Many of us initially learned how to deal with strong emotions in our home environment. Those who had the most influence were the elders and guardians in roles as disciplinarians. As a result, we learned how to deal with strong emotions from the rules they implemented in addition to observing the actions that revealed their own coping skills when it came to handling strong emotions. To put it another way, when we are young, impressionable, and still learning how to navigate the world around us, caretakers that use yelling and screaming as a strategy, for example, teach children that screaming and yelling is an accepted method for handling strong emotions. However, this strategy rarely yields positive outcomes. In fact, it typically leads to the escalation of unmanageable levels of emotion.
As we grow and process different life changing events, especially those powerful enough to shift our views, our emotions become heightened. In my ebook, Ethics in the Real World (2013), I discuss this further and explain how some situations can produce positive experiences for us, such as promotions, marriages, and the birth of our children; while other experiences can produce negative outcomes, such as abuse, divorce, natural disasters, and so on (Berry, 2013). When families find themselves in a crisis situation where heightened emotions have reached uncontrollable or unmanageable levels, many will seek out additional support from other avenues that can include the clergy, spiritual communities, schools, or other kinds of family support programs. There are a variety of different support systems that can provide beneficial assistance for helping families. Many of them also provide higher levels of education that include training in practices to help support the development of coping skills.
Ethics also play a big role in helping us handle emotions. For example, to place awareness on ethics in the decision-making process, it is important that we first identify, then transmit with clarity, what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. In addition, we must also articulate clearly, a code of ethics and engage in consistent action when implementing consequences for misbehavior and misconduct. This not only sets the standard, these are instrumental strategies for building and supporting an ethical culture.
Plum Village Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (2012) asserts that keeping open communication is also an essential component for managing strong emotions. Hanh further explains that there are practices that can be developed to help us handle strong emotions. The key is learning how to perform these practices when we are confident and feeling great, before our emotions are heightened. This is beneficial so that we know how to respond mindfully when we find ourselves in the heat of an emotional turmoil (Hanh, 2012). For instance, during those times when I feel that I am running on a short emotional fuse and am really having difficulty handling strong emotions, coping strategies have become a game changer for me. In other words, once I began incorporating strategies specifically developed to enhance my coping skills, it helped me manage my heightened emotions more effectively which in turn has led to my feeling more joyful and balanced in my life with fulfilling relationships.
On Wednesday we will take a closer peek at how we can develop and implement our own coping techniques. Until then, stay organized!
Berry, M. A. (2013). Ethics in the Real World. USA: Kindle Direct Publishing.
Hanh, T. N. (2012). Work: How to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.