How not to be at the mercy of your emotions

How not to be at the mercy of your emotions

Real happiness isn’t just feeling good all the time.

Positive emotions, like happiness, are great. But the reality is, we’ll all also experience negative emotions so knowing how to manage and master these is also part of living a good and healthy life.

This is what psychologists sometimes call emotional regulation, and it really is foundational for good mental health …

via Big Think by Kevin Dickinson

When was the last time you experienced a powerful emotional reaction, and how well did you handle it? 

My latest emotional challenge came this morning when I discovered my son wasn’t cleaning off his breakfast dishes properly before putting them in the dishwasher. I handled it about as well as I do most early-morning unpleasantness — that is to say poorly. I sternly lectured him on the importance of keeping a clean house and doing his share to help the family. He naturally received my tone as a challenge rather than the sage words of a wise-thanks-to-his-years father. When the ensuing dust-up settled, we both had an awful time rushing through the rest of our morning routines.

Of course, life teems with such impassioned moments. Someone cuts you off in traffic, and you lay into the horn to express your contempt. You grow bored at work and spend the afternoon fruitlessly trying to be productive between covert YouTube binges. Your partner dismisses your recommendation out of hand, and you spend the afternoon stewing in your agitation.

In each case — the hypothetical and painfully real — the swelling emotion serves as a mental warning that a certain situation or stimulus demands action. Unfortunately, those very emotions don’t inform us as to the best course of action. Worse still, our coping strategies are often reflexive, kicking in with little to no forethought. Psychologists refer to this knee-jerk response as “action tendency,” and it’s not always a bad thing. The urge to escape from a fearful situation can keep us safe. The desire to express gratitude when feeling close to loved ones can strengthen our bonds. 

Before that happens, we need a technique to help us slow down our reactions, be mindful of our emotions, and devise a strategy best suited for the situation. Thankfully, Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the current director and associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, respectively, have done just that. They call it the WISER model.

Research gives a wise man counsel

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a longitudinal study that began in 1938 and has followed the same people for more than eight decades. Participants are evaluated every few years through questionnaires and interviews, and their physicians are also surveyed to determine health progress. A second-generation study, looking at the children of the original participants, is also underway. 

Thanks to this dedication, the Harvard Study has collected a wealth of data on how different people have approached their lives and relationships, as well as how those approaches have served them throughout their lives.

Drawing on that data, Waldinger and Schulz have reached two important conclusions regarding coping strategies. First, emotional avoidance is not only bad for us in the short term but also in the long term. Among participants, either ignoring emotions or relying on poor regulation techniques in middle age was associated with negative consequences in retirement years. Such correlations included poorer memories and less life satisfaction.

Our emotions need not be our masters; what we think, and how we approach each event in our lives, matters.

– Robert Waldinger & Marc Schulz

Second, it can be incredibly difficult for people to change their automatic emotional responses, and …

… keep reading the full & original article HERE