4 Subtle Reasons Your Emotions Feel Out of Control

 

 

If you’ve ever felt like your emotions were “too intense” or “out of control” you’re not alone. Many people experience emotional intensity that seems excessive or disproportionate.

But the reason emotions feel out of control often has less to do with your emotions themselves and more to do with habits that magnify them…

The habit of worry magnifies normal fear into anxiety and panic.
The habit of self-criticism magnifies normal sadness into shame and hopelessness.
The habit of rumination magnifies normal frustration into anger and rage.
Mental habits take normal levels of emotion and make them far more intense and long-lasting. Which means…

If you want to feel more in control of your emotions, you must take control of the habits that govern them.

Learn to identify and eliminate these habits and you will discover that your emotions are far more manageable than you ever thought possible.

1. Relying on other people for comfort
Nothing could be more natural than to go to other people for comfort when you’re upset or in distress.

In fact, this is how most of us learn to deal with life’s difficulties — we have a supportive parent or caregiver in our life who is empathetic and comforting when we’re upset. The way they handle our painful emotions becomes a model for how we can deal with them as we mature.

Unfortunately, sometimes this process sometimes goes awry.

For all sorts of reasons, learning to self-soothe and effectively manage our own emotional struggles can get disrupted:

Some people, for example, have early traumatic events in their lives that sabotage this process of learning to self-soothe.
For others, they might learn at a young age that they can get relief faster and more easily by simply going to other people, and as a result, their capacity to self-soothe becomes underdeveloped as they age.

In any case, the core problem is this:

While it’s good to have other people as a source of comfort, it’s risky to rely on them.

When other people become your sole means of managing your emotional distress, it erodes your self-confidence.

This means difficult emotions will be themselves painful. But more than that, you’ll also have the fear of being inadequate to handle them yourself, which effectively multiplies the intensity of every painful emotion you experience. Being afraid of feeling sad, for example, will only make you feel worse.

The solution is to practice managing difficult feelings on your own even if you could get relief and comfort from someone else. Ideally, you would start with small things and gradually work your way up.

But regardless, you must strengthen your capacity to comfort yourself.

Your emotions will always feel out of control until you develop some confidence in your own ability to manage them well.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

2. Being judgmental of your own emotions

Just because your emotions feel bad doesn’t mean they are bad.

Unfortunately, most of us are raised to believe that this is true. We grow up being taught that painful emotions are problems — like germs we need to be rid off or problems that need to be solved:

That we’re weak if we feel sad and discouraged.
That we’re broken or malfunctioning if we get anxious and worry “too much.”
That we’re sinful or morally deficient if we feel angry toward people.
But there’s the thing:

Emotions aren’t good or bad any more than rain or snow is good or bad.

You may not like certain emotions. Some may be uncomfortable or painful. Some may make it hard to do certain things. But to place a value judgment on an emotion doesn’t make any sense.

And the reason? Because you can’t control your emotions. Not directly, anyway.

You can’t just decide to turn up your happiness meter any more than you can decide to turn down your anxiety dial.

Emotions don’t work that way!

But aside from not being realistic, there’s another problem with judging yourself for how you feel:

When you criticize yourself for feeling anxious, will you end up feeling guilty for feeling anxious.
When you worry about feeling sad, you will end up feeling anxious about feeling sad.
When you put yourself down for feeling angry, you will end up feeling angry about being angry!
When you get judgmental about your emotions, you only compound their intensity and duration.

Think about this: No one goes to jail for feeling really angry. You only get sent to jail for acting aggressively.

As a society, we don’t judge people by their emotions, only their actions.

If you want to start feeling less emotionally volatile, stop criticizing yourself for the way you feel.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

— Joseph Campell

3. Believing your thoughts unconditionally
It’s a funny thing that we’re so trusting of our own thoughts.

Perhaps because our culture tends to glorify our capacity for thinking and problem-solving, we make the mistake of assuming our thoughts are always true and helpful.

This is especially the case when it comes to thoughts about ourselves or how we feel:

After a coworker makes a rude comment about you during a meeting, the first thought that pops into mind is “Great, now everyone thinks I’m an idiot…”
As you drive to your daughter’s soccer game, the thought pops into mind that with a single movement you could swerve off the side of the road and your whole family would die. Then you immediately think to yourself, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with me?” The assumption being that your thought about swerving off the road was somehow true or meaningful.

