
Ridding yourself of thoughts of arguing or fighting with others may also leave you in a better state of mind. Allowing things to happen naturally and letting go of the need to be in control of every situation will allow you to feel better about yourself and the world around you.
Consider practicing that sage-like advice that comes from a most unusual source, bumper stickers. You have probably seen the ones that say, “I practice random acts of kindness’ If you actively do so, you may find your threshold for emotional responses naturally adjusting upwards.
Checking inappropriate responses is a great reason to pay attention to your emotions and feelings. Yet, there is a an even more positive benefit that hasn’t been mentioned yet.
Consider this quote from the inside front jacket of Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence”. “Emotional Intelligence includes self- awareness and impulse control, persistence, zeal and self-motivation, empathy and social deftness. These are the qualities that mark people who excel in real life: whose intimate relationships flourish, who are stars in the workplace. These are the hallmarks of character and self- discipline, of altruism and compassion -basic capacities needed if our society is to thrive”.
Clearly, you have the power to make changes that vastly improve the quality of your life and the lives of those around you. The answer rests within and can change your world.