Beliefs that you have about emotions will impact your own personal experience of emotions. Often, people generate myths, or faulty beliefs, that can lead to difficulty in controlling emotions. When you have a distorted view about emotions, it can get in the way of effectively processing, regulating, and expressing the emotions.
Some common emotion myths are:
- There is a right way to feel in a situation
- Being emotional means being out of control
- Expressing emotions is a sign of weakness
- If others disagree with my feelings, I shouldn’t feel the way I do
- Negative feelings are bad and destructive
- Some emotions are stupid
THE EFFECT OF EMOTION MYTHS ON CONTROLLING EMOTIONS
When you have a belief about your emotional experience, it impacts how you react to feeling the emotion. This affects your thoughts about feeling the emotion and how you behave as a result. Common emotion myths can lead to repressing certain emotions or invalidating your own experience. The emotion is there whether you want it to be or not. Denying that or pushing away the emotion just leads to extra stress and prolonging a negative headspace
It is not easy to regulate and process emotions, especially as the intensity gets higher. We each only have limited mental energy, and it is important to put it towards managing our emotions and mental health. Each emotion myth takes away from that limited pool of energy,leading to difficulty in controlling emotions and managing your mental state. Common myths lead to fighting against your emotional experience, which takes up more energy than actually allowing yourself to feel.
Ultimately, these myths lead to a difficulty in controlling emotions because you are not operating on truth. Controlling your emotions is not about controlling what it is you feel and what emotions pop up. It means having control over what you do with the emotional experience. The goal is to act in ways that are most effective and conducive to not being consumed by an emotion. When a myth is in the driver’s seat, that takes away from your ability to respond to the reality, making it more likely that your emotions will control you.
Here’s an example to illustrate the problem with emotion myths. Let’s say you are feeling upset over your friend cancelling plans. The myths that there is a right way to feel and that some emotions are stupid can come up. If that’s the case, you would tell yourself something like “it’s stupid to feel angry and it’s an overreaction.” This invalidates your experience and can lead to pushing away the emotion and avoidance of it. You don’t allow yourself to process the anger and determine how to move forward from it. Instead, you are using your energy to fight the feelings by telling yourself it’s silly and not the “right” way to feel. Rather than expressing your feelings to your friend, you bottle it up and keep fighting against it. This will not be effective long term because the anger is still there and continues to build until it is dealt with.
Therefore, to have more control on your emotional experience you need to challenge the emotion myths that you believe. This means not accepting the beliefs as truth and instead reminding yourself of what the more effective thought process is. Take the example above. If you get rid of the myths and allow yourself to be angry, you deal with the emotion and talk to your friend. Then you can resolve things rather than holding it all in. This leads to more ease in controlling emotions.
CHALLENGING MYTHS STEP BY STEP
- Explore your beliefs about emotions. Think about what having emotions means to you and what your thoughts are about your own emotional experiences.
- Identify the myths that you are holding on to. You can use the ones listed here as a basis, talk to other people, and think about what thoughts and beliefs often get in the way of managing your emotions.
- Challenge each myth. Find the opposite belief. Think about what you might see differently if someone else was having the same emotional reaction. Examples:
- There is a right way to feel in a situation vs. Each person responds differently to any given situation and there is no right or wrong.
- Being emotional means being out of control vs. Being emotional means being a normal human being.
- Expressing emotions is a sign of weakness vs. Expressing emotions is a healthy way to communicate and get support from others.
- If others disagree with my feelings, I shouldn’t feel the way I do vs. I have a right to feel the way I do regardless of what other people think
- Negative feelings are bad and destructive vs. negative feelings are a natural part of life and help me better understand the situation
- Some Emotions are stupid vs. All emotions are important and valid, they are useful to help me understand myself and what I am experiencing.
- When having an emotional reaction, notice what myth(s) is coming up at that time.
- Remind yourself of the challenge you came up with. Repeat it over and over.
These emotion myths that you have can be deep rooted. Therefore, it is important to keep challenging them until you eliminate the myth and start operating by the more realistic viewpoint. This will give you emotional control to respond to your emotions in healthier more productive ways, as demonstrated above.