I read your article last week on being psychologically mature and I definitely struggle with this. I think I have a hard time controlling my emotions because I feel things deeply and I cannot “not” feel what I’m feeling. Do you have any advice for helping me to stop my reactions and get control of myself? Also, how can I teach my children to get control of themselves so they don’t inherit my bad habits?
Did you watch the biathlon during the Olympics? They are the ones who ski cross-country and shoot target rifles. One of the fascinating things about this event is watching the biathletes control their breathing and stifle their adrenaline after each race portion. If they can’t calm down and breathe slow, they can’t shoot accurately at their targets.
You can learn to calm yourself down and get control of your body and your mind too. You have the power to consciously choose your emotions, but it takes Olympic athletes years to learn to do this, and it is going to require effort and practice on your part too.
(Also, if you are struggling with depression, this is even more difficult. Depression affects your brain chemistry and makes choosing your emotions really difficult. I recommend talking to your doctor about some medication along with working on the suggestions below to control your thinking.)
We all have subconscious policies of fear that create strong emotional reactions to things, and these reactions are kind of like riptides. They are strong and fast and pull us out into dangerous water (bad behavior that creates poor results in our lives) before we even know what’s happening.
Understanding riptides can help us learn to escape these damaging emotional reactions. A riptide does not pull a swimmer under water; it simply carries the swimmer away from the shore.
If a person caught in a riptide does not understand how riptides work, they will try to swim against it and will eventually exhaust themselves and drown. But if they understand how riptides work, they can easily exit the rip by swimming at a right angle to it. If they swim sideways, parallel to the shore, they can exit the current and return to land safely.
Experts recommend this approach if you get caught in a riptide:
Here is a simple procedure you can practice when experiencing strong emotional reactions to calm yourself down and consciously choose a more mature response:
We must realize that we control the weather in our heads and claim the power to choose how we will experience each moment. Then we must teach our children to think for themselves and choose how they want to feel. You can do this by teaching your children the principles mentioned above.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.”
It will take some work to master this, but you can do it!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "CHOOSING CLARITY: The Path to Fearlessness." Shauna Jensen is a certified Claritypoint coach who had the idea for this article.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.