Prone to High Emotions? How to Keep Them in Check

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Prone to High Emotions? How to Keep Them in Check

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


If you are emotionally sensitive, you probably well aware that it can be a wonderful strength, but it can also leave you vulnerable. You might find that your emotions become your reality; and you can’t help responding irrationally. But you can learn to reflect on situations with perspective. By doing this, you can feel more emotionally grounded, respond in more constructive ways, and have the resilience to thrive in even difficult circumstances.

Because relationships are so close to the heart, they often trigger feelings that can be overwhelming. Not only does this interfere with you thinking clearly about yourself, but it can also leave you unable to fully consider your friend’s or partner’s circumstances and how they might be feeling. Without that, you can’t have empathy, compassion, forgiveness, or work effectively in resolving differences… which can clearly cause problems.

So, to help improve your relationships, consider reflecting on your emotions from an outside perspective. This means that you must first be able to recognize that your emotions have hijacked your thinking. This alone can take practice. You may not realize it until you are well into a passionate response, or even hours (or days) later. That’s okay. The more you practice, the better you will be at recognizing your emotional reactions sooner.

Once you can see that your emotions rule, make a conscious effort to “step back” and understand yourself as someone else might do. Trace your emotions back to what triggered them and consider how they make sense given your situation. This might ease your emotions enough to consider other aspects of what’s going on, including what’s happening for others. For instance, when Steven observed himself snapping at friends while out at brunch, he realized that he was still feeling embarrassed by being (in his opinion) a “rambling idiot” in front some people he didn’t know at a party the previous night. Once he identified the problem, he was able to gain more perspective about his reaction. He reassured himself that he was just nervous about making a good impression – especially with one woman he found attractive. This calmed him enough to be more patient in his current interactions despite still feeling somewhat emotionally uncomfortable.

This kind of self-awareness can help you acknowledge and validate your emotions without getting swept up in an emotional hurricane. If you are self-critical, consider how a supportive friend might understand you and your situation. You might also be able to think more clearly and constructively by first calming yourself down – maybe exercising or doing something you enjoy. But you must be diligent in refocusing yourself on your reality-based thoughts once you’ve calmed down a bit. This takes commitment and persistence.

When you learn to feel and accept your emotions while also reflecting on them with some perspective, you will have a fuller experience of yourself. You will also find that you are more accepting and compassionate toward yourself and others. Best of all, this thought-feeling balance can give you a sense of well-being in yourself and your relationships.


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