Monday, July 8, 2013

Stop Hijacking your Emotions

When your emotions get the better of you, taking control of your actions and words, you have allowed
yourself to be Hijacked.  Daniel Goleman, well known author of Emotional Intelligence, uses the term emotional hijacking in his work to describe those moments when our emotions take over control of our reason, our behaviour and our words.

For me though, the term is a bit of a misnomer because you aren't actually being taken over.  Hijacking implies that you are not in control, someone or something else is.  However, you are always in control of your responses.  You are not being hijacked by your emotions, you are deferring to them.  They are not taking control of your responses, you are giving over control to them.  This very real, and very distinct, difference means that we are capable then of choosing not to lose control, of not giving in to our emotions, of not being at the mercy of our response.  We can choose differently.

Yes people will say stuff and do stuff that drives us crazy, makes us angry, upsets us, hurts and wounds us.  But... it is our choice to either defer to that emotional response or to choose a different, better and more personally helpful response.  However, just like biting our nails, over-eating  may have become habits in our lives, so too have many of our emotional responses.  Just as we can, in fact, change our habits and gain control over our nail-biting and over-eating, so too can we change our responses to situations.  We don't have to be at the mercy of any choices we have made in the past.  If they don't serve us in moving forward then we need to open ourselves to the desire to choose differently in the future.

Here are a couple of suggestions to help you pull back your conscious control of your emotional responses...

1.  Reduce the size of your 'Board'.  In my book, Choose the Life you Really Want, I outline an exercise called the Board of Directors.  The idea here is to identify all those individuals that you have invited over your lifetime to sit at your personal board table. These individuals are those that have an influence on the decisions and choices you make, whose opinions matter to you, who you make an effort to please.  Most of us have far too large of Board that we are trying to please.  Additionally, because they hold the position of Board member they have not only the power to influence us but the power to hurt and upset us.  By strategically working to reduce the size of our Board, to contain only those who serve us today, we reduce the potential for losing control of our emotions.  If our Board is cut in half, so too should our emotional episodes.  People are on your Board to serve you and guide you in some capacity. They are not on your Board to be served.  Reduce the size of your Board to contain only those that matter for you.  Basically... remove the others and, if they no longer matter, then you will no longer mind!

2.  Keep a log.  Maintain a log of all of your emotional episodes detailing; who was involved, what was it about, how did you feel, what was your response.  Over time you will gather enough examples of these episodes to truly be able to identify your biggest triggers.  Knowing and understanding your hotspots allows you to begin proactively developing your strategies for responding differently to them in future.  These prevent you from simply allowing the old emotional 'habit' to kick in.

3.  Know your desired responses.  This becomes a key component for anyone attempting to change any behavioural habit.  Know what you want instead.  You need to clearly define what your desired response is. In order to forestall the habitual behaviour from simply kicking in, you need to have a clearly defined alternative.  Give yourself something definitive to choose in that moment of anger or hurt. This allows you to break the previous habitual pattern and begin establishing a new one.

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