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In this episode Joel and Antonia tackle the question: “Can people control their emotions or do emotions happen to us?”

In this podcast you’ll find:

Antonia’s video on the emotional thermostat.

Joel’s video on changing negative emotions to positive emotions.

Total Control vs. No Control Theory of Emotions: Can you control your emotions or not? by Jeremy Sherman

Two camps:

  1. You have total control of your emotions;
  2. You have no control over your emotions.

Both are extremes. Both are unrealistic. We need to fall in the middle.

“Full and total control” is a long game statement. Not an in-the-moment statement.

Social surroundings alter expression of emotion. You have control of your emotions when you feel you should be in control, like in a social environment.

Emotional expression and the emotion itself seems very intertwined.

Are we in control of our dreams? There are ways to take control of your dreams. Some people have this ability naturally. Others train themselves to do this. It’s called Lucid Dreaming.

It is similar with emotions. Controlling your dream world is harder than controlling your emotions.

You can’t control your unconscious mind completely, but you can have influence over it with breathing techniques and meditation.

The idea that you are not in control of your emotions sounds strange. No one can get into our heads and tell us how we should feel. We interpret the data set within our mental framework.

All of us experience emotions very subjectively. There are consensus definitions of emotion which we assume are objective, but they’re not. They are still subjective.

Some negative or toxic emotions can shorten your life. Especially toxic emotions like resentment.

Harboring emotions can become addictive. If you have a tendency to trend toward toxic emotions, you will have a shorter, more unhappy life – and vice versa. If you trend toward happiness, forgiveness, and joy, your life will be more meaningful, and you will live longer.

What increases the quality of your life?

Sometimes we believe that harboring resentment or other negative emotions will keep us safe from being taken for granted.

To have no control over emotions indicates we are static, whereas the mind is plastic. If the mind is plastic, emotions are plastic because they live in the mind.

Would you ever tell someone that they don’t have control over their mindset, outlook, or religious experience? No, but to tell someone they don’t have control over their emotions is acceptable.

You can build skill in controlling your emotions over the long game.

If your Judging processor is extraverted (INFJ, INTJ, ENFJ, ENTJ, ESFJ, ESTJ, ISTJ, ISFJ) you are going to have more of a concept around controlling emotions than a Perceiver. A Judgers evaluative criteria is based on how the outside world is being impacted. If people are just showing up any way they want, the outside world becomes destabilized.

Controlling your emotions in the outside world is going to be more of a Judger thought.

And the idea that you should feel permission to express your authentic emotion, no matter where you are, may be more of a Perceiver belief.

The people who are the most protective of any emotional experience are going to be IFPs (ISFP, INFP).

They want the entire range of emotions at all times. Like the keys on a keyboard. The IFPs want the whole range available to them.

There is a more skillful way to do it, though so that it is more pleasant for everyone.

You may not always be in control of the emotions that come up for you, but you are responsible for the emotions that come up and how you express them. Nobody else can be responsible for your emotions.

Whether emotions are positive or negative is context dependent. How much are you impacting your life by emotion?

Everybody should have permission to feel the emotion that is coming up at the moment. If you don’t acknowledge emotions as they come up, you won’t have a clear starting point to identify when an emotion is happening.

Giving yourself permission to feel an emotion doesn’t mean you are giving it permission to explode outward and affect everyone around you.

We have an emotional comfort zone. The more your comfort zone is set to joy, satisfaction, and happiness the more you will endeavor to maintain that comfort zone.

As opposed to being calibrated to grief, sadness, and depression and looking to return to that comfort zone whenever life takes a turn toward more positive things.

We should process through the negative emotions and endeavor to maintain a more positive mindset. We shouldn’t be living in the zone of toxic emotions.

We can decide where we want our emotional thermostat set.

Give yourself permission to feel the full spectrum of emotions, then realize that you have the control to return yourself to a space that is more rewarding in the long run.

If you know how to live with your emotional thermostat set really low. If you feel empowered in this mindset, and can empower others, please tell us how you do this.

We go through phases of our emotions as we grow and develop.

Progress varies. We are all at different phases of development. We like to paint the ideal even if we aren’t there yet. If you don’t like it, throw it away. Do what works for you. This is what works for us.

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  • Josette
    • Josette
    • July 22, 2021 at 12:31 am

    The third from last sentence should say “….and stop resenting someone or something that can’t or won’t meet our needs.”

  • Josette
    • Josette
    • July 22, 2021 at 12:23 am

    I can’t believe this episode is 5 years old! I found it again through the comment section on a recent episode on feelings.

    A child who has an emotional display that seems manipulative, only knows the feeling of the unmet need. They may not understand their needs or may not be able to put them in words. And even then they would need to understand how to get their needs met through various means (not just through their parents). Although what’s traumatizing is that at a certain age we still don’t have enough autonomy to meet our needs through anyone but our parents. Perhaps that’s why extended family or multiple caregivers is also important.

