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….

12 behaviors that leaders should avoid

 

Last fall, I had a person reach out to me who was in charge of a huge change initiative in his company. He asked if I would identify a number of behaviors that leaders should avoid at all costs.

I asked him if it wouldn’t be better to identify behaviors that would positively impact every leader’s effectiveness. He asked me why he should make the distinction. I explained that when we tell people what not to do, they usually end up doing the very things we told them to avoid.

He asked me how I knew that. When I was being trained as a ski instructor in my college days, we were told not to say, “If you get out of control, don’t look at the trees.” Rather, they asked us to tell people, “If you get out of control, look downhill where you want to go.”

When we tell our brain what not to do, it may do what we don’t want in absence of clear directions of the correct course of action. In the end, my client pressed me for my “don’t” list rather than a list of effective behaviors.

Here are 12 behaviors that leaders should avoid, along with ideas for what to do instead.

1. Don’t communicate clearly

Give your directions and let that be that. People should know what you mean when you tell them what to do. Also, don’t allow questions, expression of concerns, or ideas for improvements along the way.

What to do instead: You should do all you can to communicate clearly and distinctly. If you have any doubts, ask questions to clarify and check your understanding and theirs.

2. Don’t invite input

People should just do their jobs. You shouldn’t ask them if there is a better way of doing what they should already know how to do.

What to do instead: Ask for input. People who actually perform the tasks may have ideas of what works well and what doesn’t. Allowing people to make contributions will enhance performance and results.

3. Don’t invite people to identify what they need

If you are always asking people to identify what they need (time, people, equipment, or more money), you run the risk of giving them an inch and them taking a mile.

What to do instead: Offer support along the way. Identify what is working and where people are getting bogged down. Make any needed adjustments that will help with the completion of a project.

4. Don’t express appreciation

After all, you pay people for doing their jobs; why should you verbally recognize them and express appreciation for what they are supposed to do?

What to do instead: Smart leaders go out of their way to observe people and catch them doing the right things. They step up and express appreciation for the work people do and the value and contributions that they make.

5. Don’t take the time to get to know your people personally

Getting to know someone on a personal level is not necessary. You are better off keeping to yourself than wasting time talking with people about non-work topics.

What to do instead: People want to connect and know their leaders. Getting to know each person on your team, their history, their goals, and their aspirations will help you establish rapport and make personal connections. People generally want to know that co-workers care about them and respect them for their contributions to the team’s success.

6. Don’t jump in and assist when things don’t go as planned

You don’t have time to worry about how people are doing at their work; they’ll figure it out. If they don’t get good results, you can always blame them. Stay out of the way, and let them work things out on their own.

What to do instead: Being involved when assistance is needed demonstrates commitment and teamwork toward a team goal. You should never be afraid to offer suggestions, share your expertise or backfill when there are not enough hands to do the work. Offering support when it is needed will demonstrate your commitment to people’s success.

7. Don’t trust people to do their jobs

No one can do as good of a job as you can. Why take the chance that your team can do the work to your satisfaction if you don’t manage every step of the process? Constant supervision will ensure that even your poorest performers will turn in good results.

What to do instead: Demonstrate that you are willing to give complete autonomy to people to do their jobs. You can offer training, support and assistance during the entire life of a project. Until people clearly seek your help, assume their best intentions and allow people to do their work. If results are less than expected, you can work with the individuals as needed to strengthen the outcome.

8. Don’t offer feedback, especially when the desired results aren’t achieved

The negative consequences of poor results should be enough to motivate and help people course-correct their behavior.

What to do instead: People love feedback. They want to know when they did the right thing, and they want to know how to improve. Never underestimate the power of giving others feedback. Things won’t change or improve without the benefit of useful and specific feedback. Providing feedback should become a regular function of assessing the quality of your results.

9. Don’t worry about throwing people under the bus

If people are not performing and are to blame for poor results, then they deserve what they get. If you are the leader, it isn’t your fault when others don’t perform. People should take the blame if they are to blame.

What to do instead: Blaming others does not solve a problem. If people don’t get the results that you expect, the first person you should look at is yourself, the quality of your communication, and the clarity of your directions. Then you should hold a conversation to identify what went awry and what should be done to address the current challenge.

If you are the kind of leader who cannot take responsibility, then people will quickly learn that they don’t need to take responsibility, either.

10. Don’t take time to celebrate successes

Taking time and money to celebrate team or individual success is wasted effort. Usually, people are only interested being rewarded with something of monetary value. If you can’t give them that, why bother?

