Should We Learn to Manage Our Emotions?

Aug 8, 2020

Case one: A Bank Manager full of guilt feelings came to me for counselling. He narrated his story and wanted to know how he can get rid of his guilt feelings. One evening he returned home after a tug of war with his colleagues and as he entered home his two year old child was crying and sobbing with uncontrollable flow of tears. Seeing the Dad, the child pointed at the maid, a young girl, and cried louder. He was enraged and just slapped the girl with all his might. The hit was so hard and as it directly landed on her temples, she fell dead on the floor. He rushed to the local doctor and the police station, who saved him from the criminal case. But the guilt feeling persisted and he came for counselling.

Case Two: An adolescent girl came to me sobbing and crying bitterly. She reported that her boyfriend with whom she was very intimate, was found with another girl, that too in a hugging posture. She saw it with her own eyes and felt heavens collapsed on her shoulders.

Case three: A boy of fourth standard cut his hand with a blade and wounded himself to bleed so profusely, that the parents after treating the wound brought him to me for counselling. The boy exclaimed that he can bear the pain of the wound, but he could not bear the pain caused by the estrangement of his best friend.

Emotions can surge up so powerfully and so forcefully from within, impelling us to react immediately and we act so irrationally and beyond all proportion that it is bound to cost us a lot and create unending regrets for life. This is because we are living in a planet where every detail of every human activity is so meticulously managed with so much care and attention, but so important a question of life like “emotions” is left unnoticed, ignored and neglected.

Should we learn to manage our emotions? Should our children be taught how to manage their emotional life? These queries are never irrelevant for life, but they are seldom raised and hardly answered in our academic world and pedagogical paraphernalia. This has resulted in their gross neglect even in the day to day management of our daily rut.

First of all let us all be convinced that emotions are precious and valuable for our lives in order to achieve any of our goals, to pursue our interests and fulfil our life desires. Without emotions life will be insipid, lousy and sometimes boring. Emotions motivate us, provide fillip to our drives, vitalise our moods, generate energies, and make our personal as well as social life joyful, cheerful, meaningful instilling mirth and boosting our spirits. Human life will be lifeless, our relationships will be icy sans any warmth and all our activities will be very dull in the absence of feelings and emotions.

Why do we then often blame so important an aspect of life for all our ills and problems, sorrows and pains, failures and losses? This is because we have not learnt to handle or manage our emotions and feelings in a proper manner. Like any energy which can be used for good or bad, emotions too can be employed to produce contrary results. If we fail to manage them well, they can create havoc in Let us then have a glimpse into few aspects of management of our emotions, and how we can teach our children to manage their emotions and feelings in a proper way so that they are transformed into powerful resources to attain excellence in life. Let me put everything in a nutshell:

(i) Do not react but respond

Often we react to emotions instinctively. This is because the emotions are not controlled by the conscious mind which developed very late in the process of evolution, but emotions are very primitive, present even in mammals developed as survival instinct. The animals instinctively know what is good and what is bad for their survival. For us emotions have taught us to react forcefully: run away, cry aloud or shout. We can say we have a “biological hardware” similar to animals and a “psychological software” developed by the humans later in the process of evolution. The former constitutes our instinctive behaviour which makes us react to our emotions. A response, however, demands the combination of both. The first two cases above are the instances of how biological hardware can dominate in our reactions.

But we can train our mind not to react but to respond. To respond we have to bring in the “psychological software”, namely, the reason which evaluates the situation and teaches us to respond. This means we do not react in the heat of the moment, but we take a pause to create a reasonable response. The formula to remember is “emotion>pause>response”. Even a ten seconds of pause can totally transform a reaction into a response. This is regarding the sudden and unexpected triggering of emotions to which we generally react instinctively.

(ii) Create Response through deliberation

Regarding the emotions which are not generated at the spur of the moment, but which linger on with us and bother us, we need to consider first of all their origin. The formula for the origin of these emotions is a combination of “thoughts + experience + memory”; all the three are involved in the emergence of these emotions. Here we have time to formulate our response, but sometimes they are so complex that our “psychological software” finds itself inadequate to generate a response. As a result we become helpless and indulge into wrong actions like the boy in the third case above.

If we can train ourselves to manage our emotions, then we can maturely handle our feelings and emotions. Please note the following points for this purpose:

Decoding of Emotions”, means we identify the emotions. We look into ourselves to know what we are feeling, which emotion is really bothering us. There are four main types of emotions: anxiety, sadness, anger and happiness. The first one anxiety is generally related to future thoughts such as, ‘what if I fail, if I get defeated’ etc. The second sadness, which consists of negative thoughts of past events, like trauma, accident, past illness etc. The third anger, generally occurs when our values are attacked and our commitments are questioned and criticised. The fourth happiness, is a positive emotion that creates pleasant feelings of joy and fulfilment. As a first step identity to which group your particular emotion belongs.

Identification of the message: Then know that each feeling has a message, we need to identify it to create a proper response by asking the question, ‘what am I afraid of’ in the case of anxiety? what have I lost’ in the case of sadness ?‘how my values have been attacked or questioned’ regarding the anger?’ and ‘what have I gained’ in the case of happiness?

