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In this report, I will present some of the most powerful ways to gain control over your own emotions. For most of us, our emotions seem to take over automatically, influencing how we think and how we behave, and consequently, how we conduct our lives. You can vastly increase your personal power by imposing more and more conscious control over your emotional states. Furthermore, your personal power tends to decrease to the extent that you indulge in negative emotions. Negative emotions, which have a biological usefulness, are largely destructive in modern humans living in our artificially enhanced environments. I might also add that many of us habitually abdicate control of our negative emotions without ever realizing that doing so amounts to a tremendous waste of our lives.
The following is a brief overview of the main elements of emotional control covered in this report. By integrating and implementing this material you can profoundly increase your control over your own emotions.
• Brain physiology. Learning how your brain works is an important aspect of emotional control. Once you realize that emotions are largely an automatic function of the human brain, it is much easier to learn how to begin controlling them. Personal growth and evolution is mostly a matter of exerting more control over our reflexes. Reading this report will give you a rudimentary understanding of the physiological origins of emotions.
• Automatic thoughts. In many instances our negative emotional responses are directly preceded by automatic thoughts. These automatic thoughts remain hidden for most people. Unless you train yourself to look for these thoughts, you will probably be unaware of them. This report contains instructions for learning how to monitor your automatic thoughts.
• Identification. When we identify ourselves with our negative emotional states, it is difficult to control them. By identifying with our negative emotions, we open up the possibility (and likelihood) that we will become dominated by them. Emotional control is essentially a matter of disidentifying with or detaching ourselves from our negative emotions.
• Emotional control techniques and therapies. Freeze-framing is a simple yet powerful technique for disengaging from negative emotions. When you freeze-frame, you shift out of gear and into neutral.
Thought field therapy enables you to access the deepest, most fundamental underlying cause of all negative emotions. Major debilitating emotions such as depression, anxiety and phobias can be quickly eliminated by correcting the problem at the fundamental level.
Idenics is a self-development technology which enables you to rid yourself of unwanted mental or emotional conditions.
At the end of this report I suggest specific steps for beginning to achieve emotional control.
THE TRIUNE BRAIN
In order to increase your control over your emotions, it is helpful to understand emotions from the viewpoint of a brain specialist. This will help you to understand the origins of our emotions and why we have them. The advantage of this is the same of any type of self-knowledge the more you become aware of the mechanical or automatic aspects of yourself, the more you are able to increase your control over them.
Although we often refer to our brains as a single, solid unit, it is clear that this is not an accurate description. Rather, our brains consist of a conglomerate of various sub-brains and sections, all interconnected. Dr. Paul D. MacLean, a prominent brain researcher, has developed a model of brain structure which he calls the "triune brain." In other words, humans have not one brain but three. (Actually, even this is an oversimplification; but this model has the advantage of displaying our evolutionary heritage.) MacLean states that the human brain "amounts to three interconnected biological computers," with each biocomputer having "its own special intelligence, its own subjectivity, its own sense of time and space, its own memory, motor, and other functions." Each of the three brains corresponds to a major evolutionary development and are categorized as follows the reptilian brain, the old mammalian brain and the new mammalian brain. MacLean illustrates this point facetiously when he points out that when a psychiatrist asks his patient to lie down on the couch, he is asking him to stretch alongside a horse and a crocodile.
According to the triune model of the brain, evolution has simply added new sub-brains to preexisting ones like a man who keeps building additional structures onto an old house. However, to continue with the analogy, with each new addition to the house the physical structure of the older components were altered or modified to some extent. In other words, the reptile brain in humans is not exactly the same as the brain of a lizard. That is not to say we haven’t retained any reptilian functions in our brains; we most certainly have. MacLean has shown that our reptile brains play a major role in our aggressive behavior, territoriality, ritual and social hierarchies.
In The Dragons of Eden, after describing the characteristic behaviors of the reptile brain which I’ve just listed above, Carl Sagan says, "This seems to me to characterize a great deal of modern human bureaucratic and political behavior." Bureaucratic behavior is "controlled at its core" by the reptilian brain, hence we observe coercion and physical violence, territorial and jurisdictional claims, political rituals such as the presidential motorcade, and the social hierarchies for which bureaucratic organizations are notorious. Sagan does, however, believe there is hope for the human future since it is within our powers to adjust the relative role each section of the triune brain plays in our lives.
We are also highly influenced by our old mammalian brains which, as we will see later, are capable of a much wider range of emotional response.
The most ancient of the three brains is called the reptilian brain or the R-complex. (See diagram above.) The R-complex evolved around 200 million years ago.
As I’ve mentioned above, the reptilian brain is still influential in humans; in fact, it still performs in much the same way as it did for our remote ancestors. Much of human behavior can be described in reptilian terms, especially those involving aggression and territoriality.
In addition, the R-complex also influences our emotions. If, as MacLean suggests, our brains are a kind of biological computer, then just like all computers, they are run by programs instruction codes. Programs can be genetically transmitted or they can be acquired after birth. Furthermore, the older and more primitive a brain, the fewer programs it has to choose from; it also tends to rely almost completely on genetic programs which have been "hard-wired" into the brain. The primitive reptile brain is basically a survival brain, possessing only a few dozen or so ancient programs to choose from.
The emotional responses of the reptile brain are severely limited. Leslie Hart, a writer on brain research, states "As we look at the three-brain structure of humans, it becomes manifest that, in general, the old, more primitive schemata and programs and the cruder emotions are in the oldest brain tissue, and that the highly subtle pattern-detecting capabilities are in the newest, the neo-cortex" [author’s italics]. In other words, initially, emotions were directly related to basic survival needs. To see why this is so, we need to understand the concepts of "homeostasis" and "biasing."
The human body has a built-in ability to regulate itself; it maintains the settings of various bodily conditions within certain established parameters. Take, for example, body temperature. We have a kind of thermostat which regulates the temperature of the body, just like we have thermostats attached to the heating and air conditioning systems in our homes. We have many of these thermostats regulating and adjusting various bodily factors.
For the most part, the aim of these thermostats is to keep our various bodily systems in balance something called "homeostasis." The oldest function of emotions was to change the bias or setting of our bodily systems. To illustrate this, imagine a rabbit feeding on some vegetation. In this quiet and calm state, its internal systems are biased at a low setting. Now imagine a fox suddenly shows up. Noticing this, the rabbit reacts by abruptly shifting its internal setting. It has rebiased its homeostasis setting to "emergency." This is similar to suddenly moving the thermostat pointer in your house from 78° to 44° and the heat (or cool air if it’s summertime) starts pouring in. When the rabbit changes over to the emergency setting, the drastic changes in various bodily systems prepare the animal for immediate action. "This emergency shift of bias," says Hart, "lies at the heart of what we call emotion."
Now, it is important to keep in mind that in humans, although our reptile brains are fully functional, the various parts of the brain are all interconnected and, consequently, influence one another. Next, we take a look at the old mammalian brain, also known as the limbic system.
The Limbic System
The old mammalian brain, or the limbic system, is sandwiched between the R-complex and the new mammalian brain. (See diagram above.) This brain is about 60 million years old and is far more sensitive and sophisticated than the R-complex.