What to do instead: Any time your team meets a milestone, you should take the time to celebrate their success. There are many inexpensive ways to recognize people and their efforts. Taking the time to celebrate in some way sends the message that people are important and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

11. Don’t worry about developmental opportunities

You don’t have the budget to send people to training, and it’s a waste of resources. You don’t want people to get distracted from their job. People can worry about that on their own time.

What to do instead: People want to grow and develop. They also want to expand their skills and capabilities so they can do their job better. If you don’t know what each of your people wants in terms of personal growth opportunities and support them in their efforts, they will find an organization that will offer them what they want and need to develop.

12. Don’t worry about saying one thing and doing another

Things change and you have the right to change your mind. People should just fall in line and go with the flow. Sometimes keeping your commitments is impossible and people need to be adaptable.

What to do instead: Things change, and when they do, you should be the first one to alert people and explain why it will occur. If you can’t keep your commitments, you need to apologize, explain why, and reaffirm the importance of your commitment to them. Failure to do so will result in a lack of respect, trust, and loyalty.

Hopefully, you recognize the many false assumptions that I offered above as behaviors that leaders should avoid. Your success as a leader depends upon your ability to do the right things for the right reasons.

I’ve made a few suggestions of things effective leaders do; there are many others. Taking time to assess your personal effectiveness and making needed changes will boost your success as a leader and as a team.

 

How to develop world-class behaviors in the next 14 days

Most people don’t realize they’re only a few key behaviors away from starting to live a truly world-class life.

You don’t need to adopt dozens of new, difficult behaviors of “successful people” — you just need a few. And if you make just a few key behavioral changes, you’ll build momentum and confidence that you can reinvest in yourself to master new and better behaviors.

Success doesn’t happen all at once — it’s a slow, gradual process that rewards those who can consistently follow the path.

You also don’t need a lot of time to develop these initial world-class behaviors, either. A couple of weeks will do. We’re not trying to transform your entire life overnight, we’re getting you to identify and adopt just a few key behaviors that will create the momentum you can use to continue the process. Because there’s no end to success, no limit or cap — you can go as high as you want.

But it starts with developing a few world-class behaviors.

Focus on Learning and Creating, Not Entertainment and Distraction

There’s a lot you’ll need to learn on this journey you’re on. When I was a no-name blogger with dreams of being a big-time writer, I foolishly thought all I needed to master was “writing.”

Now that I am a successful writer, I’m amazed at how many new skills I’ve needed to learn, like website design, email marketing, webinars, sales pitches, public speaking, relationship building, online course creation, scheduling software, and countless more.

That’s why your first world-class behavior to master is to simply focus on learning and creating, not entertainment or distraction.

You can learn a lot very quickly if you choose. If you play guitar 3 times a week, you might take a year or two to get pretty good. But play guitar 3 times a day, and you could become very skilled in a matter of weeks.

You can only find these shortcuts by intense learning and creating, making mistakes, building your abilities as well as your confidence.

But as long as you continue to focus on entertainment and distraction, you’ll always be stuck in first gear, unable to start gaining enormous momentum to break through mental barriers that you might’ve been carrying around for years.

It’s difficult to remove yourself entirely from these distractions. Major corporations have an entire department of professionals whose sole job is to make you pay attention to their products. With the enormous influence of technology, social media, smartphones, and advertisements, it can feel a bit like living in a casino, where every little detail is designed to keep you focused on spending your money.

It’s on you to say no to these distractions. The most effective response I’ve ever found to the endless tempting distractions is simply to imagine what my life will be like when I finally complete this journey — traveling the world, making more money than ever before, 100% in charge of my time and attention. That sounds much more appealing than watching another silly video online when I should be working.

Ask Yourself Direct Questions That Force You To Gain Enormous Clarity

One of the most common responses I get from my readers about all this is: I don’t know where to start!

Getting clarity on your most important goals isn’t easy. You might be afraid you’ll choose the wrong thing, and become paralyzed by analysis. Maybe you’ve never known what you want to do, and have been stumbling into whatever job, relationship, or situation seemed the most convenient at the time.

You need to ask yourself some direct, blunt questions about your life.

I read a terrific article by Zak Slayback about gaining enormous clarity on these important things that I bookmarked and go back to sometimes.

It’s a 20-minute writing exercise you can do today that will provide crystal-clear clarity on your most important goals. Here are the questions:

Here are the questions:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

2. I dread …

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

6. … does not appeal to me.

