The prospects for establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with others and the associated effects of such on our general health and well-being depend on the extent to which we are effective in recognizing and managing our emotions. Instead, it is equally dependent on our abilities to identify and manage the emotions of others, both as individuals and as groups. How we react to emotions, whether personal or by others, determines how easy it is to ‘fit in’ to group situations and to form and sustain interpersonal relationships (Armstrong, 2018). It is a question of being able to better make sense of our psychological state and all associated actions and inactions, including managing stress. This essay is a reflection on the self and an analysis of how I typically react to my emotions and the effect such have on my life.
From my experience, what I say and how I behave, primarily through my body language, form the hallmark of how I typically react to my emotions. However, in keeping with the existing research literature, much of my reactions are non-verbal – facial expressions and other forms of body language (Armstrong, 2018). This can be explained by the consensus among scholars that most people do not like talking about their emotions even though the urge to communicate them is hard to resist (Armstrong, 2018; Kotsou et al., 2019). As such, they tend to be expressed even more through our body language. In general, since emotions are not consciously controlled, they are considered to be relatively primitive in nature – very powerful, but yet quite straightforward. They are responses to an inherent need to survive. For example, how I typically react to emotions includes actions such as wanting to cry, run away, or shout.
However, how I react to my emotions varies as the emotions vary from one situation to another. Of particular significance, I am convinced that a strong link exists between my emotions and my memory, my experience, and my values. Notably, my emotional response to the same stimulus of something I have experienced before is usually stronger than those of a first-time incident. Above all, in the absence of evidence linking emotions to reason or conscious control, it is logical to assume a strong link between emotions and personal values (Kotsou et al., 2019). Generally, emotional responses are a reaction to a challenge(s) to a key personal value(s). In keeping with this assumption of a strong link between emotions and memory, and values, it is not uncommon for our emotional responses to have less to do with the current situation in which they are being expressed or experienced.
Despite that our emotions and associated responses do not necessarily have to reflect the current situation or reason, using reason and seeking accurate awareness of my emotions are at the heart of how I typically react to emotions. Although my reactions to emotions are instant and quite powerful to control at times, my typical reaction to emotions is based on embracing a reflective learning approach to situations and moments in my life. This informs awareness of my moods and how I manage them. Of particular note, I am always keen to ensure timely detection of my emotional responses, including seeking to sense of their very nature. By taking notice of my emotions and related responses, I am better positioned to rationally manage them (Kotsou et al., 2019). To this end, I usually try to seek an understanding of what might be the root cause(s) or factor(s) contributing to the presenting emotional response(s).
In securing an answer to the question of how I should react to my emotions, I usually seek an answer to whether the emotion(s) in question are due to personal key values, memory or personal experiences or a combination of these factors. The idea is to secure a sound understanding of what is behind an emotion(s) as a critical requirement for informing my reaction to the situation. Just to note, faced by a situation, it might not be possible to change what we feel. However, it is always possible to change how we feel. This is not an easy endeavour in practice. For me, achieving this calls for considering what is behind the current situation in light of actual or likely outcomes of the situation. To this end, I usually evaluate different possible reaction alternatives comparatively based on ‘what’ their outcomes might be.
On controlling temper and relieving stress, there is strong evidence linking the ability to effectively experience and express emotions to important attributes such as decision-making, relationship building, interactions, and self-care. In other words, if out of control, emotions can adversely impact on our personal health and our interpersonal relationships (Pierce & Newstrom, 2014). From my experience, I think I am relatively good at controlling my temper and relieving my stress. This is done, firstly, by aiming to regulate, not to suppress or repress. I am of the conviction that emotions provide us with an invaluable opportunity to experience and express our feelings and those of others. As a result, switching them fully risks contributing to symptoms of physical and mental health anxiety and difficulty managing stress, as well as the risk for substance abuse and sleeping problems, among other issues.
To this end, the first step to controlling my temper is taking time to notice my feelings as they present. Seeking timely detection and awareness of changes in personal mood(s) is critical in managing temper and stress – it is the first and most important step in trying try to gain back control of our emotional life (Armstrong, 2018). To achieve this, when I feel suddenly extremely upset, I usually interrupt my thoughts and actions by asking myself five major questions. First, I ask myself what I am feeling at the moment. The second question is seeking awareness of what happened that led to the current feeling. Third, I usually try to see if there might be alternative explanations to the situation. In particular, here, I usually try to look at the situation from the offending side to see if there was an obvious, sensible reason behind their conduct. Then I have to consider what I can or should do about the presenting feelings. Lastly, I ask myself if there is a better way of coping with the specific feelings in question.
Overall, controlling temper and relieving stress can be easy or difficult depending on the presenting situation. It is usually difficult due to the very fact that emotions are not consciously controlled and that the experiencing and expressing of such are in most cases instant. However, it can be easy with experience. Of particular note, while emotions and associated responses tend to be strong in repeat situations, such situations are equally characterized by prior knowledge of the ‘what’ in better coping with the specific feelings. However, while prior experience might help to easily control temper and stress, it is critical to constantly evaluate solutions relative to both the specifics of the presenting situation and the possible alternatives that are available (Kotsou et al., 2019). To this end, I have developed the culture of keeping a mood journal as part of my routine for coping with moods and feelings. They inform a more accurate provision for tracking my emotions and hence enabling deeper reflections for ongoing learning.
In conclusion, emotions are integral to our day-to-day lives. They are an indication of an exciting and vibrant life – a defining mark of our embracing of life in fullness. However, if not well controlled, they can negatively impact on our health and well-being and our relationships. In particular, since emotions impact on how we perceive and respond to situations, their impact on our decision-making cannot be overstated. For me, my emotions have the potential of impacting on my future career as they risk implicating on how I perceive life-defining situations, including my interpersonal relationships and engagements in the journey to my future career.
Armstrong, D. (2018). Emotions in organizations: disturbance or intelligence?. In Working Below the Surface (pp. 11-27). Routledge.
Kotsou, I., Mikolajczak, M., Heeren, A., Grégoire, J., & Leys, C. (2019). Improving emotional intelligence: A systematic review of existing work and future challenges. Emotion Review, 11(2), 151-165.
Pierce, J. L. & Newstrom, J. W. (2014). The Manager’s Bookshelf, 10th ed. Pearson Education Limited.