Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | Author:
Controlling Emotions

Controlling Emotions

And yes, before we get started, I really do mean it… do not try to control your emotions or your feelings. Learn to use them instead.

Little kids are told to control their emotions over and over again. This gets taught early and reinforced throughout life. But it turns out that the lesson is not quite right. You should not be controlling your emotions. You should be controlling your actions and reactions to your emotions.

Your emotions are like the instruments on your car. Controlling your emotions is like controlling the speedometer on your car so it says exactly what speed you want regardless of how fast the car is really going. When you drive you don’t control the speedometer, you control the speed of the vehicle using the speedometer as a guide.

So why would you expect the vehicle of yourself to work any different? You need your emotions, your instruments, and you need them to be working as accurately and with as much precision as possible.

An unfortunate majority of the people in the world spend their entire life working to control their speedometers rather than their actual speed. It happens with emotions, it happens in business, it happens in politics… it is just a part of our human nature. Unfortunately, the only possible outcome of controlling your instruments instead of using them to control your vehicle is that you end up flying blind. You are unable to tell where the you are, how fast you’re moving and where you’re heading. You may very well slam into a mountain, the ground or any number of other things. Turn off or reduce the accuracy of your instruments at your own peril.

OK, so you leave the speedometer connected, but maybe you don’t like risk so you decide to just drive 40 on the freeway so you can easily stay safe. This almost works, but easy safety is seldom as safe as it appears. In this case, going 40 on the freeway to create safety from getting a ticket and safety from losing control of your own car also creates a new risk, namely that someone else will crash into you as they are not expecting you to be going 40 on a freeway.

In the same way as creating safety in one area often also creates a consequent risk in another, disconnecting your emotions also creates a consequent risk. The unintended consequence of disconnecting your life instruments, your emotions, is that you will be living an emotionally blind life, and you will have little chance of ever creating the only thing you really want. You will have little chance of ever finding true happiness and satisfaction in life.

Imagine a video game: You are a pilot flying a plane in a race or a battle across uneven terrain with obstacles such as trees, buildings, mountains, and canyons.

In this game, your engine makes more power the closer you are to the ground, and less power the higher you are. Therefore you can go faster near the ground and the obstacles, but slower if you’re up high away from the obstacles. But the lower you fly, the less time you have to react to the obstacles and terrain. Also, the faster you go, this problem is increased. But to do your best in the game, you have fly as low and as fast as you can.

Now imagine it is foggy out, and you have only your instruments to guide you.

This is a pretty good analogy for how we live our lives. We are the pilots. The obstacles and the terrain represent our interactions with other people. Our lifelong pursuit of happiness, success, and love is the race. And our emotions are the only instruments available to guide us through the fog.

While you can fly carefree and safe at 30,000 ft, doing so will leave your engine weak, and you will miss out on any chance of performing well. To follow the analogy, you can keep a safe emotional distance, but doing so will dilute your interactions with people.

You can detach yourself from your emotions, turn them off, decrease their accuracy, or simply ignore them. But doing so has dire consequences, as your emotions are the only instruments you have by which you can measure your happiness, stress, loss, sadness, joy, etc.

Controlling your emotions rather than controlling your reactions to your emotions is a lot like controlling the altimeter of the airplane rather than using what the altimeter is trying to tell you in order to keep from crashing into the ground.

Rather than controlling your emotions, work to improve the ACCURACY of your emotions and to control your REACTIONS to your emotions.

Stay Tuned for Part 2, Redirecting your reactions to your emotions.  (Part 2 is now available).

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8 Responses

  1. 1
    earl hinds 

    very good. thank you.

  2. 2
    P. Zeiler 

    Just what I was searching for! I was looking for articles about emotional outbursts when I found this post on Yahoo. Not exactly what I was looking for, but even better I think.

    Nice comments here as well – Cheers.

  3. 3
    Maria Celia Cruz 

    I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now. I wish you were able to post more often, but rereading the old ones is almost as good!

  4. 4

    its very good :)

  5. 5
    Sherie Graminski 


  6. 6

    I really liked this blog, I’m going to make a point of visiting more often, very enlightening, tyvm

  7. 7

    Isn’t this true! Many times we’re told to “suck it up” as a child. That’s where the anger and resentment begins to build and as adults our pent up emotions come out “sideways” at those around us. Great words of wisdom here :)


  1. [...] so in Part 1 of the “Do NOT Control Your Emotions” series we discussed the critical need to leave your emotions fully connected because they serve as your [...]

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