Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.
Aristotle (Ancient Greek philosopher)
Emotions (e.g. crying, laughing, blushing, trembling, running away, shouting) are reactions to our feelings, so they are normally involuntary. However, most of our emotional reactions can be channelled in different ways, which will be the focus of this area.
Decoupling feelings and emotional reactions
The introduction to this Affective group highlighted the difference between feelings and emotions. Understanding this difference is important because it can help you gain greater control over your emotional reactions. Let’s say you react with anger whenever you feel hurt. If you realise that these two are not the same, you won’t need to react automatically any more. You will be free to react differently when you feel hurt or choose not to react at all. Now we can turn to those reactions themselves.
The ways emotions can be channelled
Emotional reactions are neither positive nor negative. They can facilitate or disrupt an activity, which depends on the way they are directed. Several such ways are suggested below (they apply to both pleasant and unpleasant emotions). This diagram can make it easier to remember them:
- Suppression or blocking emotional reactions can be useful if a situation or leaving an impression have priority over your inner state (e.g. when dealing with an accident or at a job interview). However, this should be only temporary as it has well known psychological and even physiological consequences(1). This exercise can help with unblocking suppressed emotions: