You Can't Choose Your Emotions, But You Can Choose What to Do With Them

You Can't Choose Your Emotions, But You Can Choose What to Do With Them
Fátima Servián Franco

Written and verified by the psychologist Fátima Servián Franco.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Feeling jealous, angry, or sad is as natural as breathing. There are certain emotions that are inherent to the human condition, although sometimes we are embarrassed to feel them. Rejecting these feelings, or not knowing how to express them, can make us feel highly anxious.

Wanting to control your feelings at all times is a lost battle no matter how hard you try. However, you should be careful about what you do and say when you are feeling certain emotions. This is your responsibility.

So, you should keep in mind that things won’t always go how you want them to. This will keep you from getting frustrated, angry, or depressed because things are out of your control. All of this is just a waste of time and energy. You can’t control or choose your feelings. But the good news is that you can control what you do with them. Let’s dig a little deeper…

As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery. We have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger and attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion, a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.

-Dalai Lama-

Emotions have an adaptive function

Emotions carry a profound message – they tell you that something is happening in your life. In some cases, that something needs your attention. For example, anxiety warns you that danger is near. Sadness happens after experiencing a loss that you have to accept. The key is learning to decipher your emotions so you know yourself better, and you can take conscious action.

All emotions are useful, which is why you don’t need to fight them. On the contrary, you should feel them, understand them, and listen to them. Only then will you be able to come up with the right strategies to face problems and difficulties that arise.

floral head

As you can see, you shouldn’t be afraid when you experience negative feelings like sadness, frustration, or jealousy. If you know how to focus those feelings, they will help you manage the problem at hand. They will help you grow. That being said, if these negative emotions become so intense that you can’t manage them, you should seek professional help. A trained professional can help you avoid damaging your relationships and yourself.

Also, you mustn’t forget about positive emotions, the most powerful of which is happiness. These kinds of emotions are adaptive, as long as you express them in a balanced way. Their message tells us that we are in a good and beneficial time in our life. They are messengers of well-being.

“An emotionally intelligent person has abilities in four areas: he can identify, use, understand, and regulate emotions.”

-John Mayer-

How can you emotionally self-regulate?

There’s no magic formula for knowing how to experience your emotions. However, it’s never good to reject your emotions or try to control them. This leads to altered emotional states that only cause harm. Our desire to be perfect distances us from being real. You aren’t a robot, nor are you superhuman. You are a person, and people feel all kinds of emotions.

“When I talk about controlling emotions, I mean those that are truly stressful and debilitating. Being emotional is what makes our lives rich.”

-Daniel Goleman-

feeling emotions

As you can see, when your emotions become too intense or last too long, it’s because something is wrong with the way you experience them. Maybe because you are trying to control something that is uncontrollable. You are probably telling yourself that things have to be some other way,  but they won’t always be like you want them to be. Nor will people behave according to your values and principles. You should always remember that.

The only thing you have under your control is the way you deal with what you feel. In order to do this, the first thing you have to do is identify it. Then, reflect on how to channel the feeling in a more healthy way. Use it to contribute to your personal growth. In other words, practice emotional responsibility.

So, what you experience depend on the situation you are in. Choosing what to do with your emotions is your responsibility, as well as the bridge to emotional well-being. At the end of the day, it isn’t so much about choosing what to feel, as knowing how to manage your feelings.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.