Do you tend to fly into rages, throwing shit around and punching holes through doors when things don’t go as planned? Or do you break down and become emotional, and sulk if there’s any conflict in your relationships? Or maybe after a breakup you’ve decided the best course of action is to call her and text her a million times. If any of this sounds like you, well chances are you may have a problem with emotional self-control.
So, what’s emotional self control?
Emotional self-control is the ability to manage disturbing emotions and remain effective, even in stressful situations. So, basically, it’s the ability to remain calm and be able to think straight under pressure. It’s not bottling up your emotions like a lot of guys think it is, so you can explode like a volcano at any time. It’s being able to experience these stressful emotions authentically and still manage to work productively to overcome the problem.
So, what causes you to lose emotional self-control?
Well, I want to speak more in layman’s terms rather than medical and psychology speak, but
“The amygdala is the brain’s radar for threat. Our brain was designed as a tool for survival. In the brain’s blueprint the amygdala holds a privileged position. If the amygdala detects a threat, in an instant it can take over the rest of the brain—particularly the prefrontal cortex—and we have what’s called an amygdala hijack.
The hijack captures our attention, beaming it in on the threat at hand. If you’re at work when you have an amygdala hijack, you can’t focus on what your job demands—you can only think about what’s troubling you. Our memory shuffles, too, so that we remember most readily what’s relevant to the threat—but can’t remember other things so well. During a hijack, we can’t learn, and we rely on over-learned habits, ways we’ve behaved time and time again. We can’t innovate or be flexible during a hijack.
… the amygdala often makes mistakes…. while the amygdala gets its data on what we see and hear in a single neuron from the eye and ear—that’s super-fast in brain time—it only receives a small fraction of the signals those senses receive. The vast majority goes to other parts of the brain that take longer to analyse these inputs—and get a more accurate reading. The amygdala, in contrast, gets a sloppy picture and has to react instantly. It often makes mistakes, particularly in modern life, where the ‘dangers’ are symbolic, not physical threats. So, we overreact in ways we often regret later.” – The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Coleman.
But generally speaking the underlying cause of losing emotional self-control is fear. Fear you’re not gonna get what you want, fear that things aren’t going to work out, fear of losing something that’s valuable to you. Like a relationship. A lot of guys mask this fear with anger. This is when chairs and furniture start flying around and plates get smashed, all that sort of shit. And you hear women say that “Dating him is like dating a toddler, he throws tantrums all the time”. This behaviour is actually just an attempt to take control of the situation through intimidation, because he’s scared of not getting his needs met and he knows he doesn’t have the diplomacy skills to solve the issue calmly. But this behaviour, acting like a two-year-old, if it doesn’t stop you’re gonna end up hurting someone and end up in jail.
With other guys, the fear doesn’t manifest as anger, but as neediness and anxiety. For example, this is when a guy texts a girl, waits 15 mins for an answer, then when they don’t receive one they send another text, “Hey, did you get my last message?”, and then when that one doesn’t get a response they send another, and another! Meanwhile the girl, who’s just gone out with her friends or something, see you’ve sent her 12 messages saying “why haven’t you responded?”, “what’s going on, is everything ok?”, and just goes “what the fuck???”. In this case, the guy is fearful of getting dumped by the girl, because deep down he doesn’t feel good enough for her. So, in order to combat this fear, he tries to get his need for certainty met about where he stands with her by constantly trying to get confirmation from her that he’s not dumped. And this behaviour, ironically, is a sure-fire way of getting dumped.
So basically, fear can make us do some crazy things. And attachments to a particular outcome, such as wanting that girl to respond to your texts faster than she will, create suffering in your life.
Now I’ve been in this situation of being totally out of control emotionally. When I was young I remember my girlfriend got so sick of me being needy that she decided she’d had enough and tried to end it in the middle of a date we were on in the city. I was so terrified of losing her that I literally got down on my knees in front of everyone and begged for her to take me back. Funnily enough it didn’t work, and I was just lucky that mobile phones and texting weren’t a thing yet (yes, I’m showing my age) because I probably would have blown up her phone if it was.
Well, how can you improve your emotional self-control?
Well, first off, you’ve got to be aware that you have the power to assign meaning to everything that happens to you. Everything that passes into your brain via your five senses goes through a, for want of a better word, filter in your mind that you use to assign meaning to everything. And the way this filter assigns meaning to external stimuli depends on your general view of the world. If you’re general world view is negative then you’ll assign negative meaning to everything that happens to you. You’ll be in a constant state of fearfulness and anxious that things aren’t gonna go your way, so you’ll start trying to force your agenda on to others, even resorting to violence if necessary. However, if you’re world view is a positive one, you’ll be more relaxed, and therefore able to think much more clearly in times of stress, because you’ll have confidence that you’ll be able to overcome any problems.
It’s being able to master control over this filter that is the key to mastering emotional self-control. And coaches like myself can help you with this.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a perfect example of someone who has completely mastered his control over this filter and can assign positive meaning to pretty much anything that happens to him. He basically has an attitude that if he wins, awesome! But if he loses, he gets the gift of learning from the loss, and so he wins! You can’t beat him! For those who want to check him out I’ll put a link to his channel in the description below.
But let’s, be frank, mastering emotional self-control is really tough. You’re not going to magically have more emotional self-control after watching all the videos on YouTube, let alone just this one video. If you’re losing your shit and acting out as soon as there’s some stress in your life, then there’s quite a lot of work you’re going to have to do to sort yourself out. But the good thing is, if you’re watching this video, then chances are you’ve become aware or have been made aware of your behaviour by someone who’s close to you, and you’ve decided to start taking some corrective action. As Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up”, and that’s what you’re doing.
How the amygdala controls our interpretation of the world: https://www.mindful.org/emotional-self-control-matters/
Gary Vaynerchuks channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/GaryVaynerchuk/featured