Psychology

Part 1: Mastering Your Emotions 

We’ve all been there.

Something triggers us and – boom! – we’re instantly in reaction mode, filled with anger or sadness or some kind of pain.

There must be a way to make that easier, right? So that whatever is happening around you, like the loud tossing waves on the surface of the ocean, your inner world can be as still and quiet as the deepest underwater sanctuary.

As it turns out, there are a lot of ways to get to that place of peace and stay there. Different things work for different people in different situations, so I like to think of it as building your emotional toolbox. Store up insights, tools, and ideas that you can pull out to help you anytime. It’s a good amount of work, for sure. But if you get even a little bit better at mastering your emotions, it can have a really big impact on how much you can enjoy life without suffering.

My Emotional Toolbox 

Here’s what’s in my emotional toolbox. Feel free to take anything you want from here, try it out, and add your own tools too! 

  • Rational emotive behavior therapy
  • Practicing acceptance, openness, and compassion 
  • Living by my values 
  • Separating reaction from action 
  • Creating space in my body through dance, yoga, breathing 
  • Having a cuddle buddy 
  • Working on being patient 
  • Loving and taking care of myself 
  • Giving to others 
  • Committing to my own boundaries, respecting other people’s too 
  • Saying no, hearing other people’s no, honoring no in myself and others 
  • Asking for what I want and letting go of the answer 
  • Communicating small things before they turn into big resentments 
  • Being in nature 
  • Sitting with difficult emotions, just letting them be there and pass through me 
  • Always having backup plans 
  • Genuinely wanting other people to have what they need and be who they are 
  • Switching into different modes depending on the situation: self-care mode, relationship mode, parenting mode, work mode, weekend mode 
  • Pausing to reflect on what words or actions feel most right at the moment 
  • Taking space to myself when I need it and connecting with others when I need it 
  • Really listening to myself and others  
  • Feeling gratitude and breathing into my heart to find the answer I need 
  • Vitamin D in the morning to wake up, Magnesium at night to relax
These are a few ways of thinking about situations that I remind myself of pretty frequently. 
  • Let emotional storms pass (in yourself and others) 
  • Seek to understand yourself and others with curiosity 
  • It’s not about you 
  • Other people don’t control your happiness (you do) 
  • People don’t have as much power over you as they or you might think 
  • Write down negative thoughts and label whose voice they are (not yours), to take away their power 
  • That’s not my circus and those are not my monkeys (focus on what can you actually control and don’t worry about the rest) 
  • Let suffering and love both open you  
  • Let go of negative emotions and also let go of resistance to positive ones. It’s ok to feel amazing! 
  • The quality of your questions is super important – instead of ‘why does this always happen to me?’ try ‘how is this the best possible thing that could have happened?’ or ‘what if I do the opposite for a while and see what happens?’ 
  • Whatever bothers you about anyone else is often something you don’t like or haven’t accepted about yourSELF 
  • If someone criticizes you, it’s more a comment about them than about you 
  • Since you’ll never be happy trying to keep reaching for perfection, be happy with yourself as you are right now 
  • Beauty shines from the inside 
  • When you’re having a strong reaction to something, it’s a great chance to learn about yourself and how to increase your psychological flexibility for future situations 
  • Time invested in understanding yourself and your relationships better is always worth it 
  • Life is too short to suffer 
  • Experiences can bring you more happiness than things 
  • Negative emotions are there for a reason, to teach you something 
  • Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available

Part 2: Building Strong Relationships 

No one lives in a vacuum. We come from a family, we may make a family as we get older, we often integrate friends, lovers, kids, and co-workers into our days.

Relationships make up the threads from which we weave our lives. They can bring us soaring love and also cause us immense pain. The good news is, we learn from past experience. And we can learn from the experiences of others too.

I’m sure you’ll find some lessons out the hard way, and I wish you comfort and ease as you do. There is great insight that can come from suffering. 

To hopefully save you a bit of heartache and stress, these are some of the things I’ve learned about how to create and nurture strong, loving relationships that sustain and inspire you.

  • Give people (and yourself) space when they (and you) need it 
  • Keep solid boundaries 
  • Assume that people you love have good intentions, even if you don’t always understand why they’re doing what they’re doing 
  • Always have backup plans 
  • Trust yourself, trust others 
  • No news is good news, don’t worry if you haven’t heard back 
  • If people are being mean, they’re probably really just anxious 
  • Take in information from other people as feedback, not attacks 
  • If you think people are judging you, it’s probably you judging yourself, and if people actually are judging you, they’re probably feeling insecure and judging themselves 
  • Keep things peaceful and easy as much of the time as possible 
  • Don’t over-react 
  • Be the first one to let go, and the fight stops 
  • Remember that there are other people in the world right now feeling the same joy, pain, or whatever you’re feeling 
  • Follow the platinum rule: treat others the way THEY want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated 
  • Find the most generous explanation for other people’s behavior – maybe they’re having a bad day 
  • Take gentle care of yourself – your relationship with yourself matters too 
  • Set up systems that nourish and protect you and then relax into them 
  • Do nothing in particular sometimes 
  • Get into your heart/body and out of your head 
  • Try little experiments and see how they work out. Learn and adapt 
  • Your job is not to make everyone else happy, and you are not everyone’s therapist 
  • You can’t change or control other people, but you can discover who they are and what they want, and see how that does or doesn’t fit with who you are and what you want 
  • Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about 
  • The deeper that sorrow carves into you, the more joy you can hold
  • Compassion for others starts with compassion for ourselves

Part 3: Impacting The World 

Once you’ve figured out your emotions and relationships, you might think you’re done. That’s all there is.

But wait, there’s always room to grow and contribute! The world is a vast place with a staggering number of people needing things – love, help, learning, inspiration, not to mention the basic necessities of food, shelter, water, health care.

One person can most definitely make a difference, so why not you?

I’ve found that a good way to start is to find a cause you’re passionate about (I get excited about the idea of helping people suffer less), and then find ways to make that part of the world a little bit better.

Let’s use this precious gift of life to make people’s lives a little bit brighter. 

For whatever way you choose to do impact the world, here are some thoughts to get you started. 
  • Add value and give first, think about getting value and earning second. When you do ask for value in return, make sure you are asking for enough (you’re worth more than you think) 
  • Help people every day, even if it’s just a tiny thing 
  • Maximize upside potential and minimize downside risk 
  • Know where your money is going every month (categorize your expenses) 
  • Spend where you get value, cut all other expenses 
  • Contribute beyond yourself, and make sure to show up! 
  • Let yourself have fun with some of your money too 
  • Always grow, and always allow others to grow 
  • Learn all the time 
  • Be curious 
  • We grow or we die 
  • Keep finding the next level 
  • Try anything once unless it could hurt you or someone else or it’s addictive 
  • When anything happens, ask yourself, how is this great? 
  • Life is happening for you, not to you. What’s the lesson in every experience? 
  • All setbacks are temporary, no defeat is final 
  • Keep changing your approach until you find a way that works to get you where you want to be 
  • All you need is love. And it’s inside you

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