Advice

On controlling your emotions

More about this, please:

“If you understand the cognitive/emotional process and have some control over your emotions (easier said than done), then with a little self-discipline, you can effectively end inconvenient crushes on your own schedule.”

 

Emotions are primal — eat, fuck, fight, flight — it’s the stuff of your reptilian brain, below even the human capacity for language. Feelings are emotions that have come into your awareness. You can give them a name — hunger, lust, anger, fear. Feelings are a product of emotion, but they are not the same thing. Thoughts are where the ego kicks in. They are how your conscious mind processes all those feelings and spits out everything from where you want to go for lunch to how to plan the perfect murder and all the sticky stuff in between.

So, if you want to have some control over your emotions, particularly where a crush is concerned, the trick is knowing that lust or jealousy or infatuation aren’t what you’re trying to control. What you’re really trying to control is the primal urge to fuck or fight or bond. That’s why I say it’s easier said than done, because you can’t come at it with a thinking mind. You have to come at it with an unthinking mind.

I know this is starting to get esoteric, but what I mean by unthinking mind is essentially you have to learn how to use conscious methods of manipulating your autonomic nervous system. It’s where mental meets visceral, and it’s fucking hard to do. Breathing exercises. Meditation. Conscious deescalation of arousal states. They’re all blunt tools that can sometimes get the job done, but that’s the level of control I’m talking about.

It’s a process, one that requires practice, but here’s what can happen. If you can consciously deescalate an arousal state in the presence of your crush, then the lust goes away. If you use breathing exercises to interfere with the fight-or-flight response in the presence of your crush, then the jealousy and all those butterflies in your stomach will disappear.

With a little self-discipline, you can control your emotions, and your feelings will change in kind. You’ll have different feelings to be sure, but you’ll also suddenly find yourself thinking different thoughts as well. You might even find more room for thoughts unattached to any particular feeling at all, and the next thing you know, you don’t have a crush anymore.

That’s how you accelerate the end of an inconvenient crush. (Or for that matter, control road rage, tolerate extended meals with family members, or deal with authority in all its various forms.)

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18 thoughts on “On controlling your emotions

  1. BathtubGin says:

    I wish there were more blunt tools other than the mainstream ones you mentioned. I’ve looked into EMDR, ketamine infusion therapy, and even pie therapy….where you make pies from scratch with a therapist and focus on mindfulness to regulate all the shame, self judgement, or panic that arises. Hahaha there are some other hokey therapeutic interventions too. In L.A. everybody seems to love to hike and go to sound baths. I returned my car and take lyft or uber everywhere just so I don’t have a meltdown over parking tickets and traffic. I genuinely enjoy chatting with the lyft or uber drivers. Also – finding the right therapist should be approached with strategy. Therapists aren’t one size fits all. Thank you for writing this advice. It’s really very helpful.

    • The Coquette says:

      EMDR is a good one, but that shit takes formal training. Not sure about pie therapy. Ketamine is likely to have the opposite effect if you’re trying to get rid of a crush, but it certainly has its uses.

    • rainbow pony says:

      last time I had a crush that I didn’t want, I just removed the wall paper from a room I wanted to redecorate. Didn’t take care of all of it, but took care of the worst of it. I took about a week and a half.

    • GOAT says:

      Emotions are a culmination of minuscule physiological responses to stimuli. These physiological changes take place way before they come to our conscious attention. Any sort of meditative exercise can help you become more aware of those physiological changes in your body. Meditation is the art of focus, and eventually you are able to observe your emotional responses “from afar”. MBCT uses that awareness to consciously change the way you relate to your emotions. Your emotions are the basic units of decision-making, so this is almost a Pavlovian trick because you can re-route your response to the same set of emotions. (Interestingly, many have also proposed that true AI isn’t possible if machines don’t have emotions, because the decision-making process is too drawn out if done categorically.) Coke, I think, is suggesting a purposeful cognitive reappraisal for getting rid of inconvenient crushes.