But here’s the thing:

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.

Many people’s emotions quickly start to feel out of control because they insist that everything in their mind is meaningful. As a result, they end up thinking endlessly about every little thought, feeling, mood, desire, memory, and emotion that pops into consciousness.

But for all its wonders, the human mind produces a lot of junk too.

Often a particular thought is just random mental noise. But if you insist on telling yourself a story about it and what it may or may not mean, you’re inviting in wave after wave of emotion — and often not the fun kind.

If you want to feel more in control of your emotions, practice being skeptical of your own thoughts.

If a thought seems obviously absurd or ridiculous, remind yourself that it could just be random noise — as meaningless and unworthy of your attention as an unexpected gust of wind.

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”

― Marcus Aurelius

4. Not taking care of your body
Ever since Descartes, we’ve been fixated on the idea that it’s brain and body, or worse, brain vs body. Think of the common sayings “mind over matter” or “it’s all in your head.”

Of course, this is ridiculous…

Your brain is part of your body. And your mind doesn’t work all that well without a functioning body.

Of course, this is obvious in the extreme case — deprive the brain of oxygen via a heart attack or stroke and your mind dies along with the rest of your body. But it’s also true on a much smaller scale….

27 Ways To Overcome Lack Of Ambition

Ambition is defined as the desire and determination to achieve success. The definition of “success” may vary from person to person and culture to culture, but the message remains the same: it’s important to have goals and the determination to complete them.

The Truth about Ambition

We all sometimes lack ambition. Even the most successful people in the world experience periods of failure and doubt. But they eventually succeed because their ambition reemerges, even in the wake of failure, rejection, and disappointment. Although it can be easy to fall into the trap of defeat when you encounter setbacks, ambition is not about never failing, it’s about getting up when you fall.

 

Ambition is not an inborn trait. It can be learned and cultivated, the same as any other positive trait. A lack of ambition can certainly be overcome. The possible irony, though, is that overcoming a lack of ambition requires a certain amount of ambition itself. After all, you’re creating a goal with the determination to follow through and achieve that goal. Happily, seeking out ways to improve your ambition is a step in the right direction!

27 Ways to Help Overcome a Lack of Ambition

In addition to resolving underlying issues, there are some steps you can take toward improving your ambition, or creating ambition where there previously wasn’t any. These steps may be completed on your own, or under the guidance of your mental health provider.

  1. Find a Mentor.

Finding someone to look up to whose success closely matches what you hope to achieve can help you find the drive to keep chasing your goals.

  1. Make Your Goals Visible.

Whether it’s a Pinterest board, index cards, or a whiteboard, create some form of visual representation of your goals so you can see exactly what it is you’re working toward.

  1. Stay Active.

Staying active improves confidence, mental acuity, and physical health-all things that can help you stay sharp as you work toward your goals. Find an activity you really love and stick with it.

  1. Give Success a Try.

f you’re feeling short on motivation, try accomplishing some of the steps you need to take to succeed. If you hope to secure a position writing for a major publication, visit your favorite coffee shop and spend the day writing. If you hope to have a family, ask to babysit for a friend.

  1. Build Up Support.

If all you see around you are people who are not pursuing their goals, you’re unlikely to pursue your goals either. Try to find friends who are also working toward their goals.

  1. Practice an “Abundance Mindset.”

Practice cultivating the mindset of abundance. See a failed relationship as just that: a single failed relationship. See a setback at your work as what it is: one setback. An abundance mindset believes there are always more to be had and always the possibility for improvement.

  1. Learn Yourself.

Personality and aptitude tests can offer a lot of insight into yourself-your motivations, your drives, and your pitfalls. Knowing yourself well can help you kickstart the desire to move forward when you’re in the midst of low motivation.

  1. Use Envy Well.

Instead of getting stuck in the mire of envy, allow it to fuel you. If you envy your friend’s recent cruise, start saving to go on your own. If you envy your sibling’s ability to purchase their dream home, sit down and determine what you need to get yours.

