Learning to Master Emotions

2013.08.20
I have heard it said that emotions are a great servant and a lousy master. They can serve a valuable purpose in life, but when they take over, they can also be very destructive. If you have known me for any length of time you are likely aware that I have a large capacity for being emotional, andI am not often afraid to be open with my emotions. I believe having and expressing emotions is very healthy. I also am learning that I cannot let my emotions control me, but rather I need to be able to control and work through them. I have done a lot of thinking about this within the past year and have had a few breakthroughs in how I think about emotions.
Everyone experiences and struggles with different emotions. One person could be fairly in control when it comes to having patience and not being easily angered, but wrestle with loneliness and low self image. Another person could have amazing personal confidence, but easily fly off the handle when someone pushes their buttons. Being controlled by our emotions could mean being too quick to cry, to yell, to retreat, to be sarcastic. It could even mean being falsely optimistic and unwilling to take off the rose-coloured glasses. I hope what follows will apply to whatever emotional bent you face in your own life. Here are some of the conclusions I have come to recently about learning to master my emotions.
  • Emotions are valid. There is a reason you are feeling how you feel.
  • However, emotions are not reliable. Emotions are not absolutes. They cannot always be trusted to be true.
  • Emotions are instead an indicator of a potential deeper issue. Specifically when they are recurring, it is time to take notice and uncover what needs to be dealt with at a deeper level.
  • It is possible and healthy to let emotions pass without fully indulging them. Recognize their validity and determine the reason behind them, but then let them pass by without fully manifesting themselves in your life. It is valid to feel the hurt, but before breaking down in tears, choose to let the emotion pass before it fully expresses itself. It is valid to feel the anger, but before the hurtful yelled words come out of your mouth, choose to let the emotion pass by, choose to save your response for a calmer moment.
  • The time to evaluate emotions is after they have passed, not in the moment when they are being expressed. Only afterward can you really determine if what you were feeling lines up with reality. The emotion you feel may not stand true when held up against the reality of the complete picture. Are you tired? Are you stressed? Is the person you are dealing with a proven friend, someone you trust and someone who loves you? Is this a recurring emotion or a one time situation? Take time to evaluate the full scope of what is going on, and only then accept or turn away the emotion you are feeling.
I have been amazed how much this has impacted me as I have changed the way I deal with my own emotions. It has saved me a lot of personal grief, as well as potential hurt between me and others. I have been pleasantly surprised on more than one occasion after choosing to let an emotion pass how I can evaluate it far better after time has passed, or after I have had a good sleep, or after I have taken time to see the whole story.
More than just a healthy practice, learning to master my emotions has daily been a reminder that there is only one Lord over my life. If my emotions have the final say in any situation, then I am not living in submission to my true Master, Jesus Christ, who loves me and has the best in store for me. He is Lord and King, and my emotions, along with my entire life, need to ultimately come under His loving rule.
How have you learned to gain control over your emotions? Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 
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5 thoughts on “Learning to Master Emotions

  1. have you found, through your experience/thinking/research, that there is any sort of pattern in terms of people’s strengths/deficits when it comes to controlling their emotions? for example, would you say that most people who have an abundance of patience and are not easily angered struggle with loneliness and low self image?

    • Hi Steph, thank you for your comment. I am only writing out of personal experience and have not done any research myself. It would think that each persons emotional struggles are more related to past hurt than any correlation between other emotional strengths. Every person experiences hurt to various degrees in their life, and particularly in childhood I believe it can form a persons heart and impact their emotional health moving forward. Experiencing relational pain such as rejection, manipulation, control, neglect, heartbreak, indifference or other hurtful experiences probably have the most impact on which emotions a person finds hard to be in control of. For example, I have experienced a bit of rejection in my life so I am aware that I am prone to feeling down on myself and unloved. However, I am learning also that these emotional responses are not always trustworthy, and I can choose not to accept them. Hope this helped clarify my thoughts for you.

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