Sequel to our discussion on applying emotional intelligence, it’s important for us to look deeper into managing negative emotions. Negative emotions are such feelings that affect us adversely such as anger, depression, grief, etc. Some of these feelings emanate from within while others are caused by external influences. Whatever the source is, we often discover that things go a bit out of hand before we take notice of our inability to control situations. Apart from the general factors surrounding the application of emotional intelligence, we have some steps that can help us put individual emotions under control.
- Minimize Reactions:
Don’t blow things out of proportion by going over them time and again in your mind. Decide to forget about it. It is what you need to decide on. You cannot expect it to happen on its own. You must convince yourself that you want to let go of anger or depression. One bad thing about negative emotions is that they are terribly strong. They are difficult to put under control. So, you must make that conscious effort to tell yourself that you’ll not react unnecessarily. Tell yourself that your reaction would be more constructive and brief. One of the best ways of reacting to external emotion triggers is silence. Where silence cannot be achieved, a very brief reaction is recommended. Prolonging reactions does not only hurt you more, it hurts those around you too. It creates a negative impression about you and gives a questionable definition of your personality. It will make you lose many friends and it’ll keep people away from you. Others would be reserved in sharing things with you or even being with you because they’ll feel you’re becoming too sensitive.
- Don’t Feel too Miserable.
If something has gone wrong, try to be reasonable – accept that bad situations are occasionally unavoidable and think of ways to make yourself feel better. There are two major types of challenges, the ones you can solve and the ones you cannot solve. Feeling miserable has never in any way solved any problem. Learning to understand that life has ups and downs is an important way of dealing with the vicissitudes of life. Do not punish yourself by believing that you’re the worst person around. You are not. What’s happening to you has happened to a lot of people. One of the things that worsened my feelings when I lost my 6 years old son was the thought that I didn’t do enough to save his life. I felt terrible each time that thought flowed in. On the other hand one of the things that helped me manage the emotion was the fact that a lot of people had suffered a worse situation. Some lost their children who were far older and were already in the universities. Don’t brood upon self pity. Imagine losing a loved one or suffering a heart break. Imagine losing a job that constituted your source of livelihood and so on. These situations breed terrible negative emotions that are capable of sliding one into depression. Your effort to rise above the situation is what would determine how fast you pull out of it. The more you brood over it, the more you lose the opportunity to move on.
- Distract Yourself:
Use pleasant activities like reading, walking or talking to a friend to keep yourself busy. I am a very strong advocate of reading. Reading will not just distract you, it will guide you and teach you things you do not know and obviously teach how to get over such situations. There are things you learn from reading that would surely place you above certain emotions. Educating yourself on emotional intelligence is, if you ask me, the greatest tool for managing negative emotions. Add other exercises like walking out maybe with a close friend or family member. Don’t just listen to music, learn the lyrics and sing along. It really works. These are activities you can engage in to keep your mind off the events surrounding your negative emotions. It is natural that you’ll be confronted with the same emotions after distracting yourself for a while but your constant effort to deal with it will eventually dissipate it. Do not indulge in alcohol or drugs as a means of distracting yourself or managing your emotions. It has not been established that alcohol or drugs helped anyone to get over negative emotions rather it is widely known that they cause more damage to the individual.
Sometimes you may need to change your location; leave the environment that reminds you of any sad events until you’re able to conquer the feelings. If it is possible, you can leave the environment for good. If this negative emotion is caused by a family member or a friend, it is advisable to detach yourself from this individual. No matter how much you love and care for someone who always puts you down emotionally, you cannot get over it except you leave such an individual. Changing your location means meeting new friends and new acquaintances. It gives you the opportunity to begin anew; you’ll be able to put the lessons you learnt from your previous experience into practice. It gives you the opportunity to eliminate or minimize all forms of social interferences arising from your sad experience.
- Practice Virtues:
There are certain virtues that can help you keep your negative emotions under serious check. Such virtues include forgiveness. You are aware that when you do not let go of the past, you rob yourself of the present and deny yourself the opportunity of planning for the future. You do not forgive only those that have asked for it but even those that did not ask. It is for your own sake that you forgive. Sometimes when we refuse to forgive others, we also end up not forgiving ourselves. If I expose myself to be injured emotionally, I’ll surely blame myself and it’s for my own sake that I’ll let go of everything. Forgiveness does not imply exposing ourselves to be injured over and over again. It is a way of moving forward with or without whoever has offended us. Another virtue that can help us in managing negative emotions caused by external influence is empathy. When we put ourselves in other people’s shoes; when we feel their pain, when we try to understand their own point of view and their feelings, we limit the level of our own reactions to their emotional outbursts and when our reactions are limited, we are in control of our emotions.
All the five points identified above require conscious effort to practice. None can play out if we do not create an avenue for it to do so. Therefore, create room for less pain, less grief and less anger which in turn creates room for more joy, more peace and more happiness.