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Managing Emotions – A 3-step technique

A 3-step technique to help you manage your emotions in a healthy fashion.

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Emotions

“Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy.” Milton Erickson”

It is indeed true that it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to create joy! We can do that by managing the thing that we most of time have control over: Our Emotions.

So, what are emotions?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), emotion is defined as “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral and physiological elements.”

They are way different than feelings or mood.

The key to the whole business of emotions is the act of accepting whatever it is we are going through. The subtle art of managing them – sort of, like, knowing them, understanding them and their source, accepting them; and letting them stay awhile; kind-of making friends with them.

They are born out of interactions with the environment and our current dispositions of how we are as individuals; of how we fix ourselves in this kaleidoscopic puzzle called life. It’s absolutely natural to know, understand, own, and live these emotions.

Dr Milton H Erickson, world-renowned hypnotherapist, exclaims, ‘what we resist, persists.’ That is indeed true with emotions too. Therefore the more we resist emotions, the more they persist and the more they take shapes and forms in our behaviours which can turn out ugly. The whole objective here is to own them, understand them, and find out ways to manage them. At the end of the day, these emotions, whether good or bad, positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy, help us greatly in going about our existence.

Paul Ekman, a world-renowned social psychologist proposed six basic emotions: fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, and surprise. They seem to be universal. And, all of us are privy to these emotions. You see, all of them except ‘JOY’ seem to be negative, or for that matter disapproving. But, they can be healthy if they are managed well.

So, how do we manage them?

There are many ways in which one can manage them. However, here is one of the ways I have tried for myself, with my students and with my clients.

Let’s take a situation here:

Sam attended an interview for his second job in a well-known insurance firm. Apparently, All went well, however the last round was a particularly tough one as this round was with the CEO of the company, and she seemed to be a tough leader. And, as he had guessed, he was not put through. He returned home dejected. There were many emotions running in his mind; he was sad, dejected, and overall surprised. He had met all the requirements of the job; however still was not put through.

Now, what would you do if you were Sam? Some would take it as a learning, some would blame the company, the whole interview process and some would call it on luck! But the deal is that the mind, for that matter brain, will take the whole rejection seriously. It would want resolution. So, what can help here is one of the techniques inspired by CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) that anyone can use to manage these emotions.

The technique involves three simple yet impactful steps:

Step 1: Articulate the situation objectively

Step 2: Elicit all the emotions you can and justify them

Step 3: Find out any unhealthy emotions and reframe them

Step 1: Articulate the situation objectively:

Here Sam can be critical in describing the situation to himself. He needs to detail it as critically as possible. By pointing out the positives and the negatives of the situation.

E.g: I believed that all the rounds went well because I passed through all the round; but I might have been put through the second round conditionally. I don’t know everything that transpired however. The last round seemed tough but the CEO of the company would definitely know if my competencies matched with the job requirement; he didn’t think I was fit for the role so I wasn’t put through that does not mean I am bad at interviews. That also does not mean that I lack those competencies completely and at the same time with my experience at the interview, I know what can be expected… on and on he can mention these critically.

The above discourse will rationalize his thought process and help him look at the event in a new light. It will allow him to put his confusion out onto words.

Step 2: Elicit all the emotions you can and justify them

This is where he elicits his emotions concretely as justifies them:

E.g.: Anger: I was rejected – Justified, Confusion: I don’t know why I was rejected – Justified, Sadness: I am not happy about what has happened – Justified, Frustration – The company has no idea what they have lost. They don’t know how to conduct the interview – Not justified, Self-doubt – I don’t believe I am cable of cracking such interview again – Not justified, Dis-empowering belief – I don’t think I can ever pass an interview – Not justified… so on and so forth he can elicit it and deliberate on the justification of the emotions.

He can write as many emotions he can name and justify them as much as he can. This will allow him to find out emotions that are dis-empowering and that can create limiting beliefs about himself. As you have seen some emotions above were not justified, these emotions are to be thwarted.

Step 3: Find out any unhealthy emotions and reframe them

The emotions that are justified need to be acknowledge as ‘yes’ these are the emotions that will help me build myself up, they will make me stronger. However, the ones not justified need to be taken off of the emotion list. They are unhealthy emotions and they don’t have any ground to stay or prove their worth. These, if accepted, can create issues in the functioning of the individual.

Sam can decide on how he would like to work well with the emotions that can help him be better and more resourceful the next time. He can write the opposite of those emotions and accept them as true:

E.g.: They don’t know how to conduct the interview, could be rephrased as I now know how they conduct the interview and what possibly works and what does not. I don’t think I can pass the interview, could be rephrased as this statement is not true as I have worked before and besides, I haven’t even tried at other places...

Once Sam rephrases these, he will see himself on the ‘Cause’ side of the equation and not the ‘Effect’ side – He will find it empowering to now work on a plan that deals with getting prepared for the next interview.

Interview was just an example. One can try this anywhere, in any situation such as relationships, work conflict scenarios, stakeholder engagements, etc.

The above is the exercise one does with oneself to rationalize the emotions well and bring them from generalized state into the specific one. Once the emotions are clear and out on paper or in words, they can worked upon.

If they seem too overwhelming, then a friend can help. He or she can be facilitator of the technique.

It has personally helped me and some of my students and clients I have been teaching and coaching respectively.

It might help you too!

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