The limbic system is much concerned with the emotions. Brain physiologists have discovered that the amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure located in the limbic system, plays a major role in both aggression and fear. When the amygdala of a placid domestic animal is stimulated electrically, the animal is roused into a high degree of fear or frenzy. Conversely, if the amygdala of a naturally ferocious animal is surgically removed, it becomes docile and will even tolerate being petted.
The limbic system also seems to be the origin of altruistic behaviors.
Says Carl Sagan, "Much in animal behavior substantiates the notion that strong emotions evolved chiefly in mammals and to a lesser extent in birds. The attachment of domestic animals to humans is, I think, beyond question. The apparent sorrowful behavior of many mammalian mothers when their young are removed is well-known. One wonders just how far such emotions go. Do horses on occasion have glimmerings of patriotic fervor? Do dogs feel for humans something akin to religious ecstasy? What other strong or subtle emotions are felt by animals that do not communicate with us?"
As a biocomputer, the old mammalian brain contains a much greater number of programs than its predecessor, allowing it a far wider range of response. In addition, the limbic system plays a major part in the generation of our emotions; in fact, we could call it our "emotion brain."
The newest brain, the neocortex or new mammalian brain, has only been around for a few million years. In humans the neocortex is also the largest of the three brains accounting for about five-sixths of the entire brain.
In order to see what role the neocortex plays in our emotional responses we need to back up a little. The R-complex is essentially a survival brain; it is capable of only a handful of behaviors. The limbic system is capable of a much wider range of behaviors, especially those concerning the emotions. As we have already seen, a component of the limbic system, the amygdala, plays a major role in fear and rage. The limbic system is largely responsible for the resetting of various bodily systems during our emotional reactions.
But in order for me to react to something with fear, I need to perceive or interpret that situation as warranting a fearful response. A part of my brain needs to say "If you’ve ever had the need to be afraid, it is right now!" If I am walking along the street and suddenly encounter a street gang wielding baseball bats, before I can feel afraid, I need to interpret this situation as a threat. By the same token, if I had been informed by someone that I would come across life-sized puppets in the form of a street gang, I would feel no fear at all; for I now interpret the situation as non-threatening. It is the job of the neocortex to detect patterns and interpret the "meanings" of situations.
The importance of this interpretation process will be discussed further in a later section on cognitive psychology. There we will see that many of us make the mistake in assuming that events and circumstances directly cause our emotional states. We forget about the cognitive process of interpretation which comes between the event and the emotion.
Shifting Down to Our Lower Brains
According to Hart, it is the process of resetting the biases and preparing the organism for a change in activity which constitutes emotion. For the most part this is obviously true. If I suddenly find myself face-to-face with a wild bear, in order to escape, I need to instantaneously reset various bodily systems and put myself into the "emergency, run like hell!" mode.
Says Hart "Emotions involve the human brain at all levels. To oversimplify, the oldest brain does the body resetting, the middle brain gives the orders, and the new brain provides complex and detailed analysis of the situation and gives permission for or inhibits the emotion. But the new brain, the cerebral cortex and its associated pathways, does not always win. It can be temporarily shunted out of the decision making as older, simpler circuits take over. A suitable term for this is ‘downshifting.’"
When we downshift, full use of our new brains is suspended and more control is given to our lower brains. One can readily see how this can become problematic. When we become upset or are in a negative emotional state, we turn over the controls to our lower brains and the consequence is something we’ve all experienced many times we can’t think clearly, our thinking becomes muddled, as if someone has thrown a bucket of mud on the windshield of our car.
Under any kind of threat we tend to downshift. The reason for this should be clear in many serious, threatening situations we are required to take immediate action. We confront a wild bear and we make an instantaneous decision to run. The lower brains work well in these kinds of situations; they were designed to make quick decisions. So downshifting is an automatic protection mechanism. It enables us to shift to more primitive and dependable response patterns.
Unfortunately, downshifting has an obvious downside. When we downshift, we lose full use of our new brain, the neo-cortex. Our ability to think straight seems to vanish. The problem is that we continue to downshift even when it is not necessary or even beneficial to do so.
By learning how to counteract or prevent ourselves from downshifting, we can greatly increase our personal power and our control over our emotions. An effective method for doing exactly this is the freeze-frame technique discussed below.
ON HUMAN STUPIDITY
Downshifting is actually one aspect of a much greater problem. Recall that when we downshift, we turn over the controls, so to speak, to our lower brains we revert to older and more primitive response patterns and programs. In addition, we tend to lose our ability to think straight.
However, even when we are not actually downshifting, we are strongly influenced by our reptilian and old mammalian brains.
Consider the following passage from Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminati Papers "The great genetic portion of stupidity is programmed into all of us and consists of ‘typical mammalian behavior.’ That is, a great deal of the human nervous system is on auto pilot, like the closely related chimpanzee nervous system and the more distantly related cow nervous system. The programs of territoriality, pack hierarchy, etc., are evolutionary stable strategies and hence work mechanically, without conscious thought. These evolutionary relative successes became genetic programs because they work well enough for the ordinary mammal in ordinary mammalian affairs. They only become stupidities in human beings, where higher cortical centers have been developed as monitoring systems to feed back more sophisticated survival techniques and correct these stereotyped programs with more flexible ones.
"In short, to the extent that a human follows the genetic primate-pack patterns, without feeding back from the cortex, that human is still acting like an ape, and hasn’t acquired facility in using the New Brain."
This goes to the heart of the problem of emotional control. Getting a handle on our emotions is a matter of gaining more conscious control over those behaviors which ordinarily swing in automatically without conscious thought. Now, many of our "typical mammalian behaviors" are quite useful, as when a mother responds automatically to the needs of her newborn child. It is when we allow ourselves to be controlled by these automatic (genetically programmed) functions without feedback from the new brain that we run into problems. For example, suppose my mammalian programming prods me to lash out at someone who I feel is challenging my position in a social hierarchy. If I were to pause and consciously consider the situation, I would probably come up with a much more effective strategy or course of action. But it’s more than that. For, as long as I continue to think and behave automatically, it is my programming which is running the show, not me. And the whole idea behind emotional control is that I am the one in control, not my programming nor my emotions.
Not only do we have more than one brain, but it could also be argued that we have more than one mind. Our minds are not a single unit. Rather, various "small minds" are constantly wheeling in and out and taking control at different moments. For example, you are driving to work and someone cuts you off. Suddenly your anger routine (one of your small minds) automatically swings to the forefront of your consciousness and takes over the controls. You find yourself yelling and cursing. A few minutes later, your anger routine subsides and you calm down.
Most of us seem to have all sorts of small minds which swing in and out, taking control of our consciousness. In order to develop more emotional control, you need to develop your ability to control the various small minds which tend to wheel in automatically. Says Robert Ornstein in his book, Multimind
And how do you begin running your own show? By practicing self-observation. Develop your ability to stand back and observe your own mental and emotional functioning as if you were a zoologist studying the living habits of animals. Describe what you see and take notes. Ornstein states, "Under the stimulus of self-observation, the [mental operating system] seems to begin to change and the fixed links between action and reaction are loosened, leaving room for some serious choices and redirection of the mind."
