10 Tactics For Emotion Control 🧠
Humans have conquered their environment, are making great progress at conquering physiology - and are still shockingly bad at conquering our own psychology.
Humans are emotional creatures - and we are living wild, unpredictable times (🕊,🇺🇦).
To become better humans, we must learn to systematically respond, not react.
Here’s a list of 10 emotional control tactics you can implement today:
Observe your mind - Practice observing your mind and the physical response that a given input inflicts on your body (emotions). Practice doing so as if you were a third-party, a spectator, witnessing how something takes place without judging. People learn to do this through different methods - call it meditation, Yoga, martial arts, philosophy etc. Just chose one that works for you, and practice. A couple of resources that can help: Buddha’s Brain, Power of Now.
Identify when & what activates your sympathetic nervous system - If the mind was a car, the sympathetic nervous system would be the accelerator pedal of your psychology. When this accelerator pedal is pressed - your ability to use your prefrontal cortex, to think clearly, is severely hindered. You need to: 1. Figure out what fuels this pathway and 2. Be mindful of when it’s happening, so you can mitigate its implications on your thinking. Some stuff will be standard to most humans, others will be highly personal to yourself. Classic examples: 1. Hunger 2. Lack of sleep 3. Loud noises 4. Negative people 5. Lack of sunlight / exposure to nature 6. Witnessing injustice etc. Be aware of when something is triggering this pathway, and create space to respond, not react.
Learn how to activate your parasympathetic nervous system - the same way external conditions can affect your sympathetic nervous system, you have the power to influence your parasympathetic nervous system. If your mind was a car, the parasympathetic system would be the breaks of your psychology. The single, most important tool you have at your disposal to activate the breaks is learning to control your breathing.
HRV training - consists of leveraging a set of simple breathing techniques to control your heart-rate variability (a proxy for the state of your autonomic nervous system, which includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic previously discussed). Here’s an example of French military fighter jet pilots using this simple technique (they call it “coherence cardiaque”, a proxy for HRV). Dr. David Servan Shreiber is a great reference to learn how to breathe properly, see Anti-Cancer.
Practice tactical retreating - if you observe yourself red-zoning aka your parasympathetic nervous system taking over, learn to make space, assess, recalibrate, and re-engage in your own terms (aka respond, don’t react).
Practice tactical avoidance - Step away from energy-zappers tactically - Twitter, news, people who can’t shut-up about XYZ, etc etc. Engage in your own terms, when ready - using your pre-frontal cortex.
Sleep Well - Sleep is crucial for our ability to respond, the better rested we are, the greater the space we can create between an input, the processing of such input, and how we respond to it. Even slight variations in your sleep quantity & quality can have a disproportional impact on your psychology. Take care of it and read “Why We Sleep”.
Go to the emotion + mind gym - its a real shame that seeking a brain coach aka a psychologist is still a big taboo. They can really help you train developing that space between input, processing, and response. Find a great one, start training.
Be very mindful of fear and hatred - once you identify them rising within you, observe them. Decide how to respond - either make space, or observe until they fade. Do not identify yourself with the emotion, you are not the emotion, and you are not your mind. You can and should chose how to respond.
Understand how cognitive biases and human psychological loopholes work - when consuming information, always be mindful of the incentives and how information is being delivered. Observe your mind and emotions, and how there may be an attempt to influence them. Read Thinking Fast and Slow and The Art of Thinking Clearly.
Use positive reframing - if you have successfully created space to respond to xyz, positively reframing the situation can help build an appropriate response. When engaging in a debate (that you know can set-off your sympathetic nervous system): 1. Try to always assume good intent on the other side 2. Don’t approach a debate wanting to be right, approach it wanting to understand 3. Always think positive - See Jocko Willink’s video on addressing hard situations.
“All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy.”