Create a Response: Having identified the emotion and its message, we need to create a response (which is generally an action) to cope with the emotion. The response can be specified by asking the question, “Is there anything I can do to resolve the situation?”. This should help us to get into a concrete action. If you are not able to decide upon any action then you need to take some external help like counselling or a therapy.

Emotional Toolkit: Always have with you the “Emotional Toolkit”, to be preserved carefully at the corner of the mind. What could be the items in the kit? (i) Your Hobby- music, painting, gardening and the like (ii) Outdoor activities like brisk walk, running, games, sport or yoga (iii) Reading something interesting (iv) Meeting Friends (v) TV/ Internet (vi) Consulting appropriate persons to resolve your emotional issue. Even you can train children to carry the kit along with them and teach them to select a particular item depending upon the context and situation. The management of emotions depends on your skill to choose the right item in the kit in the particular existential context.



By Sr Dr Judy Lewis
Sr Dr Judy Lewis UFS is a clinical psychologist and counsellor.
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Comment on this article

  • Lancy, Mangalore/USA.

    Wed, Aug 12 2020

    Very interesting and informative article. Congratulations!!!

  • veena Maria, Mumbai

    Tue, Aug 11 2020

    Dear sr. Judy excellent article about how to mananage emotions.

  • Joseph Michael Brax, Bajpe/Bangalore

    Tue, Aug 11 2020

    Dear Sr. Judy,
    Very good article. God Bless you in your ministry.

  • Alwyn, Mangalore

    Mon, Aug 10 2020

    very thoughtfull.

  • Jackson Rebello, Bangalore

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Sensational work Sr. Judy! You haven’t missed a thing. That is a first class article. Congratulations Sr. Judy.

  • Arun D'Souza, Kulshekar, Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    very interesting , good job and thanks for sharing such a good information

  • John, Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Good article on emotions. Apart from following above guidelines it is also worthwhile to know alternatives available to manage them.

    Need to know following about positive and negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

    Love, joy, peace, faith, self-control, patience, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness, humility, godliness, holiness, charity, justice, mercy, heaven, freedom... are from Divine origin.

    Lust, pride, anger, fear, unforgiveness, envy, hatred, jealousy, selfishness, greed, gluttony, addictions, attachments, Terror, destroying good, injustice, harassment, hell, slavery... are from evil one, which most of us get affected as it is common, we being humans.

    By bringing love to above negative emotions and thoughts or just loving them, so by surrendering them to God specially as and when they come or get one tormented to overcome them, with the help of God, as God is Love. 1John 4:8

    Also if the anxiety or fear due to a guilt feeling frequent praying or recital of Psalm 51 from the heart would give one much needed forgiveness, solace and peace especially during these days where most of the spiritual institutions are not fully open due to the ongoing pandemic.

  • Frans, Philippines

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Dear Sr. Judith, Indeed this is the need of the hour, at the right time you have brought out this article. Managing and dealing with our emotions rightly, aptly is must for each one of us. Thanks for this information and tips to deal with it.

  • Latha, Mumbai

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Dear Sr, Judy
    Very interesting and informative article. Congratulations

  • Jason, Thottam/Udupi

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Thank you sister making us aware, how to handle our emotions in every situation.

  • Asha Monteiro, Ukkinadka

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    "Decoding of Emotions " is an offer of the season. .. Thank you Sr. Judy for with the new formula to apply in the psychologIcal software which will help to programme the mind to increase the emotinal immunity. Thank you for assuring that through our continuous efforts in Decoding our emotions we are able to create a emotionaly healthy innerworld.

  • Elrita Lewis, Kundapura

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    I liked the article very much. It will help me to know my emotions and to to handle them properly

  • Janet D Silva, Mapusa Goa

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Dear Sr Judy
    Very original and new ideas. Very helpful for life.

  • Same, Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Beautiful article, God bless you.

  • Asha Monteiro, Ukkinadka

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    "Decoding of Emotions " is an offer of the season ...Thank you Sr. Judy for awakening with this new formula to apply in in our psychological software which will help to programme the mind to increase the emotinal immunity.
    Thank you for assuring, that through our continuous efforts in Decoding our emotions we are able to create a emotionaly healthy innerworld. .

  • Trenitha, Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Thanks for the article Sr.
    I think today s generation need to learn a lot from this article.
    Healthy and balanced emotions may help us to live life to the full.
    Keep enlightening us with your experiences.wishung you all the best.

  • Veera, Israel

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    This article is the need of the hour.

  • Shanthi, Bangalore

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Excellent article Sr. Judy.

  • Diana, Kuwait.

    Sun, Aug 09 2020

    Very informative and good article. God bless you.

  • Fr Vincent D Souza, Capuchin, Mogarnad

    Sat, Aug 08 2020

    Dear Sr Judy, Excellent. The above article is informative and very much helpful to mananage emotions in our day day to day life and in different situations. It is beneficial to all of us. Thanks a lot for shedding light on this current topic which is essential to lead a healthy life style.

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