The multimind metaphor is also useful for increasing your ability to deal with other people’s emotional reactions. This is important when trying to avoid getting caught up in a process of knee-jerk emotional reactions with other people. In this scenario, someone says something which sets you off and you automatically react by saying something which irritates the other person, and on and on like a pendulum swinging back and forth. If, instead, you simply remain calm and say to yourself, "There goes one of her small minds again; I will not get dragged into this," you can avoid such a confrontation.
I highly recommend reading Multimind. It contains important information on emotional control.
TAPPING INTO YOUR AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS
One of the most critical aspects of gaining more emotional control is to learn how to identify your automatic thoughts. In most instances, our negative emotional responses are directly preceded by automatic thoughts. These automatic thoughts remain hidden for most of us. Unless you train yourself to look for these thoughts, you will probably not be aware of them. But once you do learn how to catch hold of your automatic thoughts, you will not only become aware of them, but you also learn how to control them.
An excellent source of information on automatic thoughts is Aaron T. Beck’s Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. You may also want to look into Renaeu Z. Peurifoy’s Anxiety, Phobias & Panic. Although both of these books are largely concerned with various emotional disorders, they contain valuable information on the topic of emotional control in general. They are both worth reading even if you don’t have any "emotional disorders."
Assigning Meaning to Events
The basic idea behind cognitive therapy is that by changing the way you think, you can change the way you feel and act. The process of changing the way you think consists of restructuring your thought processes; in fact, in cognitive therapy this is referred to as "cognitive restructuring." If you don’t like the way you are feeling or acting, you simply make changes in the way you think, hence the term "cognitive therapy."
It is not surprising then, that cognitive therapists argue that most of our emotions are a result of the interpretations we make of the events around us. This is quite different from the way we normally think about our emotional states. Usually, we tend to regard our emotional responses as being directly caused by outside events and situations. This view is reflected in the way we talk. For example, an angry man says of his wife, "She made me so mad!" Or, a gloomy woman says of her co-worker, "He made me sad." But, according to the cognitive approach, events and situations do not cause emotional reactions, as pulling back a rubber-band and releasing it causes it to snap back. Rather, it is our interpretation of the event which triggers the emotional response. Once we grasp this, we can see that it is of enormous importance for emotional control. Diagram #2 illustrates the cognitive explanation of emotional response.
For the most part, we are unaware of this process of interpretation or assigning meaning to events and situations because it happens automatically and very rapidly. A good example of this is driving a car. When I am driving, I am constantly making all sorts of judgments, evaluations and interpretations. I need to decide what the actions of the other drivers and pedestrians mean. I need to know what it means when I approach an intersection and I see a red light. I need to assign meanings to all of the events happening around me. And during the entire time that I am driving, the process of assigning meaning goes on automatically and unconsciously. If I could not make immediate, automatic interpretations, I would not be able to drive.
"The mind’s ability to interpret events quickly and automatically," says Peurifoy, "has led to the widespread misconception that people and events generate emotions. Most people don’t realize that it is the meaning they assign to people and events that actually generates emotions. Commonly used statements such as, ‘He made me mad,’ ‘She made me sad,’ or ‘That really made me happy,’ not only reflect this mistaken belief but actually reinforce it." Peurifoy goes on to say that if this mistaken idea were true, any given event or situation would generate the same emotional response in everyone encountering or experiencing it. This should be obvious to just about everyone. We’ve all noticed how an identical event or circumstance on different occasions results in different emotional responses in ourselves. For example, sometimes I feel a minor surge of irritation when another driver cuts me off on the road; on other occasions, the same event being cut off does not bother me in the least. Or, you may have noticed that some people tend to become depressed during a rainstorm, while others may become elated and full of energy. So even our own everyday experiences demonstrate the error in the notion that external events and other people directly cause our emotional reactions.
What Are Automatic Thoughts?
In Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders, Beck gives the following examples
During a walk, a woman immediately feels faint after suddenly realizing that she is three blocks away from her home.
Each time he drove his car through a tunnel, a professional athlete felt his heart pound and his chest constrict; and each time he would start to gasp for air and have thoughts that he was dying.
When he received compliments for his work, a successful novelist would cry bitterly.
At first, these reactions may seem quite puzzling. However, when given specific directions to do so, each of these people observed a sequence of thoughts and images that intervened between the event and the negative or unpleasant emotional reaction. Beck calls this "tapping into your internal communication system." Once the internal communication system is accessed and the stream of automatic thoughts uncovered, the emotional reactions of these individuals is much more understandable. With training, we can learn how to monitor and become aware of the rapid, automatic thoughts which occur between the event and our emotional response.
The woman in the above example was able to observe the sequence of automatic thoughts which entered her mind immediately before experiencing her anxiety. She found herself thinking, "I am really far away from home. If something happened to me now, I couldn’t get back in time to get help. If I fell down on the street here, people would just walk by they wouldn’t know me. Nobody would help me."
Similarly, the athlete who experienced fear and panic whenever he would drive through a tunnel also found his mind filled thoughts having to do with a sense of danger. When entering a tunnel, he found himself thinking, "This tunnel could collapse and I would suffocate." This was followed by a visual image of the tunnel collapsing around him, and immediately his chest began to tighten. He then interpreted the tension he felt in his chest to be a sign that he was suffocating. These thoughts of suffocation lead even more anxiety and other physical symptoms such as an increased pulse rate and shortness of breath.
In reaction to the compliments he received for his writing, the novelist experienced this automatic thought "People won’t be honest with me. They know I’m mediocre. They just won’t accept me as I really am. They keep giving me phony compliments." Once these thoughts were uncovered, his emotional reaction was much more understandable. He regarded his own work as inferior, therefore, he interpreted any compliments from other people as being insincere. In turn, his depression was further reinforced by his mistaken conclusion that other people were not honest and up front with him.
What is common to each of these three cases is that there was a more or less conscious thought between an external event and the individual’s specific emotional reaction. I say "more or less" because although these thoughts are directly accessible in our consciousness, we tend to be unaware of them unless we intentionally train ourselves to monitor them. At least part of the reason we tend not to notice them is they appear automatically and rapidly. It is analogous to wearing glasses. After wearing glasses for a while, we forget that we are wearing them. Yet they remain a part of our experience and perceptions (in fact they play an active part) even though we have forgotten about them. Training ourselves to track our automatic thoughts is like remembering that you are wearing glasses. And not only that. Its like taking them off and examining them.
Once you learn that your emotional responses are preceded by automatic thoughts, it is not difficult to train yourself to focus your attention on them during various events and circumstances. You then begin to see for yourself that thoughts and images link or come between external events and our emotional responses. Try it the next time you experience an emotion like fear. For example, you may notice that after walking past a dark alleyway, you suddenly feel afraid. Turn your attention inward and ask yourself what you were thinking immediately prior to feeling the fear. You may find out that an image of being attacked with a knife appeared in your mind. You may even have told yourself something like, "If I were suddenly attacked, I would not be capable of defending myself. I could end up bleeding to death on this sidewalk" even without being consciously aware of saying this to yourself.
