Apply HEAT: Training Emotions

Training your mind-body system entails training emotions. To train your mind to properly handle emotions requires having the right tools and having firmly established habits. There are a number of important tools to practice using to manage your emotions. Our primary concern in managing emotions is learning from them and letting go of the negative emotion. A secondary concern is learning to prevent emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness to control you in the moment. Those are two separate issues. The former is about longer-term health, well-being, and productivity and the latter is primarily about getting “unstuck” in the moment and or preventing bad things from happening while being consumed by the negative emotion. Part of this training is becoming aware of how your brain works and the regularly practicing techniques to gain control over the emotions.

Training Emotions: Letting Go of the Negative

Generally speaking we want to let go of negative emotions and purposefully control and use positive emotions. First, it is important to understand negative emotions such as fear, anger, hurt, guilt, and sadness have a purpose. We can’t let go of the emotion until we acknowledge the lesson we need to learn from the emotion. Unresolved negative emotions tend to attach to each other creating a gestalt of memories categorized as that emotion. Part of training emotional management skills involves using various techniques to identify and eliminate stored negative emotions. One of the most powerful tools in this arsenal is the use of Time Line Therapy techniques [Time Line Therapy is a registered trademark of Dr. Tad James]. The use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is yet another tool that people can use to release stored negative emotions. While these techniques are generally done under the guidance of therapist trained in them, once they are learned people can use them to manage their emotions on a regular bases preventing the formation of gestalts. Preventing the accumulation of stored negative emotions has a profound impact on our physical and mental health and as a consequence our performance and ability to achieve our desired outcomes.

Training Emotions: More Tools

Other powerful tools in the management of emotions include pattern interrupts, anchoring, and breathing. The use of your breath can both help control your emotions in the present moment and control your emotions in the future. Breath can be used as both a pattern interrupt and anchor. Strategies are the program your brain runs to do a particular behavior. When we are sad we are doing the behavior of sadness. When we are angry, we are doing the behavior of anger. Understanding how that behavior starts and the other steps in the process, you can train yourself to interrupt the pattern and change the emotion and behavior. Breathing is a great way to interrupt the pattern and then changing how you create the representation of the even allows you to change your emotion and state. Simply changing your physiology can also change the present state and emotion.

Training emotions using anchoring is simply conditioning an emotional response to a stimulus. When the stimulus is applied the emotion anchored to the stimulus comes up. You can use anchors of positive emotions to collapse negative anchors. Habitual use of music, aromas, and physical touch to build anchors to positive emotions goes a long way toward the prevention of anchors forming around negative emotions. A musical playlist of songs that bring about different emotions is a great tool to help change your state. Using aroma therapy at home during morning or evening rituals, can be a powerful practice.  

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Training Emotions: The Power of Journaling

One final technique that fits perfectly into the evening ritual habit is journaling. When you couple the practice of journaling with the use of specific language patterns and techniques you can process the negative emotions, taking the important lessons, and preventing the holding on of the negative emotions. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) practices and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) language techniques such as the meta model, you can use the practice of journaling to manage your emotions.

Asking yourself good questions at the end of the day that force you to contemplate lessons learned or needing to be learned, you can learn to reframe negative emotions. The CBT structure and the use of the meta model are invaluable for looking at events of the day and analyzing them. In particular, if you had a negative experience during the day and felt any negative emotion and still do in the evening going through the CBT framework questioning and using the meta model, to write the answers in a journal typically causes a letting go of the emotion. If this is done after using TLT techniques you have a double-edged sword for attacking negative emotions. The reflection process is vital for training emotions to work for you and not against you.

Training Emotions: Using positive emotions and breathing

One important aspect of training emotions is the use of positive emotions. Remembering that the intensity and meaning of the emotion is tied to how you represent it in your brain can help you not only diminish the impact of negative emotions without self-medicating, but can use positive emotions to override negative emotions.

As mentioned above the use of anchoring techniques in training emotions is invaluable. Music and aroma are two powerful anchors, but your breathing can be the most powerful anchor. Think for a moment about what your bodies natural response is to nervousness. Isn't the sigh what we observe people doing or we have done ourselves before having to perform some act that we were nervous about? Or, think of the opposite and what happens to breathing when people are overwhelmed by anxiety. Do they not tend to experience shortness of breath and even hyperventilate? Learning to control your breathing and connecting that breath to specific outcomes visually or physically or through your auditory sense can cause powerful emotional control. Hearing particular music can potentially help shift breathing or shifting breathing can potentially cause you to hear the lyrics or music of an uplifting song in your mind. Changing your physiology - especially your breathing - is perhaps the fastest way to change your emotional state.

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