Step #2 of The Emotional Mastery Cycle: Manage Your Emotional Readiness

This is the second of three posts covering the Emotional Mastery Cycle (EMC)

In my last post, I introduced the 4 steps of the EMC.

To review, here are the 4 steps.

  1. self-awareness
  2. manage your own readiness
  3. understand the message of each emotion and assess the match between your emotion and the situation in which you find yourself
  4. choose and impliment an adaptive response

In learning how to master your emotions, it is important to know that emotions have two primary functions.

Two Primary Functions of Emotions

  1. They alert us  to the presence of an emotionally significant event (ESE).
  2. They prepare our bodies to deal with the ESE.

In my last post, I addressed the first function of emotions when I spoke about learning to be aware that you were experiencing an emotion,

In this post, I will focus on Step #2 which looks at the process by which our emotions prepare us to take action to deal with a perceived threat.

Emotional Action Readiness and the EMC

As I mentioned in my last post, the emotional process is very quick and evolved to prepare our ancestors to face threats which would kill them. I  call these survival based threats.

This preparation is the same for us today as it was for our ancestors.

Part of that preparation involves..

  • an increase in heart rate,
  • a narrowing of one’s focus so that attention could be directed to the threat and distractions could be minimized and
  • a channeling of the blood flow to the large muscles in case our ancestors needed to escape flee from the threat.

Other changes also occur.

Nico Fridja described these physical changes as an emotional action readiness because our emotions prepare our bodies to respond to a variety of threats.

The body is prepped for action.

However, and this is critical,…

how we choose to unleash this action readiness depends on the specific threat and the specific emotion that threat elicits.

For our ancestors, every threat was survival based.  Consequently, the emotion, and the action they were prepped to take, were always in sync.

In other words, the emotion always matched the threat.

For you and me, however, nearly all of the threats we face are psychological in nature.

Psychological threats involve our goals, our view of the world, our egos and so forth.  And, while psychological threats are important, they are not fatal.

The challenge is that our brains do not, initially, distinguish between a survival based and a psychological threat.

All threats are treated as survival based.

The implications of responding to all threats as if they were survival threats include:

  • We can’t assume that just because we feel like there is a threat that a threat exists.
  • The very real possibility that we are incorrect in our initial assessment of the threat.
  • We might engage in an action our emotions prep us for and do something that is inappropriate based on our initial misinterpretation of the threat.
  • We need to learn to match our response to the situation.
  • This requires a more flexible approach to our emotions.

This is where step #2 of the EMC comes in.

Step #2 of the EMC:  Manage Your Readiness

It is important to point out that Step #2 advises you to manage your readiness. 

To put this another way, step #2 involves lowering the energy level the emotion creates in your body.

Your emotions are designed to both focus your attention on and motivate you to take some action to deal with the perceived threat.  By definition, then, your emotions generate, or energize, you to take significant directed effective action to nullify or eliminate the threat.

The specific action that is energized varies with the emotion.

For example…

  • anger energizes you to go to war.
  • sadness motivates you to withdraw so that you can heal
  • anxiety, as a future based emotion, motivates to take effective action to prevent the perceived threat

The challenge in mastering your emotion is that, if you are overwhelmed by the readiness to take a specific action, you can’t focus your attention on assessing or understanding the emotion and the nature of the threat that emotion is highlighting.

So, you need to manage your readiness to act or your emotional energy level.

Let me give you an example.

As I am writing this, Russia has amassed an Army on the Border of Ukraine.  The US and NATO are energized to take massive action should Russia invade Ukraine.  Both sides are set to act.  Should one country do something that may be misinterpreted as an “offensive” action, the whole situation will escalate out of control very fast.

An attempt is being made to diplomatically reduce the State of Readiness and the resultant threat level.

As applied to your emotions, there are two steps involved in this process.

First of all, as soon as you become aware that you are experiencing an emotion, you need to take a deep breath, or two, elicits a lowering of your emotional reactivity level.

An Effective Deep Breath (4-4-4)

An effective deep breath involves inhaling to a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, and exhaling to a count of four.  Different writers may use a different count but keeping it consistent makes it easier to remember.