We can also experience an emotion without an accompanying external event. In this case, by tracking down our thought processes, we will most likely find an automatic thought which preceded our emotional reaction.
Monitoring Your Automatic Thoughts
Learning how to monitor your automatic thoughts is not difficult. It is simply a matter of turning your attention inward and tracing back the series of thoughts which ran through your head just prior to experiencing the emotion. Since most people tend not to be aware of their automatic thoughts, the most important step is to know that you need to start looking for those thoughts.
It may also help to start practicing the skill of recalling the images and ideas which floated through your stream of consciousness during the last few moments. To do this, sit quietly and allow your mind to wander. After a minute or so, ask yourself what you are currently thinking about. Once you’ve identified that, ask yourself what led you to start thinking about what you were thinking about. Continue tracing your thought stream back as far as you can. Usually there is some connecting factor between each set of thoughts. For example, you may discover that you were just thinking about your Apple Macintosh computer. What brought up that topic in your mind? Well, just before that, you were thinking about how your neighbor wanted some advise on purchasing a computer. And what led you to start thinking about your neighbor? The fence between your house and your neighbor’s driveway needs to be repainted... You get the idea. You can then apply this skill to tapping your automatic thoughts.
Another thing which may help you learn to track your automatic thoughts is to study the examples provided in books like Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders and Anxiety Disorders and Phobias (see the bibliography at the end of this report for more information on these books). The following example comes from Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. A man became frightened whenever he came close to a dog even when there was no chance of being bitten or attacked by the animal. He would even feel nervous when passing a dog which was chained or fenced in or too small to harm him. The man was asked to try focusing on the thoughts which entered his mind the next time he saw a dog. He reported something which escaped his notice before; each time he saw a dog, he had the following thought "It’s going to bite me." By focusing on his automatic thoughts, the man was able to understand why he felt anxious whenever he saw a dog. By repeatedly recognizing his automatic thoughts when exposed to dogs, the man was able to overcome his anxiety and long-standing fear.
In a book called Dictionary of Typical Command Phrases, Richard W. Wetherill describes what he refers to as "command phrases," which are essentially automatic thoughts. Wetherill’s basic idea is this when we are emotionally upset, we program our brains with faulty and self-destructive programming. When in a state of emotional upset we say things like, "If he ever crosses me again, I’ll teach him a lesson!" Or, "I’ll never make anything out of myself!" These sentences then become "command phrases" which are installed in our unconscious minds where they continue to exert a powerful and destructive affect on us even after the emotional upset subsides.
Says Wetherill in his book How to Solve Problems and Prevent Trouble, "What happens is that in an outburst of emotional thinking the individual substitutes unreality for reality on the subject of the emotion. For him, the unreality thereafter tends to control." [my emphasis] And that, claims Wetherill, is the main source of our troubles and problems this process of creating distortions of logic during emotional upsets and having the distortions remain even after we are no longer upset.
This entire process is a kind of negative brain programming. The command phrases which you install in your brain during emotional upset thereafter become unconscious premises which are incorporated into your everyday thinking. For example, if in an emotional outburst you exclaim to yourself, "I’ll always be a loser," that sentence becomes a command phrase which influences your thinking so that you find yourself behaving as a loser.
According to Wetherill, the procedure for ridding yourself of command phrases is simple. All you need to do is think about each command phrase in an unemotional state of mind; the command phrase then loses its control over you.
In his Dictionary of Typical Command Phrases, Wetherill lists examples of command phrases in 1008 different categories. You may want to purchase a copy of that book and begin to systematically rid yourself of command phrases. It is also important to learn how to achieve emotional control so that you cease creating new command phrases. And that is what this report is all about...
To find out more about Wetherill's books, see The Alpha House Publishing website.
The Reactive-Responsive Orientation
Since I’ve pointed out that most of us tend to believe that our emotions are generated by external events and circumstances, it is worth mentioning Robert Fritz’s idea of the reactive-responsive orientation. In The Path of Least Resistance, Fritz states that most people believe circumstances are the driving force of their lives. In other words, in such an orientation, you are forced to either respond to or react against the circumstances; you tend not to believe that you can make choices independent of the circumstances. This, it seems to me, is how most people live with regard to their emotions.
The reactive-responsive orientation is based on the premise that you are powerless; it is the external circumstances which hold the power, not you. Your life is simply a series or reactions against or responses to the circumstances you encounter.
In order to regain your power, you need to switch to what Fritz calls the "orientation of the creative." The individual who lives out his or her life in the creative orientation believes that he or she can make choices independent of the circumstances.
It is clear to me that the problem of emotional control reflects the problem of human beings in general we tend to live as if our lives are determined by circumstance, by factors beyond our control. This essentially passive orientation towards life leads to the feeling that we are victims of circumstance or fate. We tend to get so used to things happening to us that we forget that we can control our own lives. This is especially relevant to our emotions we don’t need to be at the mercy of our moods and feelings; instead, we can begin to learn to control them. And that is what this report is all about.
IDENTIFYING WITH YOUR EMOTIONS
In Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders, Beck illustrates what he calls the "personal domain" with the following example
This is also what is known as "identification." The man in the example has identified himself with the coat of arms. When we identify ourselves with something no matter what it is we are unable to step back and view it objectively. Humans can identify themselves with just about anything, including their emotions. I should say especially their emotions.
Now, when we identify with our emotions, it is very difficult to control them; when we are immersed in our emotions, we are controlled by them. The secret of emotional control is to disengage yourself from them, to pull back and cease identifying with your feelings and moods. (The "freeze-frame" technique discussed below is a powerful tool for learning how to disengage or detach yourself from your negative emotions.)
Neil Diamond Sings the Blues
Neil Diamond has a song called "Song Sung Blue," in which he describes how the process of writing a song about depression can be a form of catharsis. Singing about his low feelings has the effect of relieving him from his state of despondency. The song goes like this
The song claims that when you sit down and write a song about your depression, you automatically start feeling good. In fact, says Diamond, you cannot help but start to feel good.
Why is this so? Why does the simple act of writing a song about one’s depression automatically lift the depression? What mental mechanism is at work here? The answer to these questions leads us to major increases in emotional control.
We can glimpse the answer if we examine what is going on in the songwriter’s consciousness. Let’s suppose that I am depressed; I take Neil Diamond’s advice and decide to write a song about my depression. So I sit down with pen and paper and attempt to convert my emotional experience into words I start describing how I feel. It is this act of describing my feelings which leads directly to my depression being lifted. For in order to describe how I feel, I need to detach myself from my feelings. The process of describing how I feel forces me to separate myself from my own emotions. There is a kind of internal split; I separate myself from an aspect of my own consciousness in order to examine and describe it. As a result, I am no longer identified with that aspect of my consciousness my depression is automatically lifted.
This process works not only with songs, but also with activities like writing poems, letters and daily journal entries just about any activity which involves examining your emotional state and describing it with words. An effective way to pull yourself out of an emotional slump, like a mild depression, is to describe your emotional state out loud or in writing. When you do this, try to describe yourself as if you were another person.
