What are the best ways for me to try and control my emotions?

It’s very easy to make me sad and have my feelings hurt, but when that happens, i feel bad because i don’t like anyone to be mad at me. What are ways i can control it and also not have the feeling of guilt when sometimes me being sad and upset is warranted?
Asked by Lolo

Hi Lolo, you've got a good question there, one that so many of us struggle with and something I see others are often questioning, too. I'm going to challenge you to think not in terms of control, but rather to think of managing. When we think of control it's often with an idea of holding in, or to exercise restraint or direction over. To manage is more along the lines of to take care of.

Our emotions have a very important job: to signal to us what's going on internally with our feelings. 

When we get a cut, it's obvious we need a bandaid when we see blood. Similarly, our emotions let us know we might need to take care of something, too. It's easy to label some of the feelings and emotions we have as GOOD: joy, happiness, love, peace. We like those feelings because they're easy to sit with and to share with others. It's just as easy to label other feelings as BAD: sadness, hurt, guilt, fear, etc. Those feelings have just as much value to bring to our lives.

The first step in managing our emotions is understanding them. We do this by allowing them to happen. Rather than trying to get rid of them when they appear, it's helpful to be curious about them. Saying "I'm having a feeling of guilt..." (or whatever the uncomfortable feeling might be). This creates a little distance between you and the feeling in order to look at it from a different angle. Not fighting it or getting rid of it.

From there you might want to take some time (either right then if you're able or later in the day) to investigate a little deeper about the situation that was going on when that feeling popped up as well as notice some of the thoughts you had at that moment, too. 

With that said, you touched on a good point. Sometimes our feelings of sadness and hurt are absolutely warranted. When promises are broken and we're let down by others, it makes sense that these feelings pop up. Again, checking in with yourself is the first step. Being honest with yourself about the situation and what about the situation is causing the hurt. It might require that you have an open and honest conversation with that person about what happened. Or it's possible that checking in with yourself might result in reevaluating the relationship with that person. 

Managing our emotions is definitely not a simple and straightforward task and when we start making changes with how we're doing things, it can be messy and challenging. If you are noticing that, you might find working with a therapist might be a valuable experience to have someone from outside your world step in and walk with you through the journey. 

I wish you the best,

Lindsey Maurer, MA, LPCC