Working Well with Emotions is the Gateway to a Healthier Mind
Here is the cold, hard truth – are you ready for it? Most of us are pushed around and directed this way and that way by our emotions. We are pulled toward people and things we like, and we are pushed away from people or things we don’t like. Our emotions often drive our behavior: they guide where we place our attention, they turn our thoughts and moods any which way. If you are like me, it will take some learning and practice to be the boss of or master of your emotions.
Really some of the most painful situations I was exposed to as a psychologist was hearing from both children and adults about the pain of being rejected by people they loved. In my experience, it is often the emotion of anger that causes loved ones to reject each other. Anger from loved ones can cause great harm, usually because they do something that hurts us or that we disagree with. If we learn to work with our angry feelings better, we will do less harm to ourselves and others – a worthy goal in my book.
The Dalai Lama says that we must learn to control our emotions to become truly compassionate. Since developing compassion (with strength) for all beings and using compassion as the lens through which I see and act in life is most important to me, I’ve got some work to do.
I kind of knew that for a long time. I already shared about how as a young therapist, I quickly learned that I did not know how to deal with my emotions in an uplifting and healthy way. Before that, I had a temper. I competed at tennis and broke a few rackets (they were wooden at the time). I even punched a few holes in doors (they don’t make them solid you know). As a grad student, after I blew an interview due to nerves (emotion) I came home and kicked in a kitchen cabinet door at my parent’s house. That was really embarrassing. I needed help with how to deal with strong emotions. I must say, I have improved dramatically with my anger. It is less intense, stays for a shorter period of time, and I do much less harm with it than I used to. The real test is that Otis agrees that I have improved, and he should know because he lives with me.
Otis and I have taught two different courses several times online. One was on the six capacities we need to develop to build healthy and cooperative relationships. What came out of this course was that people really wanted to do a deep dive training on emotions. So, with great help from Otis, I wrote our second course (which we are still teaching) about how to work with strong or difficult emotions. This course will be taught (for free!) through the Healthy Mind podcast starting in October, 2018.