Observing Yourself As If You Were Another Person
This type of self-observation is to be distinguished from ordinary introspection. The trouble with introspection is that we attempt to explain why we behaved in a certain way or thought a certain thought. We try to rationalize or justify our thoughts and behaviors.
When you observe yourself as if you were another person, you simply record what you thought and what you did, as if you were taking a snapshot of the contents of your mind and another snapshot of your overt behavior.
A simple, yet highly powerful technique for gaining immediate emotional control is something called "freeze-framing." The term "freeze-frame" comes from the image of a movie projector projecting a movie onto a screen. Many of us tend to get so caught up in the movie (what is going on in to present moment) that we become a kind of ping-pong ball which simply bounces around and merely reacts to the environment. Someone interrupts us while we are on the phone and we automatically react with irritation. We get held up in traffic and we automatically experience frustration. What is wrong with all of this is that we mechanically and unthinkingly indulge in our emotional responses. And furthermore, our emotional "indulgences" and all emotional responses amount to self-indulgence color our perceptions and influence our choices and actions. How many times have you found yourself swept up in a tide of emotion, only later to wish you had called a time-out before you made a decision or took a certain action?
Well, with freeze-framing, you can. You can call a time-out and momentarily slow down the movie projector. This enables you to maintain a clear, level-headed perspective even in the midst of all your stress and frustrations. We’ve all noticed how easy it is to help others to regain their emotional poise. But when it comes to our own stress and strain, it is as if we were powerless to keep ourselves from being swept up by our own emotions. And to further exacerbate the problem, when we find ourselves caught up in negative emotional reactions, we tend to feel such a response is perfectly acceptable and warranted. Freeze-framing enables you to call a time-out and get a clearer perspective of what is happening on the screen.
Doc Lew Childre, the inventor of freeze-framing, describes it as "...a technology that gives you the conscious ability to self-manage your reactions, gain clarity and have more quality, fun and well-being in the moment. You gain the power to make better choices and decisions and not be victimized by your reactions to people, places and situations" [my italics]. That last phrase is of critical importance "not be victimized by your own reactions to people, places and situations." To what extent do we create our own problems and miseries by the way in which we automatically and emotionally react to the world around us?
Freeze-framing is essentially a tool for handling stress. Most us find ourselves automatically slipping into various emotional responses when we are under pressure, and in doing so, we loose our ability to keep a level-headed perspective. When we freeze-frame, we shift ourselves into neutral; we maintain a high level of clarity and insight even when we are in the middle of the stressful moment.
Personal Power, Control and Stress
Freeze-framing helps you release stress by increasing your personal power. Childre points out that a San Francisco-based, stress-research consulting firm called Essi Systems has discovered important new information regarding personal power and stress. Essi Systems has found out that what is taught in usual stress-reduction programs diet, physical fitness, weight control, etc. has only a minimal effect on a person’s ability to deal with pressure, rapid change, and other sources of stress. The only factor which does have a significant impact on a person’s ability to handle stress particularly work pressure is personal power, i. e., control over your time, resources, information and other elements connected with work. Says Esther Orioli, the founder of Essi Systems, "Our testing revealed that out of 21 stress-related factors we examined, personal power was the only factor that could predict who got sick and who stayed healthy in work situations with high amounts of pressure. Conversely, people without this sense of personal power tended to feel victimized and were unable to cope with high amounts of pressure in similar situations" [my italics].
How to Freeze-Frame
The following are the five steps of the freeze-frame technique
1) Recognize your stressful feelings and make the decision to freeze-frame (call a time-out). The key skill in this first step is to realize that you are feeling stressed and that you need to disengage before you get swept up in the situation and allow your emotions to take control of you. In this sense, the first step of the freeze-frame technique is like pressing the pause button on a VCR. The key is to begin pressing the pause button at the moment the stress starts to build up. You may find that your emotions take control so quickly and automatically that you are unable to recognize your need to freeze-frame until after the fact. In that case, you simply need more practice. Eventually you will reach a point where you are able to take a time-out while feeling stressed.
2) Shift your focus away from your racing thoughts and emotions. Focus your attention instead on the area around your heart and for about ten seconds or so, pretend you are breathing through your heart. Since the purpose of this technique is to disengage yourself from your disturbed emotions, it is essential that you move your attention away from your thoughts and emotions. This enables you to quickly gain a more clear-headed perspective, which in turn allows you to consider more effective ways of handling your current situation. In doing so, you will experience a major increase in your personal power. You remain in control, rather than allowing your emotions to take over. The reason why your personal power increases is because you are able to immediately step back and get a more objective view of the situation. It is like soothing a worried friend. Since you are not caught up in your friend’s emotional state, you are able to see the situation with much more clarity.
The benefits of step #2 are analogous to making a movie. The actors in the movie are necessarily caught up in the middle of the movie-making process. Consequently, their viewpoints are quite limited. But the director needs to stand outside of the entire process; he has a much wider and clearer perspective. Says Childre, "If you want to be the director of your own movie, you have to stop being just one of the characters and step back to see the whole picture."
3) Think about a fun time in your life, a time in which you felt positive. Try to re-experience that moment in your mind. The importance of this step is that it helps to neutralize your negative reaction. When you shift into neutral, you are better able to see the options available to you in the present moment.
4) Ask your heart for a more efficient and effective response to the situation you are freeze-framing. The answer will come from your intuition or source of common sense. As you practice the freeze-frame technique, your ability to both access and recognize answers from your source of common sense or intuition will improve. It is also helpful to develop a sense of confidence in your own ability to give yourself an answer. We are all in possession of vast sources of intelligence and creativity; we need only open ourselves up to them.
5) Open yourself up and listen to the answer your heart gives you. As you practice the freeze-frame technique, it starts to become second nature to you. After a while you will no longer need to think about the steps involved. You will start to do them automatically.
Here is a shortened version of the five steps for quick reference
1) Recognize your stressful feelings and make the decision to freeze-frame (call a time-out).
2) Shift your focus away from your racing thoughts and emotions. Focus your attention instead on the area around your heart and for about ten seconds or so, pretend you are breathing through your heart.
3) Think about a fun time in your life, a time in which you felt positive. Try to re-experience that moment in your mind. (Note freeze-framing can be much more effective if you decide beforehand what experience to focus on.)
4) Ask your heart for a more efficient and effective response to the situation you are freeze-framing. The answer will come from your intuition or source of common sense.
5) Open yourself up and listen to the answer your heart gives you.
The Benefits of Freeze-Framing
The following is a list of some of the main benefits of using the freeze-frame technique. This list is not comprehensive, and I highly recommend reading Freeze-Frame to get a more complete sense of the benefits of this tool.
• Increased emotional control. Freeze-framing enables you to shift into neutral by stepping away from uncontrolled (particularly negative) emotional reactions. It is important to note the difference between suppressing your emotions and neutralizing them. When you suppress your emotions, you don’t necessarily rid yourself of them; in a sense, you are just pushing them away, like a gardener pushing seeds into the ground; although you can’t see it, the seed is still there. Neutralizing your emotions freeze-framing is a matter of disengaging your emotions, like pressing the clutch and taking your manual transmission out of gear. Also, when something is neutralized, it disappears; a neutralized emotion vanishes and no longer has the ability to influence you and your perceptions.
