How to know where and why
We are made in God’s image, and our wonderful complex array of emotions is a part of our Design. But sometimes we need to check within, and take notice of whether we are being controlled by our emotions or we are in control.
The former can get us into trouble!
As an actor I felt a good bit of my responsibility to the craft was to learn the hierarchy of emotions so that I could get to the root of the character life that I was portraying. They may be angry in a scene, but what was fueling that anger? Was she feeling shame or betrayal? Was she fearful of something?
We see a lot of anger in today’s media. We can’t label all anger as a bad thing. It can be a motivator, getting you into action. It was anger that allowed me to take the risk to move to New York City in my teens. It was only when I realized the anger was controlling me in my early twenties that I saw the issue of having my emotion in control of me. Anger was in my way of moving forward, in my social life and, I have no doubt, it was limiting my career as well.
So how do you know if you’re an emotion is in the driver’s seat instead of you?
- Its recurring. It has a pattern of showing up regularly. It could be depression, anger or another, even a “positive” emotion like excitement, but often times it doesn’t take much to bring it to the forefront of your day. This is a problem if it is stopping you form being productive, social or happy.
- Uncontrollable when it occurs. An example you may understand is when anger arises at a seemingly small thing. A video on social media showed a celebrity angry at how his wife chewed her food. (The anger was most likely not initiated by her chewing, but his reaction was due to possibly compounded frustrations, showing up as instant, out-of-proportion hostility toward her noisy chomping).
- You can’t shake it. You replay the “video” in your mind of a situation over and over. You cannot escape the emotion, although you try. In a case of an adult who reacted with adrenaline rush, shakiness and tears to an angry insult by a stranger.. she was reliving a trauma from childhood. Her brain was telling her she was in danger, although in the current time, she was not.
So how can you take back control? Here are two ways:
- Find the root. Name the underlying emotion. Acknowledge it aloud. Not just the emotion that presented, like ”anger.” Do what actors do: break the anger down to a root emotion. Perhaps look first at fear. What are you afraid of that needs protection by the anger? By doing this you may discover that the current situation you react to is really not worth the emotional energy, and you will be able to take the power back.
- Medicate if needed but don’t stop there. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that sometimes medication is necessary to ease emotions until we can get a hold of them. I like to look at medication as a way to treat a symptom, but by looking at the root cause you may disempower the disruptive emotion and be able to wean away from the medicine. If you have suffered trauma, I recommend working with a psychologist or mental health professional that specializes in recovery from trauma. I have seen first-hand how equine-assisted therapy programs can work wonders. Feel free to contact me and I’ll do what I can to find you someone near you that could help.
Above all else, remember you are stronger than your emotions. It’s healthy to feel them. Allow them to happen. They are a beautiful and complicated part of being human.