How to Become a Jedi Master of Your Emotions
You are angry at someone
In the heat of the moment, you instinctively type out a strongly-worded message. You hit send. Instantly, a pang of regret hits you. You think: “Why did I do that?”
You are in a meeting
Out of the blue, a colleague asks you a question about your work. Your mind goes blank and you struggle to find your words. The obvious answer finally hits you as soon as you walk out the meeting room door. You think: “Why didn't I think of this before?”
Chances are, we can all relate to either one of these scenarios. In both situations, the central question is the same: Why did it happen?
Answer: Because the logical part of your brain has become hijacked by the emotional part of the brain.
Lions and tigers and bears OH MY
During times of stress, our brains switch into survival mode, activating our ‘flight-or-flight’ response. Our adrenaline and cortisol levels rise, priming our body for action. Our attention narrows, allowing us to focus on the perceived threats.
These factors allow us to respond to threats in a more instinctual, rapid-fire way, while restricting our ability to tap into the rational and analytical part of our brain. While this response is extremely helpful when we are faced with actual danger, like getting out of the way of a moving car, it becomes less helpful when it starts to override our capacity to make rational judgments at work.
How do you stop this from happening?
Emotion Jedi Masters are skilled at recognising when the brain is about to be hijacked and can regulate their emotions more effectively than others. They can readily access the more logical, higher functioning parts of their brain, even during stressful situations. This gives them an edge during more emotionally-charged situations, as they can ‘keep their cool’, and remain composed enough to make rational well-considered decisions. But how do they do it?
Take back control of the wheel
The good news is that if you are not already at Jedi Master level, you can build the skills necessary to more effectively understand and regulate emotions, particularly during times of increased stress and pressure. This is something CMPI help people do daily. We even have workshops that we run to help build these skills!
So, what does this look like in practice?
Three Steps to Becoming an Emotional Jedi Master
Step 1: Reflect on how you are feeling
We are taught to always check our mirrors in our cars before going on a drive. We do this regularly on the road, so that we are aware of where we are, and that we are mindful of our blind spots. Our emotions work the same way. If left unchecked, they can become blind spots and potentially derail our decision-making.
Start with reflecting on your immediate emotional state. The first step is to practice scanning your emotions before important events and meetings. It is a basic skill that requires just a few seconds and comes down to asking yourself a simple question: “How am I feeling right now?” By doing this on a regular basis, you will begin to more readily identify how you are feeling (your base level of emotion) and recognise when your emotions change. Doing this will help you to address any changes in an early stage before it’s too late. When it comes to emotions, ignorance is definitely not bliss!
Step 2: Name your emotions
In a psychological study, participants were connected to MRI machines and were presented with an unpleasant video (designed to arouse a stress response). They were then asked to name what they were feeling when they were watching the video. What the study found was that whenever participants named their emotions, their level of Amygdala Activity (the emotional part of the brain that relates to stress arousal), reduced while the Cortex Activity (the part of the brain that relates to logical thinking) increased.
In other words: In challenging situations, simply naming the emotions we are feeling calms our brains’ reactions and helps us feel better, and to think more clearly.
Emotion Jedi Masters are very good at accurately labelling their emotions. This often sees them display a broader emotional vocabulary, and appear to more readily understand the emotions of others (and know what to do about them).
Step 3: Shift your feelings
So, let’s say you are about to go to an important meeting. You are shaking and short of breath. You start to REFLECT on what you are feeling and give it a NAME: Anxiety. What do you do next?
Breaking the feeling of being trapped by emotions is another skill of Emotion Jedi Masters. While some people will find it easy to move from a more negative and frustrated state to a more neutral, calm, or even positive state, most of us will struggle to shift in this way. The good news is that there are several techniques you can employ to fast track this process and ensure you can more readily regulate your emotions over time. The most important thing you can do to begin the process of shifting is to focus on your breath.
By controlling your rate and depth of breath, you can create the opposite physiological state to fight or flight (inducing a relaxation response); which lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, decreases muscle tension and increases your mind’s capacity to think more clearly.
In other words, when you are feeling stressed, your breath is the most effective tool you have at your disposal to get back in the driving seat of your emotions. Easy right? Maybe not, but you can certainly learn to master this skill. There are many other techniques you can then employ to help with the shifting process but it all starts with your all-important breath.
Chandler Macleod remains one of Australia’s largest employers of registered psychologists working within business, through our CMPI Team. At CMPI, we regularly work with our clients to unlock potential and help others to develop more meaningful and productive lives. Contact us at CMPIenquiries@chandlermacleod.com if you would like to know more about how we do this or what we could do to help your staff manage their emotions resourcefully.
- By Jamie Greer
- about 4 years ago
- In this blog
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