When I was younger my fantasy was that, if I could sufficiently master some self-defense style, I would never have to worry about getting into a fight because I would be able to block any punch that was thrown at me.
I could always punch back if I had to but I wouldn’t have to.
If I successfully blocked all incoming attacks, my opponent would give up in frustration and walk away. My “victory” would be assured.
I say this was my fantasy because, while I did get into an occasional fight when I was younger, I didn’t hang around situations which would evolve into physical combat.
I have, however, been involved in some verbal altercations. But, that is another issue.
As The Emotions Doctor, I started thinking about how emotions are viewed as contagious.
- An emotion gets “started” in a crowd and it escalates through the group.
- Someone approaches you from a particular emotional “orientation” such as anger and you tend to react with anger. The situation can easily escalate and get out of hand.
- Have you ever become emotional in a movie? There is no “real” situation but your emotions are very “real”.
- The notion of an Amygdala hijack is quite real.
Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with “catching” an emotion.
What I am saying is that you, as a strategic deployer of emotions, should be prepared to master your emotions so that you are not blind-sided by the situation.
Every year at Christmas, I watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”. And, every year, I cry when the community comes to Jimmy Stewart’s rescue.
Do I want to prevent this from happening?
- I know the cause of the emotion and I am a willing participant in it.
- The emotion is part of the experience of the movie.
- I don’t catch anything. And, I am not blindsided.
- In short, there is nothing I need to manage, control, or master.
So, let’s explore what is involved in emotional self-defense.
Emotional Awareness (Mindfulness)
You will need to be consciously mindful of the situation you are in.
Mindfulness means you are in the moment. You are focusing your attention on yourself and the other person, or people, in the situation.
In other words, you will need to be aware of BOTH the emotional state of the other person and your own emotional state.
In other posts, I’ve written about how you need to be aware of your body and the physical signs it gives you that inform you that you are experiencing a particular emotion.
For you, this might involve muscles tightening, changes in body temperature, thoughts “speeding up” or “slowing down” and so forth.
Sometimes, you may experience an emotion in a specific situation and not really know what is eliciting that feeling. In this case, consider the idea that you are reacting to another person.
For another person, you might have to infer, or “guess” what they are feeling from their actions.
- Do they appear to be angry or sad or anxious in how they stand, gesture, distance from you or look to you?
- Do they sound like they are experiencing a particular emotion in their words, volume, inflection, pauses and so forth?
Emotional Self-Mastery and a Mastery Mindset
As soon as you become aware of an emotion, either in yourself or in another person, you want to go into a mastery mindset.
A mastery mindset involves..
- taking a deep breath (psychological safety)
- taking a step back from the situation (physical safety)
- assessing the emotion and
- deciding how you want to respond to it.
Note: You might recognize this from the Anger Mastery Cycle
As long as you are in response mode, and not reaction mode, you are engaging in emotional self-defense.
Your own emotions.
If you become aware of your own emotions first, you can assess the situation and determine the extent to which you are either responding to what is going on or reacting.
A response is a choice.
If I am angry with you and can identify what it is about you that I perceive as a threat, I am responding to the situation.
If I experience myself crying, getting sad, becoming angry and have not chosen this response, I am reacting.
When this happens, I need to go into response mode.
Response mode gives me the opportunity to decide what I want to do. It does not mean I have to do anything.
The key to emotional self-defense is choice. The particular emotion is not the issue, per se.
Going back to my original fantasy, I didn’t think about what kind of punch or physical aggression I might face.
In my fantasy, it didn’t matter.
I would block whatever you threw at me whether it was a punch or a round-house kick.
If I am mastering my emotions and yours as they impact me, the emotion is irrelevant.
I will do whatever I have to do, in the situation, to control the situation by strategically deploying my emotions in the context of that situation.
All of the above are “blocking” strategies. Sometimes, you want to take a more active approach to mastering the emotions of others. This involves asking questions.
I have addressed this approach and other relevant issues in previous posts.
Click on the title and you will be redirected to the post.
- Why labelling an emotion (correctly) is important. June 2019
- Mindfulness-The Overlooked Key to Emotional Mastery October 2020
- You are the target of someone’s anger: Part 1 of 3 February 2017
- Happy Independence Day. Let’s Talk about Emotional Preparedness and Your Emotional Independence. July 2018
- Why it feels like someone else makes you angry. (Note: They don’t.) And, what you can do.December 2018
- Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 1: Some emotions have a “flipside”. August 2017
- Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 2: The Functions of emotions 1 through 5.August 2017
- Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 3: Functions of emotions 6 through 10.August 2017
- Facts about emotions you didn’t know. Part 4: You create your emotions (and this has implications). August 2017
- Yoda quotes and emotions as tools. April 2018
- Effective empathy June 2016
- Barriers to effective empathy July 2016
- Effective Empathy- Step 2 and 3 July 2016
- You Cannot NOT Communicate September 2016