      I know this isn’t the best explanation right now. It’s been a minute since undergrad and I’m brunch-drunk. So, sources:

      MBCT: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22340145
      Monks can somewhat suppress or minimize the startle response, which no one thought possible before: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22506498
      The go-to/possibly most citied study for emotional memory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_gambling_task
      Marvin Minsky, because I can’t find the actual study I was thinking about: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emotion_Machine

      Anyway, your emotions are incredibly important and meditation, exercise, and sleep can help alter how you relate to them and turn you into a more mindful and better person in a multitude of ways (less anxiety, more concentration, more energy, better test scores, and so on). Personally, I also find becoming aware of your emotions important for relating to others (specifically understanding that most things aren’t personal), having healthy relationships, and becoming less codependent.

    • GOAT says:

      Also, yes, I am sort of telling you not to read Descartes.

      Oh! And yoga literally means “sum”, referring to the joining of mind and body. This sort of meditative practice has been around for centuries.

      Last edit: It’s been proposed consciousness is simply a mechanism and none of our “selves” actually exist. There have been studies done exploring whether our inclination to describe subjective experience as a non-reductive phenomena is actually part of the the experience of “self”.

      • Kevin says:

        For the love of God, don’t read Descartes. I took a whole class on his “Passions of the Soul” which was basically just a history of his philosophies on body/mind dualism, the nature/origin of feelings, and the function of the heart (the organ, not the metaphor) in the midst of it all. In summation: he’s got no idea what’s going on, and that thinking could be real poison to the wrong person looking for good help.

        Woof at all his contemporaries, too.

  2. BathtubGin says:

    They wanted me at Stanford for the ketamine trials. It’s for treatment resistant depression. My crush ended years ago and depression set in. Not even sure if it was linked. Anyway, ketamine trials at Stanford are ongoing if anyone is interested. Near UCLA there’s a ketamine clinic, but they charge a lot for each infusion. Can’t afford it.

  3. MN says:

    Needed this so badly, CQ. Timing is almost impeccable. My relationship with my very unpopular, petty, unprofessional, unpleasant boss is reaching unbearable levels. So much of me just wants to storm out dramatically and call her every four letter word I can think of in the process, but I really need to take care of this with more maturity (I need a new job, I need the current insurance to get my teeth fixed, I need her, to my chagrin, for a reference). I’m not good at hiding how much I hate her, and she’s worse at hiding how much she resents me. I have to stop myself from making those biting remarks I know would crush her, but it would be detrimental to me to behave like that in the long run. I’ve always known this unhealthy relationship is very ego driven, I just didn’t know how to approach it without just constantly berating myself for not doing better. I’m gonna try to use this.

  4. Nick says:

    If anyone is really interested in emotions and learning how to control them, I highly recommend Paul Ekman’s book, Emotions Revealed. The majority of the book is about how to recognize that you have become emotional and thus limit or eliminate your emotional responses. (There’s also a lot about the expression of emotion and reading faces. The Tim Roth show Lie To Me was loosely based on Ekman’s life and work.)
    According to Paul Ekman, fear is not something that happens once the mind is aware of the fight or flight response but, rather, the fight or flight response is something that happens once the mind experiences fear, and both happen too fast for us to consciously control. Emotions (anger, fear, disgust, surprise, etc) are unconscious reactions that “prepare us to deal with important events without having to think about what to do.” It’s after we become emotional that we can learn, through practice, to gain control over our response to emotion. He argues that sex drive or the need to eat are something more basic than emotions and are easily overridden by emotion. Disgust can keep you from eating, fear can keep you from fucking, etc.
    The book is really well written and easy to read and has been beyond helpful in my life.

  5. Damian says:

    Where can I read more about this?
    Not so much about lust and inconvenient crushes but rather about controlling one’s emotions/feelings/thoughts?
    Would especially be interested to read about this in relation to depression and anxiety.

  6. Barefootsie says:

    This is awesome advice that came a touch too late for some parts of de-escalating parts of a crush, but perfectly for others. Especially since he’s the person I have ever been the most physically attracted to in … pretty much recent memory. Will definitely bring some of these things into practice. Thanks, Coq.

  7. Brynn says:

    You’ve pretty much summed up half of what my acting program taught me, and why that degree was the best possible thing I could have done for myself as a person. Might as well be called a degree in personal and interpersonal life skills. Self-control, empathy, communication – the whole shebang. It’s just acting.

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