The remote to your emotional reactions is solely in your hand
January 22 2020 09:20 PM
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Sanah Thakur
Sanah Thakur

By Sanah Thakur

If you’ve been a loyal reader, you’ll recall that I asked you to make two lists last week (healthy and unhealthy emotional responses). Revisiting those lists, you would now need to focus on the list of unhealthy responses. Highlight in different colours, which of the 6 basic emotions (joy, fear, sadness, anger, surprise and love) usually triggers the response. Now do the same for the other list as well. If you notice a pattern in your responses corresponding with certain emotions (for example, you tend to display healthy responses when you experience joy and sadness, but unhealthy ones in anger, fear or love), the next step is asking yourself this question – How can I incorporate these healthy responses into the circumstances where they fail to be used? Let me demonstrate this activity through my story of an eventful morning. 
Yesterday, I had an extremely testing day. It’s almost as if the universe was aware I had to write an article, advising my readers about healthy emotional responses. I slept extremely late, working on a presentation I believed I would be giving the next morning. I arrived to the meeting only to be told that there wasn’t any time for my slot. Now, I was angry. Immediately my mind wanted to throw a fit. I thought about leaving the meeting, because what was the point. However, I’ve practiced withdrawing from my own thought process during an emotionally pungent situation, a habit I incorporated from my reaction to a sad situation. When I’m upset, I like to withdraw from the situation and become more objective about it. Engaging in my slow thinking system as opposed to my reactive fast thinking system. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman (2011) suggested that humans rely more on these distinct systems of processing as opposed to conscious thinking. ‘Fast’ thinking is quick and automatic, often used for emotional decisions while ‘slow’ thinking is based more on logic and requires conscious processing. As ‘slow’ thinking requires more effort to initiate, it’s natural that we press accelerate on our fast thinking system. What’s critical to slow thinking is that the brain is given the space of mind to think about solutions. Reacting immediately often distracts our mind from constructing solutions and cranks up the volume of our feelings. And feelings, as we know, are ridiculously distracting. Anger wasn’t going to solve any of my problems, so I sat back down and thought of new ways of grabbing attention in the room, without my presentation slot. 
As the presentations went on, I excused myself to the bathroom, briskly walking towards the women’s toilet. In this rush to get back and continue my list of solutions, I felt the bottom of my heel slip off. I waddled to the bathroom, not even sure how to respond. When I entered the cubicle, I started laughing. This almost immediately started initiating my logical thought process. What could I really do? Take off the other heel or walk out there barefoot into a room full of business professionals who specifically have a category of clothing dedicated to them – how unfashionable of me. The fact that I chose to laugh at myself, helped me reject the other habitual emotional reactions I could have possibly had. A thought that really helps me during these situations is understanding that no one cares about my emotions. How I choose to deal with them or let them affect me, is only something I have control over. In the Netflix of emotional reactions, there’s no fight over the remote. You are fully in control of how you react, despite the fact that someone might have instigated that emotion within you. Once you accept that no one cares and walk away from the self-pity you award yourself, you’ll be quicker in moving on from the impact. 
However you choose to react, it’s equally important to take responsibility for the consequences that come with that reaction. This column might have helped you or you’re ready to ignore this advice – that doesn’t change your ownership of responsibility. If you still want to punch that wall, remember, you’re either going to have to pay for a new one or someone’s kicking you out of their home. 

The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah



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