• More productive at work. Using the freeze-frame technique at work can bring you numerous benefits, including most of the other benefits listed here. One specific benefit is that it may help you in dealing with difficult people. By taking a time out when interacting with difficult people, you improve your mental clarity and cease to identify with any negative reactions. You then become more sensitive to that other person’s needs by paying attention and listening more. If this difficult person happens to be a client, for example, you may boost your potential of closing a sale. Once you realize just how robotic and mechanical most of us operate, you will realize how ridiculous much of the fiction and negativity between individuals really is and that it could be easily avoided.
• Gives your mind more clarity. This goes to the heart of the freeze-frame technique maintaining inner poise, emotional control and mental clarity in the face of stress and strain.
• Bring more quality to your relationships. The freeze-frame technique will help to minimize or even eliminate knee-jerk negativity in your personal and professional relationships. (See below for additional information on knee-jerk negativity.)
Using this technique could also help you to form new powerful and positive relationships. One of the areas of our lives where we experience a significant amount of pressure and stress is the area of personal relationships. To the extent that you can help keep the relationship positive and healthy, you will benefit both yourself and the other person. Such a relationship is mutually enhancing, enables both individuals to move toward actualizing their innate potential, and increases personal power. (For more information on positive and healthy relationships, see my article "Plus and Minus Relationships," in Terra Libra News #10.)
• Help eliminate the victim mentality. Using the freeze-frame technique enables you to feel more in control of your life rather than feeling a victim of circumstance or fate. This is especially true when it comes to our emotions. Many of us tend to behave as if circumstance and other external factors directly cause our emotional responses. Someone forgets to unlock the door and we feel we can’t help but become angry. But this is clearly not the case. By practicing the technique of freeze-framing and increasing your emotional control, you will quickly begin to see just how much choice and control you have in your own life.
• Help you to take back control of your life. This is closely related to what I just said about eliminating the victim mentality. Not only does freeze-framing enable you to gain more control over your emotions, but it gives you more control over your life in general by helping you to think more clearly and reducing your automatic reactions. When you step back from your own emotions, a kind of mental black cloud lifts and you can readily see all of the options available to you, including perhaps, a much more effective way of responding to any given situation.
• Maintain emotional and inner poise. We are all aware of the ebb and tide of our emotions from day to day and even moment to moment. Your mechanic tells you your engine needs to be overhauled and suddenly the world caves in; you’ve got another major problem on your hands. Half an hour later, an old friend who you haven’t seen for years drops by your office to say hello and the two of you laugh over old times; suddenly the world is not such a bad place after all. But 20 minutes after your friend leaves, you hear the latest crisis on the news and your pleasant mood evaporates into a bitter cynicism... According to Childre, "Freeze-frame is an opportunity to make on-the-spot attitude adjustments so life doesn’t entrap you in an emotional roller coaster."
• Gain more strength, flexibility and common sense in dealing with whatever you encounter in your life. The ability to maintain emotional poise increases your general level of personal power. It also enables you to become a more effective decision-maker, which enhances your probability of success.
• Eliminate knee-jerk negativity. Many of us who have not yet taken the time to become aware of and even resist our automatic reactions may find ourselves indulging in knee-jerk negativity. For example, your wife comes home from work in a crabby mood and complains that you didn’t fix supper. You immediately and without prior thought, lash back out at her telling her that you are tired of always being the one who has to be responsible for dinner. And then she fires back and the conflict begins to escalate rapidly. Before long, you don’t even know what you are really fighting about. All that is happening is a process of knee-jerk negativity where one person slanders the other and is slandered in return, and on and on. Freeze-framing enables you to side-step this entire process. You can look on and respond to someone else’s negativity with a calm detachment. (For those who are familiar with report #TL05B Freedom Steps, it is interesting to note that freedom step #16 is "confront compulsive knee-jerk negativity without reacting in like fashion." For more information on the effects of compulsive knee-jerk negativity on personal freedom and power, consult the freedom steps report.)
• Enhance your decision-making abilities. An important factor in good decision-making is being aware of the options available to you in any given situation. When we get pulled into a storm of negative emotions, we loose our ability to think clearly and therefore do not readily see the array of options at our disposal. Furthermore, when our emotions take over, we are no longer calling the shots. In such a position, our options drop down to zero.
In addition, the freeze-frame technique can assist you in making your decisions more consciously. This technique gives you the "conscious ability to self-manage your reactions."
• Greatly improve your ability to communicate with others. Since so many of our responses are purely mechanical and robotic, especially those involving a strong emotional charge, we can vastly improve our ability to communicate with other people by using the freeze-frame technique and taking a time-out. When you approach someone in a strong, negative emotional state of mind, their automatic response is likely to be some sort of defensive stance. By taking a time-out and pulling back from your emotions, you can find a much better response to the situation.
• Begin handling situations more efficiently and effectively. To the extent that you can remain calm and clear-headed under pressure or stress, you will find yourself handling all types of situations much more efficiently and effectively. Whenever there is some sort of emergency situation such as a collapsed building or a tornado strike, there are always a few individuals involved who remain calm and confident while everyone else panics. (In fact, those who panic are downshifting; see the above section on brain physiology.) When we prevent our emotions from taking over even in emergency situations, we increase our power and efficiency, and consequently, our chances of survival.
• Physical benefits of freeze-framing. The freeze-frame tool can go a long way towards improving your physical health and preventing any further damage from emotional stress. With this tool you can improve the health of your heart, improve your immune system, and even help slow the aging process. Consult chapter 4, "The Scientific Basis of the Freeze-Frame Technology," in Freeze-Frame for a detailed discussion of how this tool can enhance your physical well-being.
An important aspect of emotional control is the ability to handle emotional contagion. We can become "infected" by the emotions and moods of others. You can catch both negative and positive emotions alike, such as euphoria, elation, sadness, depression, anger, grief, etc. We’ve all had the experience of feeling rather solemn and serious and then encountering someone who is in a cheerful and bubbly mood. Usually, that other person’s mood rubs off onto us; we soon find ourselves feeling elated.
The following information is relevant to the topic of emotional contagion.
So emotional control is not only a matter of managing your own emotions, but also dealing with other people’s contagious moods. Now, of course, if you find yourself being swept up in someone’s excitement and euphoria, by all means allow yourself to catch that infectious mood. Negative emotions, however, are a different matter. And you can learn how to inoculate yourself from other people’s negativity while keeping yourself open to catching their positive moods.
Here are some steps for protecting yourself from the negative emotions of others
The Mood Infection Quiz
To find out how easily someone else’s mood can infect you, take the following quiz designed by Dr. William Doherty at the University of Hawaii. Read each statement and rate yourself as follows 1. Never; 2. Rarely; 3. Sometimes; 4. Often; or 5. Always.
"1. I’m good at sensing other’s moods.