It Takes Practice

It is important to note that you will have to “practice” this process so that when you do experience an emotion, it will occur to you to take a deep breath.  To practice this, whenever you experience an emotion (regardless of its intensity) take a deep breath. You will begin to associate a deep breath with emotional mastery.

A Physical Step Back

Secondly, if warranted, take a physical step back from the situation. This  provides you with some physical distance between you and the emotional situation.

Manageing vs Mastering

Reducing, or managing, your emotional readiness is, in my opinion, the only part of the EMC where the idea of managing your emotions is appropriate.

The idea of managing an emotion implies controlling that emotion.  While other writers may recommend controlling an emotion as in managing your anger (anger management courses), I speak about mastering your emotions.

There are three reasons for this..

1.The idea of managing an emotion implies that you have some kind of control over, or that you should seek to control, your emotions.

I believe that the idea of controlling your emotions is misleading because controlling an emotion, while possible in the short run, can’t be maintained unless you are professionally trained to do so (think Navy Seals).

2.Secondly, the idea of controlling an emotion implies that you can eliminate emotions you don’t like.

Eliminating an emotion is misleading both because you can’t do it and because you wouldn’t want to.

3.I believe that all emotions are tools that need to be mastered.

Mastery involves learning what the tool does and developing a specific skill set that enables you to get the most out of the tool and all it was designed to do.

I have seen, both in person and on videos, professionals accomplish tasks with tools, such as power saws, that I would never thought were possible.  I can use my power saws to cut lumber in a variety of ways.  But, I would never call myself either professional or creative with my saws. In other words, I am an amateur and have not really mastered my saws.

It is the same way with emotions.

I teach people how to master their emotions as tools and I do consider myself a professional when it comes to emotions.

No-one is perfect so stay with it.

However, while most of the time, I have mastered my emotions, to be honest, sometimes my emotions do get the best of me.  For a while…..

That said, there is a place for managing the emotional process.  And that place is Step #2 of the EMC.

 A Final Note

The unconscious fast nature of the EMC is often assumed to mean that our emotions control us. This “control” is used as an excuse to justify inappropriate behavior.  Spousal abusers, for example, will claim “If you hadn’t done XYZ, I wouldn’t have (hit, abused, mistreated) you.”

This is an attempt to avoid responsibility for one’s actions.

The truth is that we all have a choice about how we respond to our emotions.  (This is what Steps #2 and #4 are all about.)

Emotions prepare us for action.  They never force us to do anything.

And, that takes us to the final two steps in the EMC which I will address in my next post.




How do you physically experience and manifest emotions? Step 1 of the Emotional Mastery Cycle (EMC).

This my 201st and first post of 2022.

Going into 2022, for your convenience, I have made it very easy for you to access all of my previous posts with 3 clicks.  

  1. Clicking on the INDEX tab above will give you a drop down menu of the categories under which my posts are listed.
  2. Clicking on the CATEGORY will give you a list of all the posts in that category.  
  3. You then can click on the specific TITLE and you will be redirected to the post you want.

It is that simple.

And, now, the Emotional Mastery Cycle (EMC)…

The main underlying message in all of my posts is that everyone can learn to master their emotions as strategic tools.

The process of mastering emotions is described by the emotional mastery cycle.

While it is a little more complicated in its entirety, the emotional mastery cycle (EMC) can be summarized in 4 steps.

In  the next  three posts, I will discuss the EMC in detail.

My goal is to provide you with the information you need to, at the very least, begin to master your emotions in 2022.

The 4 steps are:

  1. self-awareness
  2. manage your own readiness
  3. understand the message of each emotion and assess the match between your emotion and the situation in which you find yourself
  4. choose an adaptive response

Step 1 of the EMC: Self-awareness

Basically, all emotions start with your subconsciously scanning your surroundings.

When a threat is perceived, it is automatically labelled an “emotionally significant” event (ESE) because it represents an event that is important to you for some reason. Importance could involve a physical or psychological threat or a situation which commands your attention because it is interesting, engaging or unique.

It is important to note that you determine the criteria for labelling an  event as a threat.  You also need to know that you may, or may not, be immediately aware of those criteria.

