How can I control my emotions?

John Preston, PsyD
The negative effects of overwhelming emotions often have more to do with our reaction to the emotion than to the emotion itself. If you feel extreme rage and act on that rage by breaking a window or physically assaulting the person you’re angry at, the problem then becomes the damage you’ve caused rather than the emotion of anger. If you allow the anger to pass through you without reacting to it, there would be no problem.

Emotions themselves, even the painful ones, can be neutral and soon pass. It’s when we do things under the influence of strong but temporary emotions that we experience difficulties and then regret what we’ve done. The two-minute reality check works by interrupting the emotion-reaction cycle, giving you time to regain your perspective.

Step 1. When you find yourself in an emotionally overwhelming situation or dealing with the aftermath of such a situation, ask yourself the following:

- What just happened? What are my feelings, and why
do I feel this way?
- In the grand scheme of things, how important is
this situation?
- Given my strong feelings about the situation right
now, how upset will I be in twenty-four hours? Forty-
eight? A week? A month?

Step 2. Scan your mind for should/shouldn’t beliefs. You may even want to write them down to clarify your thoughts. What part of the situation are you struggling against? Try reframing your should/shouldn’t beliefs into I want/don’t want statements.

Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse

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Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse

When you have depression, it can feel like there's no way out. To begin changing the way you feel, you'll need an arsenal of proven techniques for lifting your mood and preventing relapse. The...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.