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.