Physical (or survival based) Threat

A  physical threat could involve an assault on your body, or a situation involving pending or existent damage to your physical possessions, financial well-being.  A physical threat is perceived as imperiling some aspect of your survival as an individual (or family). The threat may be actual or implied.

Psychological Threat

A psychological threat involves an actual or implied compromising of your values, your plans, your goals, your dreams, or your self-esteem/self-worth.

An ESE may be “real” in the sense that it is clearly identifiable by you or by an observer.

Or, it can be identifiable only by you.

The ESE may also be “real” only to you and exist only in your imagination.

The specific “status” of the ESE is irrelevant if the emotional part of your brain (your Amygdala) subconsciously recognizes and reacts to the an ESE and subconsciously elicits a  physical reaction in your body.

This subconscious process is very fast, is outside of your awareness and is the basis for people (incorrectly) believing that their emotions control them.

The emotional process evolved to allow our cave ancestors to quickly react to a threat, which for those cave dwellers, was a survival based threat which would kill them.

Our cave dwelling ancestors didn’t have to master their emotions. They only needed to recognize a threat and take effective action. The reason for this is that all of the threats our ancestors faced were survival based. They either nullified the threat or they died.

You and I, however, are in a different situation.  The threats we face today are usually psychological threats to our goals, our egos, our quality of life etc.

So, we need to master our emotions and this mastery process begins with self-awareness.

We need to learn to recognize, identify and label the physical reactions elicited by our subconscious.

In this post, I will help you navigate through Step 1 of the EMC.

Step 1 of the EMC: Self-awareness

In this post, I will help you begin to become aware of your physical reaction to an emotionally significant event.

Some people are keenly aware of their bodies.  Others, not so much.

The physical changes in your body that may indicate an emotion include:

  • the tightening of specific muscle groups,
  • a change in perceived temperature in your body (hot or cold),
  • an alteration in a “physical” system such as breathing,
  • stomach churning

There can also be behavioral changes which can seem to spontaneously occur in reaction to an ESE.  These changes include (but are not limited to):

  • rate of thinking (increasing or decreasing) or
  • a noticeable change in behavior that is not typical of you (there are examples below)

The goal is to become aware of any significant changes and be able to determine if there is a connection to a specific emotion.

Below are 4 exercises you can use to help you connect your physical reactions to specific emotions.

Exercises #1 is the most important so do that one first.  After you’ve spent some time with #1, you can move on to #2, #3 and #4.

Exercise #1: Your Body-Your Reaction: A checklist

Take a moment and focus your attention on your body.  Go through the checklist below and try to recall if this “body part” gives you any information that an emotion is trying to grab your attention.

A checklist..


(tightening or a headache)


(tears, tightening around the eyes)


(“forced” smiling, tightening, dryness, clenched teeth)


(any noticeable changes including speeding up, slowing down, shortness of breath or holding your breath)


(flushed, warm)


(muscles tightening)




(clenched, white knuckles, sweaty palms)

Changes in body temperature

(feeling cold, warm or hot)

Changes in energy level

(decrease or increase)

Changes in behavior

(actions that are not typical for you such as withdrawing from, clinging to, or becoming verbally or physically aggressive toward others, sleeping excessively, blaming others, self-harm, drug/alcohol abuse)


(it’s your body so you name the physical changes)

Exercise #2:

Try to recall (as vividly as possible) a situation in which you felt a specific emotion such as “stressed” (anxiety), angry, happy, sad, frustrated, guilty, or surprised.  Imagine each emotion separately.  As you “relive” each event, you may find your body reacting as it does when those feelings are present. Note any physical sensations you experience during this exercise.

Exercise #3:

Ask a friend who both knows you well and who you trust if they have ever noticed how you react when you experience the above emotions.  Sometimes, others know us better than we know ourselves.

Exercise #4:

In real time as you experience an emotional event, try to connect the emotion, your body and the event.

Keep in mind that learning about your body involves new learning and takes both time and practice.


Once, you become adept at knowing how your body informs you that you are facing an emotional situation, you are now in a position to master your emotions as tools and strategically deploy those emotions to improve your life and your relationships.

You are ready to move on to Step #2 of the Emotional Mastery Cycle which I will cover in my next post.