Harnessing Our Emotions

Rachel Robichaud
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Emotions are part of how God beautifully designed us in His image. Like Him, we experience joy, sorrow, anger and love. Our emotions are purposeful, compelling us to action when something needs doing. Sometimes, feelings even intuitively indicate that something is not right before our mind notices.

We usually picture women as the more sympathetic, empathic sex—but with this comes a greater sensitivity to emotions, both our own and those of the people around us, and the stimuli [or sources] that cause them—especially negative ones. How can we, as women, learn to control and use our emotions to support, encourage and comfort those around us?

Sometimes our emotions do get the best of us and they either hinder our efforts towards what we need to accomplish, or worse, move us completely in the opposite direction. Misguided emotions sadly cause problems in people’s lives. For this reason, it is written, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). We must learn to master emotions. Emotional intelligence grows through progressive steps:

1. Accurately identifying our own emotions, and those of others. In other words, knowing when moods change, and specifically which emotions are present. All other skills are built on this foundation.

We must be aware of our emotions and determine their triggers. Additionally, recognizing all emotions throughout the day helps us focus on positive emotions, which in turn makes us more thankful and joyful. Recognizing our emotional state, and knowing that emotions can cloud our judgement, should spur us to ask for others’ advice or to wait before making a decision. Demonstrating empathy to others (as in times of grief) may help them understand their own emotions, helping difficult times pass more smoothly.

2. Learning to manage emotions. This includes including controlling and guiding our own emotions, as well as being able to cheer up or calm down another person.

Managing our emotions makes us adaptable and resistant to adversity. We can tolerate feeling uncomfortable as we employ coping mechanisms to help us willingly step outside our comfort zones. We do not let unruly emotions hinder our eating or sleeping—or our relationship with God. We develop the emotional resilience to roll with the punches and learn from mistakes.

Supporting others in managing their emotions happens naturally as we manage our own. Others are delighted by our open-minded positivity: we refrain from premature judgement, ask questions, explore possibilities and stay open to new perspectives.

Additionally, when sensing someone’s emotions are offside, we should change our approach in communicating. We ask people how they feel and why; determining the cause of the emotion, we can highlight positive aspects of the situation or suggest possible actions to take. Sometimes a topic change or stress management technique is appropriate.

3. Effectively match emotions to tasks. Emotions can actually improve our effectiveness at tasks, helping us solve problems. When applied correctly, we can use proper emotions to drive our efforts—and everyone else’s—forward.

Using our emotions to drive our efforts is much like seizing on an energetic day as a good day to tackle housework. Consider these examples:

  • Impatience: sort through clutter
  • Frustration: have courage for a difficult conversation
  • Boredom: try something new
  • Joy: meet new people
  • Sorrow: random acts of kindness

Similarly, drawing out other people’s emotions can help us stir them to action. For example, empathy will motivate some supportive and helpful people who care about how we feel, and which behaviours we would like them to change. Feelings of discomfort or frustration will motivate others who are more motivated by duty or protectiveness, as we explain the dangers, risks and injustices of a situation. Understanding how different people respond to different emotions helps us frame our message in a way that evokes the most appropriate emotions and actions in response.

By identifying and managing our emotions, we can utilize them, share them and compel ourselves and others into action. To work together and communicate effectively, each of us should look not only to our own emotional interests, but also to the emotional interests of others (Philippians 2:4).