  1. Cultivate Your Talents.

Everyone has something they’re good at. Even if your talents don’t immediately seem impressive (“Who cares if I can juggle?”), there’s likely to be some grain of usefulness or joy in your abilities.

  1. Find a Need.

If you’re struggling to find motivation, look outward at how you can improve the lives of the people around you.

  1. Make Your Own Meaning.

Before you can truly and effectively chase success, you need to determine what exactly that means to you. Some people measure success by the money they make, while others measure success by the amount of time they’re able to devote to their loved ones or hobbies.

  1. Recall Your Triumphs.

Keep your triumphant moments close by for the days you feel you’ve lost all motivation. Recalling your successes can help you leave a funk behind and move forward in working toward your goals.

  1. Look Up to Someone.

Unlike a mentor, who is personally involved in your life, find someone whose successes you can admire from a distance. This could be someone who shares a similar background-someone who left poverty behind, for instance-or someone who shares your goals-such as someone who has worked their way to the top of their field in academia.

 

 

  1. Leave Negative Self-Talk Behind.

Negative self-talk may seem like merely speaking to yourself realistically, but it serves no function other than tearing yourself down. Instead of using negative speech when speaking to or of yourself, use clear and objective language. For instance, you can change “You’re no good at anything!” to “You struggled at work today, and that’s okay. You’ll try again tomorrow.”

  1. Respect the Process.

Success is a process, not a destination. There will always be another obstacle and another hill, so try to enjoy the process as it happens.

  1. Create a To-Do List.

Writing down everything you need to accomplish in the next day or the next week can help you free up some much-needed headspace, and can lend a sense of accomplishment to your day each time you get to check off another task.

  1. Daydream!

Imagine what your life will look like once your goals are realized. Although you should not live in fantasy, occasionally indulging in the imagined fruition of all of your hard work can be healthy and motivating.

  1. Use Your Passions.

Find things you’re passionate about, and see how they can help you work toward your goals. If you’re passionate about painting, but yearn for a career as a teacher, you can combine the two and work toward an art teaching degree. If you’re passionate about cooking, and hope to work in corporate law, you can use cooking as a means of decompressing and relaxing when your workload has grown too great.

  1. Seek Out Motivation

Motivation won’t always come to you-sometimes, you have to chase it. If you don’t feel like getting up in the morning, reward yourself with a trip to your favorite coffee shop. If you don’t want to complete the paper for your class, consider all the stress-free time you’ll have once the paper is finished.

  1. Leave Your Comfort Zone.

Comfort zones might feel safe, but they can also stagnate growth. Instead of living in your comfort zone, push yourself to adopt new challenges and try new things. The worst you can do is fail.

  1. Commit to Learning.

Learning is not something you leave behind after your diploma or degree. Every single day, spend some time learning something new. Read the paper while eating your breakfast, listen to a podcast on your commute to work, or even just ask a friend or coworker to tell you something new.

  1. Just Take One Step.

Put one foot in front of the other in pursuit of your goals. It doesn’t always have to be a giant step, such as moving across the country. It can be merely researching the cost of that move. Remember: planning is part of the work.

  1. Believe in Yourself.

You can do hard things! You can change your life. Even when circumstances have given you a rough run, believe you are bigger than your background.

  1. Ask for Help.

When it becomes too much-you’re overworked, or the demands on your time are too much to handle-ask for help! Bring in a trusted friend, a family member, or a coworker, and lighten your load. There’s no shame in teamwork.

  1. Do Your Research.

Blindly following your dreams can be dangerous. If you move across the country to pursue acting, only to find that you would have to work three jobs (jobs you do not have) to afford a single studio apartment, you’re putting yourself at risk. Instead, identify what steps you need to take to move toward your goals, and take the necessary time to achieve them.

  1. Evaluate What Is Important to You.

Sometimes goals shift and needs change. Perhaps your relationship is more important to you than the career you’ve always imagined. Perhaps your career is more important than the family you wanted. Give yourself the space to change your plans as you go along. Few things kill motivation as effectively as rigidity.

  1. Work On Yourself Daily.

You’ll falter. You’ll lose hope. But keep working on yourself! You’re the person who will be with you every step of the way, so make sure you’re cultivating traits and behaviors that you like and can be proud of. Watching yourself become the person you’ve always dreamed of is a powerful motivator.