    We understand that when a baby cries they need something, food, sleep, affection, etc. But we seem to loose touch that as we get older we still have feelings over unmet needs. I think we chose to forget that experience during the transition to adulthood because we are expected to let children build autonomy. That’s when parents free themselves from being the sole provider to meet their children’s needs. The child gains autonomy but unfortunately isn’t usually consciously taught about needs fulfillment and their connection to feelings. We tend to only accept that babies should feel bad when their needs are not met because so many people repress and suppress feeling.

    I think the reason some people can have an averse reaction to the idea of negative and positive emotions is because emotions are all positive if you look at it from the perspective that they are indicators. The “negative” emotions point to unmet needs and “positive” emotions point to needs which are met. Therefore there’s only emotions. Emotions for unmet needs and emotions for met needs.

    Think of that rare disorder, CIPA, Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis. People who can’t feel pain are at risk for early death, most not living past 25. Our needs are just as important and have indicators in feelings. Emotions don’t threaten our life. Ignoring our emotions does because then we are ignoring the unmet need.

    Therefore changing an emotion on a superficial level will lead to more frustration for not meeting our needs. The best way to turn our feelings around is to value them. Figure out what the need behind it is and meet that need.

    If you want to become a master of your feelings, I suggest you get a list of universal needs and study it and ways you meet and can meet each need.

    For instance in line with the idea that changing behavior changes emotions. If instead of demanding or expecting other people to fulfill our needs, we were honest and own our feelings and the need behind it, we can make a request for a need to be fulfilled. That could change a hostile situation into open and honest communication.

    Needs will change. As we fulfill one, another need may start to need attention. And as needs change, feelings change. A feeling from an unmet need may subside through coping skills which disguise our true needs, but if the need is not met, the feeling will appear again. I would suggest that harboring resentment to keep us safe is a coping skill that no longer serves us. But if we learn that the situation we were in was a poor way to meet our needs AND there are other ways to meet them out there, then we can move to situations that meet our needs and resent someone or something that can’t or won’t meet our needs. Nor should we expect to always get a certain need met via only one avenue. Resentment is holding onto that one avenue.

  • Liesbeth
    • Liesbeth
    • October 23, 2018 at 7:15 am

    As an INTJ, I have authenticity in my stack but on the 10-year old position. This is probably why I am at once in touch with my emotions but also struggling with them. Years of meditation have helped me create some distance and control over my emotions, but I still struggle with processing versus dwelling versus suppressing. I know I do all of those: dwell on emotions when I allow little annoyances, or even just raging hormones, to ruin my mood. Process them, when I manage to really feel an emotion and it goes away on its own and I feel lighter. I would obviously like to get better at that. But with all my ‘awareness’ and work I still manage to suppress big emotions: last year I had to stay at home for postpartum depressive feelings that I had a really hard time accepting. And recently I realized that the huge discontent I’m feeling at work has actually been building up over the last three (!) years or so. It is very hard for me to decide when to act on an emotion and when to try and let go of it. Sometimes I think I have let go, and it comes back with a vengeance later on :) . Hoping to learn more about this as I listen my way through the other podcasts.

  • Denise MaGee
    • Denise MaGee
    • November 8, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I had a hard time listening to this podcast – I stopped and started a few times and just couldn’t make it all the way through.

    Please quit valencing emotions as either positive/negative or the new way you worded it as useful/useless.

    Stress is a “weasel” word that can be used for many actual emotions, e.g. fear, anger. If we can identify the emotion, it makes it easier to attend to it properly.

    I agree that no one makes you “feel” an emotion. That’s assigning blame. But certain emotions and feelings do arise in situations that allow us better understanding of what’s going on if we listen to them.

    Yes, body posture and facial expressions can bring out feelings that maybe have no real reason to be there. Look up Amy Cuddy. She has a TED talk about her research into power poses.

    This is where you lost me. You were talking about “toxic” emotions. And maybe you went further with this, but it felt like you were basically saying ‘just get over it already’. How about instead we look at it as people who have unresolved emotions and traumas from the past that they are currently unable to work through. You can’t ‘will’ them away or “control” them. You have to work through them or they will continuously show up.

    I’ve done a lot of research on emotions, feelings and shadow work. By far the best information I’ve found comes from Karla McLaren. She’s written 2 books – The Language of Emotions and The Art of Empathy. She has videos on YouTube, and a website where she has shared a lot of information from her books.

    Either one would give you a better understanding of emotions and feelings — what they are, why they arise, and what to do to complete the process. Emotions allow us to be more intelligent, generous and empathic with others.

    • October 9, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I think this analysis is missing something. People can consciously or unconsciously take advantage of their knowledge of a person and deliberately act in such a way as to invoke a specific emotional response. Now we are still responsible for how we respond to people, but the person that deliberately set out to invoke that response sure isn’t innocent either. I’ve never actually done this on a conscious level, but other people do.

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