Pearls of Wisdom
“Never reply when you’re angry. Never make a promise when you’re happy. Never make a decision when you’re sad.”
They say wisdom is acquired through experiences, and those experiences tell us that we are, even the most sensible and rational among us, controlled by our emotions. Our emotions often cloud our judgments, dictate our actions, and lead us to act on an impulse, which can cause both short and long-term problems.
Have you felt regret or guilt after saying something cruel or harsh to someone in the spur of the moment? Agreed to help out a friend with work because you felt particularly happy that day but later felt as if you wouldn’t be up for the task, only to have yourself upset about it? Or did you decide to give your friend the silent treatment (without confrontation) because they hurt you somehow? These are some instances where we see how important it is not to let our emotions get the best of us because, well, the outcome can be quite upsetting.
Words can sting. They can comfort. They can mislead. When your emotions take over you, your ability to think rationally is compromised. What you may have yelled or screamed in anger or promised in a state of overjoy would not only stick with the other person(s) but create unnecessary problems. Moreover, it gives way to more complex emotions such as guilt, embarrassment, etc.
This is not to say that one should eliminate all emotions. That would only make things worse. Here comes the wisdom part; learn to express emotions in a constructive manner. This demands from us some understanding, some patience, and lots of practice!
Realizing the impact of our emotions
The realization that emotions play a key role in our lives is pivotal. As much as we need certain emotions (happiness, anger, sadness) to feel alive, channelling them in a way that positively affects us and others requires that we realize their influence in our everyday life; they impact our relationships (with ourselves and others), work, health, etc. Of course, one can experience intense emotions, but how we act on them determines their impact.
Identify what you’re feeling
Acknowledging and identifying our emotions helps us understand them better and engage with them more healthily. Simply saying that you felt bitter or ecstatic instead of labelling them as mere reactions help one identify and understand the cause of those emotions so that they can be dealt with constructively.
Identify what triggers your emotions
Just as individuals struggling with anxiety are asked to identify their triggers to help them deal with their anxiety better, figuring out what possible triggers are involved when you experience emotional outbursts can help you navigate them later. Here are some ways to do so:
● Look at how your body reacts, especially when you get angry and excited.
● Sit down and think about the situation objectively.
● Notice if there are any patterns. Are these specific emotions triggered because of how other people act? For example, your partner may often do something that might upset you without them even realizing it.
● Is your reaction related to something that happened in past?
Communication is key!
If someone's actions trigger intense emotions, you need to let them know. Say, if you're upset or angered, instead of shutting down and avoiding confrontation, have a conversation with the person that triggered your comfort zone in the first place.
What to do when overwhelmed by strong emotions?
This is where the tough part comes in. Sometimes emotions can be pretty intense, so we give in to them. These usually manifest in the form of emotional outbursts. When faced with such a situation, the trick is to distance yourself from them and look at them objectively. What is this emotion I am feeling? What has evoked such intense feelings in me? If I react a certain way right now, what will be the impact? Taking a deep breath is a very common antidote that provides an immediate outlet. With a more concerted effort, practice mindfulness exercises such as meditating or grounding.
One should physically distance themselves from the situation. Remember, if someone is experiencing intense emotions (either crying or yelling), it is important to give them space. Once you temporarily distance yourself, you get to process your emotions and the situation you were in. This gives you time and space to cool down, giving you the ability to think and rationalize.
Remember, it’s a pretty healthy self-reflection exercise, and one must not confuse it with isolation.
When to seek professional help?
Displaying emotions is normal. We all feel different emotions with varying intensities each day. However, frequently experiencing emotional outbursts and those too, impulsively and intensely (quite often a symptom of some underlying health issues) is a sign that you need professional help. Delaying would only make things messier and cause emotional damage to you and your loved ones.
What makes us different from other species is that we wonder, learn, and apply new things in our lives. From each learning and realization comes wisdom!