2. If someone I’m talking with cries, my eyes well up too.
3. Spending time with an upbeat friend lifts up my mood.
4. I feel sad when people talk about the death of a loved one.
5. Seeing a mother and child hugging makes me feel tender.
6. I’m irritated around angry people.
7. When someone smiles warmly at me, I smile back and feel happy.
8. I get uptight when I’m around people who are stressed out.
9. I notice how people say things in addition to what they say.
10. If I overhear a quarrel, my body is likely to tense up.
11. When someone I love touches me, my body tingles with excitement.
12. When someone paces, it makes me nervous.
To find your Mood Infection Index, add up your answers to the quiz
If you scored 12-27 You have mood immunity. Maybe you are in touch with your own moods, but you can only guess what other people are feeling.
28-41 You’ve achieved emotional equilibrium. You’re able to understand and experience other people’s feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. If you try, you can pick and choose your susceptibility letting yourself absorb their joy, for example, while shielding yourself from their fear, anger or sadness.
42-60 You’re on an emotional roller coaster. Because you’re easily swept away by the joys and sorrows of other people, you be in may need of emotional rescue yourself."
[This section was based on material from an article in the May 5, 1996 edition of the Arizona Republic.]
Emotional Contagion at Large
Cultural influences are another aspect of emotional contagion, only on a larger scale. The phrases "what’s in vogue" and "the latest rage" are indicators of contagion occurring within society. The fashion and music industry bank on this phenomenon working its magic over the minds and emotions of the public. It’s possibly more important to be aware of larger scale influences because they can operate on your consciousness more subtlety. The dangers of unchecked cultural influences becomes morbidity apparent in light of World War II and Hitler’s mastery at engaging the minds and emotions of the German people.
Each generation of youth in any given society seem to have a collective movement that defines the ideology of that specific group. Separate cultures of people frequently operate in this collective fashion. The important thing, if you wish to operate as a self directed individual in control of your own thought processes and emotions, is to identify specifically what an ideology entails before you adhere to it and follow the trend. Does the "mood of the day" apply to you, or are your values incongruent to it. Recognizing and becoming aware of emotional contagion is critical if you wish to gain emotional control in your own life and be determinate in the direction it follows.
In Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman argues that the conventional view of human intelligence is far too narrow in that it does not take into account an aspect of our lives which plays an important role in the success or failure of just about everything we do.
Goleman describes the five major components of emotional intelligence
I highly recommend studying Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (see the bibliography for publisher information) and applying its insights to increase your emotional IQ.
Pessimism is essentially a bad habit or bad programming that was developed from being exposed to poor examples from parents, teachers or others who provided major influences during the formative years of our lives. Many of the negative command phrases that create the ill effects on our lives today were exactly the ones we heard verbalized by the influential people in our past. Thinking patterns were developed and reinforced by repetitious example. By the time we reach adulthood these patterns have become deeply entrenched and woven into the fiber of our personalities, values and concepts. Rather than seeing the true nature of an uncomfortable situation, these patterns superimpose themselves onto our perception of reality, like Pavlovian conditioning and we may react as though we are powerless to change the outcome. This programming is used very successfully in training animals that can easily overpower their master, but it is disastrous as a problem solving mechanism for individuals in the throws of daily existence. The manner in which you explain (self talk) how and why any unpleasant situation came about determines whether you are operating from the vantage point of helplessness or power and optimism.
In light of this knowledge it is then apparent that what is necessary for us to do is to unlearn the poor programming and reinstall more positive and productive patterns. Essentially, you must learn optimism. This begins with identifying your automatic thoughts, becoming aware of how they influence your moods and behaviors. Once identified they can be uprooted and replaced with the programming of your own choice. This gives you the freedom to propel your life in the direction that you choose rather than the direction chosen by unfortunate circumstances and influences of the past.
For a more in-depth study of this subject you may refer to a powerful book written by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., entitled appropriately, Learned Optimism. You can find details about the publisher at the end of this report.
THOUGHT FIELD THERAPY
Dr. Roger Callahan has pioneered a remarkable form of psychotherapy called "Thought Field Therapy™." Originally Dr. Callahan had developed thought field therapy to help his clients eliminate their fears and phobias. To his astonishment, he found he could rid a patient’s phobia in a matter of minutes, rather than years, as is usually required by traditional methods.
Now, Dr. Callahan is finding out that his methods work on an array of psychological problems, including panic, phobias, drug addictions, depression, irrational guilt, public speaking fears, rape trauma, obsessions, self-sabotage, post traumatic stress, anxiety, food addiction, alcoholism, chronic anger, child abuse victims, sex problems, rejection, smoking, general stress, love pain and physical pain.
The Callahan techniques could be the most rapid and effective methods for handling psychological problems ever devised. The reason these techniques produce such quick and effective results is that they address the deepest, most fundamental underlying cause of all negative emotions blockages in the body’s energy system. Dr. Callahan refers to these blockages as "perturbations," and says
"Perturbations in the thought field contain the active information which...triggers and forms the sequence of activities neurological, chemical, hormonal and cognitive which result in the experience of a negative emotion such as fear, depression, anger, etc. In TFT’s [Thought Field Therapy] unique diagnostic procedure the perturbations are revealed and quickly subsumed."
What Dr. Callahan is saying is that the cause of negative emotions is even "deeper" than the physiological and cognitive components. By going straight to this underlying cause, thought field therapy can swiftly and effectively eliminate the psychological problems involving negative emotions.
The implications of thought field therapy are profound. Our lives can be extremely limited to the extent that we suffer from any of the psychological problems listed above. And this reflects one of the chief problems of human beings in general we still have not acquired the knack of eliminating to any significant degree, the negativity in our lives. We still manage to get ourselves tangled up in problems and negativities which have the potential to more or less destroy our lives. And the realistic, yet sad, fact is that most of it is completely unnecessary. Humans have got to reach a point in their development where such things as depression, anxiety, addictions, obsessions, etc., are laughable absurdities.
[Gary Craig has developed a variation of TFT called Emotional Freedom Techniques™ or EFT for short. Mr. Craig has produced an EFT instruction manual as well as a set of video tapes which demostrate his techinques. He also runs an EFT discussion list. You can subscribe by sending a message to email@example.com with the words "subscribe eftinfo" in the body of the message.]
A WORD ABOUT IDENICS
If you are serious about furthering your emotional maturity and development, I recommend looking into something called "Idenics." Idenics is basically a methodology by which you rid yourself of unwanted mental or emotional conditions. Because of the unique approach of Idenics, you may experience much more rapid and powerful (and permanent) changes than traditional approaches such as ordinary psychotherapy. In fact, Idenics is so different from most other methodologies that it is probably unfair to compare it to them.
The basic working idea behind Idenics is that we tend to get stuck in various unwanted mental or emotional conditions; we automatically slip into certain perspectives and response patterns which at one time may have been quite useful, but now cause us trouble, limit us or hold us back. The problem is not so much the perspective itself as the fact that we seem to be stuck in it and unable to see beyond it.
