In an earlier post, I talked about why it is in your best interest to learn to master your emotions. In thinking about this post, I thought I would put it into perspective.
While I call myself The Emotions Doctor (T.E.D.), today, growing up, the best description of me would have been The Emotions Avoider (T.E.A.). I had a major wake-up call which made me realize that I was not mastering my emotions and using all of the important information my feelings made available to me. I had to learn to master my emotions.
Without going into a whole lot of detail, emotions in my family were not dealt with well.
My dad came from a generation in which feelings, with the possible exception of anger, were not expressed and may have been associated with weakness. When he heard of my mom’s death and was moved to tears, he apologized to me for his display of emotion. Even anger was not expressed all that much by my dad and, when it was, the expression tended to be excessive and out of proportion to the precipitating event. I should mention that he was never abusive.
Emotionally, my dad was bland and unavailable. I learned from my dad that feelings, and especially anger, were to be tightly controlled.
My mom, while emotionally present, tended to focus on organizing what needed to be done. I learned from her that emotions were not really important and were to be kept at bay in order to facilitate accomplishing the task at hand.
I should add that I am not blaming my parents for what they “taught” me about feelings. They were good parents and did the best they could. Emotionally, they did what they were “taught” and passed on what they knew to me.
My way of dealing with feelings was to suppress them, go inside my head, and deal with issues cognitively. When feelings came up, as they did, I withdrew, thought things out on my own, decided what needed to be done, and did what I had to do. I was not able to use the message of my anger to energize action, use the message of my anxiety to energize a possible threat and formulate an effective plan, or utilize my grief to step back and mourn the loss of my pets who died. Anger left me feeling weak instead of powerful. Anxiety left me feeling inadequate. And, grief just sucked. I tried to accept what was happening to the best of my ability and move on.
My becoming The Emotions Doctor happened over many years and was the result of having to adapt to situations involving emotions which required me to grow. These were my emotional wake-up calls.
As a psychology intern without a drug problem but a desire to learn about dealing with substance abusers, I volunteered as a “participant-observer” in a residential alcoholic treatment program. It took the group 6 months to break through my cognitive defenses and show me the anger and hurt I kept inside. They called me a non-drinking alcoholic as I avoided my feelings with my books and my mind while they did it by self-medicating.
Working with young women at the California Youth Authority, if I was to be an effective therapist, I had to learn how to help them understand the feelings they held in regarding their own abuse and the serious crimes they had committed. As a staff trainer, I had to learn how to help jaded correctional officers and, as a professional speaker, overly emotionally protected law-enforcement personnel, to understand what emotions were and how to deal with them. Professional integrity forced me to master my own emotions so that I could then focus on helping others master theirs. I developed the Emotions as Tools Model as a teaching aide. This is the topic of my first book Emotions as Tools: A Self Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Feelings.
My focus on anger and my second book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool came about because I realized that this emotion is highly misunderstood and, if you look at the news, widely and inappropriately expressed. Not only do people need to learn how to master their own anger but people need to learn, for self-defense, how to master the anger of others directed at them.
I don’t know what your emotional wake-up calls will be. Maybe, your emotions will result in you making some bad decisions. Maybe, your lack of emotional mastery will result in others taking advantage of you. Or, maybe, you are here just to get some information.
Whatever the case is for you, I am glad that you are here. My goal in this blog is to give you information which is designed to help you master your emotions hopefully before you have an emotional wake-up call or after, if that is how it is for you.
I welcome your comments.