Here are some of my answers that might help you with yours:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

  • am forced to work with frustrating people that force me to do busy work that doesn’t accomplish anything
  • when I have to listen to uninformed bosses that don’t know how to lead me
  • can’t write and do what I want to do with my time
  • am forced to work long hours doing things I hate doing
  • am forced to follow someone else’s silly schedule
  • can’t do things the way I want to do them

2. I dread …

  • going to work at a job I hate
  • dealing with rude and mean people
  • confrontation with difficult, assertive people
  • having to work on things I don’t want to do
  • having to spend time on tasks I don’t care at all about

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

  • Data entry
  • Empathizing with angry customers
  • Putting out fires made by other people

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

  • working at a boring 9–5 job
  • busywork
  • data entry
  • working with people I don’t like or respect
  • staying in one city
  • a job where someone has total control over my career progression
    phone sales
  • commuting more than 30 minutes each way

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

  • want to work at a boring job that crushes their spirit
  • work with rude, annoying, stupid people
  • not travel the world
  • not make passive income
  • let one person dictate their career success
  • be content to simply “survive” then they could thrive
  • let others bully and intimidate them

6. … does not appeal to me.

  • Anything I can’t control and create myself
  • Following orders from people I don’t trust
  • Living by someone else’s rules

If you want extraordinary results, you need to ask yourself extraordinary questions. Be precise in your speech; don’t allow yourself to sit in the vague fog of “maybe” that most people have been living in for a long time. These small questions, genuinely answered, will provide enormous clarity in your life.

Everyone Must Sacrifice Things. But You Get to Choose What You Sacrifice.

You actually don’t get to choose whether you need to sacrifice or not — you do. We all must sacrifice something.

But you do get to choose what to sacrifice. This choice will affect the rest of your life.

There was this funny-because-it’s-true joke in college that went like this: “Sleep, good grades, friends: you only get 2.” You had to sacrifice something.

Everyone must sacrifice something. Make sure what you sacrifice isn’t costing you dearly.

Sadly, most people are sacrificing the wrong thing — their potential, their relationships, their well-being, even their future. Instead of letting go of negative, toxic relationships, people cling to them. Instead of striving nobly to achieve an extraordinary career, people settle for their comfortable, mediocre jobs.

You must sacrifice something — make sure you choose wisely.

Years ago, I was working in one of the worst jobs I’d ever had — telemarketing. My boss was near-comic-book-villain level bad. I saw countless coworkers fired for not hitting sales quotas. I wanted out.

But I had been complaining for months about it, calling friends and family to vent my frustrations. I wasn’t doing much about it.

Finally, I mentioned my poor, sad situation to a friend of a friend — someone who didn’t really know me, and had the ability to be extremely blunt with me. He didn’t hold back on his feedback. “Look — it’s time to stop complaining. You need to get a new job, now. Cancel social obligations, stay in on the weekends, wake up early, whatever. But find a new job.”

It stunned me. At first, I was angry and defensive. How can he say that! He doesn’t know me! He doesn’t know how hard this has been for me! He was inviting me to sacrifice something I didn’t want to let go of.

Eventually, I saw his wisdom. I was sacrificing my happiness and emotional well-being working there — why not sacrifice some weekends and casual social hangouts for something that could change my entire career?

So that’s what I did. I chose to stop hanging out with friends (for a time) while I busted my ass finding a new job. Within a few focused months of networking and meeting more people in different departments, I was offered a job that was infinitely better than telemarketing! It was higher-paying, I got to travel, help people, and most importantly, no more telemarketing calls!

You must sacrifice something — that’s not up for debate.

But you do get to choose what you sacrifice.

In Conclusion

Small choices have big results. Once you start making the right small choices, you’ll start seeing the results you actually want, and not the opposite. It’s time for you to start acting like people living a world-class life — in charge of their time, money, relationships, and choices.

It starts with your behaviors. Once you consistently start making world-class choices — something you can start today — you’ll start seeing these behaviors grow into lasting characteristics of your life. You’ll become a disciplined, consistent, focused positive person with power and ability.

For many people, the hardest part is just starting. Most people don’t know where to focus their time and energy, so they continue wasting time when they should’ve started long ago.

Since most people have been making many foolish and unwise small choices, they’re see big, negative results in their life.

Choose to adopt some new, world-class behaviors in life. They don’t have to be enormous — just big enough to start creating some momentum. Use that momentum. Reinvest in your life. Sacrifice the right things so you can achieve the life you want.

Ready to Level-Up?
If you want to become extraordinary and become 10x more effective than you were before, check out my checklist.