Recently, about half of the Terra Libra staff underwent sessions of Idenics. One staff member had this to say about his experience with Idenics
For more information on Idenics call Mike Goldstein at 1-800-IDENICS or visit the Idenics website. Mike Goldstein spoke about Idenics at the Terra Libra Houston Practical Freedom Seminar (June 1995).
EMOTIONAL MATURITY AND HUMAN POTENTIAL
In a book called The Fifth Discipline (by Peter M. Senge), I’ve come across a passage containing a highly important idea, the significance of which has probably been largely overlooked. Senge quotes an article called "Advanced Maturity," by B. O’Brien
It is the idea of emotional development as providing the greatest leverage in actualizing our full potential which strikes me as being of great significance. For, most all adult humans are quite immature when it comes to their emotions. It’s as if, emotionally speaking, they stopped growing at about the age of ten or eleven. And some of us have not even reached that far. I say this in all seriousness. The vast majority of us are grossly immature when it comes to our emotions.
And if that is indeed the case, then how can we expect to attain our full potential to any significant degree? At most we could expect a lop-sided development for example, we may have acquired advanced thinking skills yet remain an emotional child.
It is clear that part of the task of the Personal Power Institute needs to be to teach people how to continue developing their emotional maturity.
STEPS TO EMOTIONAL CONTROL
The following is an outline of a plan for implementing the information contained in this report. The order in which you take these steps is not important. If you tackle the items on this list with sincerity and seriousness, you will be well on your way to achieving emotional control.
FREEDOM AND EMOTIONAL CONTROL
At this point, it is worth asking what emotional control has to do with personal freedom.
I would start off by saying that Rose Wilder Lane was right when she defined freedom as self-control. Freedom is essentially a matter of achieving more and more control over one’s own self.
When I allow my emotions to swing in automatically, I relinquish some of my control. When I give way to my anger or sadness, I am no longer running the show. Instead, my emotions are now calling the shots. Furthermore, I tend to loose my ability to think clearly when my consciousness is flooded with emotions. And I find that I am most in control when my head is clear and devoid of negative emotions.
There is another important connection between emotional control and freedom that has to do with human potential and self-actualization. Since I feel this is such an important insight, I will attempt to express it as clearly as possible. At least since William James, we have been aware that humans typically use only a tiny fraction of their potential. The trouble is that we waste so much of our time getting bogged down by our own emotions. We encounter various problems and difficulties and find ourselves shrinking away from life like a pill bug which curls up into a tiny ball when threatened with danger. Somewhere, the writer Colin Wilson has written
This, it seems to me, cuts right to the heart of the matter. Most us have experienced moments when we felt relaxed and healthy and were able to step back and see our own lives from a bird’s-eye view. It is the same feeling we get when we climb to the top of a mountain and take in the vast panorama below. But so much of our time is spent getting caught up in a subjective world of negative emotions that we lose this more objective, bird’s-eye view. The consequence, as Colin Wilson points out, is that we are always working below our maximum level of efficiency.
By taking control of our emotions and minimizing the degree to which we indulge in negative emotions (and all negative emotions are basically a form of self-indulgence), we not only increase our personal freedom, but we also become vastly more effective and efficient human beings.
[The following story was recently posted to an e-mail discussion list. It illustrates the importance of attitude to emotional control.]
Attitude Is Everything
By Francie Baltazar-Schwartz
Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!"
He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?" Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.' I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it.
I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life."
"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.
"Yes it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line It's your choice how you live life."
I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers.
While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center.
After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body. I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"
I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. "The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.
"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.
Jerry continued, "The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, 'He's a dead man.' I knew I needed to take action."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied.
The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply... I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!' Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."
Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.
You have 2 choices now
I hope you will choose choice 2.
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCES
• Beck, Aaron T. Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders (The New American Library, Inc., 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 1976). A must read for everyone interested in achieving emotional control. Elaborates on the idea of automatic thoughts.
• Beck, Aaron T. and Gary Emery Anxiety Disorders and Phobias A Cognitive Perspective (Basic Books; 1985). Contains technical information on cognitive therapy.
• Childe, Doc Lew Freeze-Frame (Planetary Publications, PO Box 66, Boulder Creek, California 95006; 1994). Tells you all about the freeze-frame technique. Highly recommended.
• Fritz, Robert The Path of Least Resistance (Fawcett Books, 400 Hahn Road, Westminster, MD 21157; 1984). One of the most powerful books on personal power ever published. Many people are stuck in what Fritz calls the "reactive-responsive orientation" when it comes to emotions (see especially pages 24 - 25). Very highly recommended.
• Goleman, Daniel Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036; 1995). Introduction to the concept of emotional intelligence. Demonstrates how our conventional notion of intelligence is far too narrow and restricted. This is an important book for boosting emotional maturity.
• Hart, Leslie A. How the Brain Works (Basic Books, Inc., New York, NY; 1975). Brain physiology for the layman. Covers the triune brain model.
• Hart, Leslie A. Human Brain and Human Learning (Longman Inc., 1560 Broadway, New York, NY 10036; 1983). Explains the importance of brain-compatible education and how most schools are a threat to learning.
• Ornstein, Robert The Evolution of Consciousness The Origins of the Way We Think (Simon & Schuster, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020; 1991). Expands on the central thesis of the triune brain model our brains consist of a series of evolutionary adaptations.
• Ornstein, Robert Multimind (Doubleday, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10103; 1986). Explains how our minds are not a single unit. Rather, various "small minds" are constantly wheeling in and out and taking control at different moments. I highly recommend this book. You will also gain an understanding of how to respond to other people’s emotions.
• Peurifoy, Reneau Z. Anxiety, Phobias & Panic Taking Charge and Conquering Fear (LIFESKILLS, PO Box 7915, Citrus Heights, CA 95621-7915; 1988). Important information on the cognitive approach to emotions, especially fear. Practical advice for restructuring your thinking processes.
• Sagan, Carl The Dragons of Eden (Ballantine Books, New York; 1977). Speculations on the origins and evolution of human intelligence. Includes information on the triune brain model.
• Seligman, Martin E. P. Learned Optimism (Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 1990). How to acquire optimism to significantly improve your life. Highly recommended.
• Wetherill, Richard W. Dictionary of Typical Command Phrases (The Alpha Publishing House, 1101 Enterprise Drive, PO Box 255, Royersford, PA 19468-0255; 1962). Ttells you how to "unthink" your way out of trouble by "deprogramming" your command phrases. This method basically involves achieving emotional objectivity over your command phrases. I highly recommend all of the books by Wetherill listed in this bibliography.
• Wetherill, Richard W. How to Solve Problems and Prevent Trouble (The Alpha Publishing House, 1101 Enterprise Drive, PO Box 255, Royersford, PA 19468-0255; 1962). Contains important information on how to improve your thinking in order to minimize problems trouble. The back cover of the book reads
• Wetherill, Richard W. Suppose We Let Civilization Begin (The Alpha Publishing House, 1101 Enterprise Drive, PO Box 255, Royersford, PA 19468-0255; 1962). Begin eliminating problems and increasing your success by learning how to reason from reality rather than personal urges.
[Acknowledgement Elizabeth Lambert contributed to the editing and improvement of this report.]