In today’s video, I’m going to talk about one of those skills that will improve every area of your life: emotional control.

Read or watch below to discover how to achieve emotional control.

Zachary Stockill: In today’s video, I’m going to talk about one of the skills that will improve just about every area of your life. And that is emotional control. And I think this concept will be particularly relevant and valuable for anyone out there struggling with jealousy and possessiveness in their relationships. 

So what is emotional control? My definition of emotional control is simply not letting your emotions control you. I think many people in the world, and certainly myself in certain moments in my life, can be guilty of letting our emotions control us. We may think that we’re running the show, but really our anger or sadness, or whatever is controlling the actions we’re taking, controlling the words we’re speaking, you get the idea.

Emotional control is not letting that happen.

Emotional control does not mean not experiencing emotions. 

how to achieve emotional control

And I think this is one of the things that people get wrong about emotional control.

People think that to have emotional control means you need to be a kind of robot with no inner world and no anger, no sadness, no joy. And that’s not what I’m talking about at all.

I’m simply talking about being aware of your emotions, and making good decisions based on your emotions without letting your emotions take over your life and control you… Without your emotions leading you to take action and make decisions that cause future regret. 

So why is this important? Because people who lose emotional control get themselves into all kinds of really terrible and challenging situations. Many of the people in prison let their emotions get the better of them in certain moments. And look what happens.

That’s an extreme example. But I’m sure most of the people watching this video can relate to having one of those moments, maybe a fight with your partner, or a fight with your kids, or whatever, where you lose control of your emotions. And it causes you to act in ways or say things that half an hour, an hour, perhaps a day later, you look back and seriously regret. 

So, needless to say, emotional control is truly valuable to achieve. And a skill that is worth spending some serious time working on. 

There is a difference between emotional suppression and emotional control.

When we talk about emotional control, I think it’s also worth drawing a distinction between emotional suppression and emotional control.

So emotional suppression is experiencing an emotion and trying to deny that it’s even there. Trying to ignore the reality of your experience of this emotion. It’s experiencing real anger and guilting yourself or trying to push it down, or act like it’s not there. 

how to achieve emotional control

And as I often say, on this channel and elsewhere, what is suppressed eventually needs to be expressed. That emotion, that energy, isn’t going anywhere. It needs to have some kind of witness or expression, which I’ll come to in a moment. 

But the point is: don’t confuse emotional control with emotional suppression. Emotional suppression doesn’t work. Sometimes it can work in the short term, but it certainly isn’t going to work long term.

So, some thoughts on how to achieve emotional control…

Taking a breath and acknowledging your emotions.

Number one, I’ll come back to what I said a moment ago: Don’t try to deny the reality of whatever it is you’re experiencing at the moment. If you’re experiencing anger, you can acknowledge that to yourself.

If you’re experiencing hurt, fear, sadness, dread, or anxiety, whatever it is, don’t try to act like that isn’t there. Before you make any decisions based on it, simply pause, take a breath, and acknowledge its existence. Try to become aware of your inner world, which can take time for some of us. 

But if you can, try to note what you’re feeling rather than making any decision based on it. With practice, it becomes easy even in moments of anger or frustration to…

Simply take a breath and pause and say, “Wow, I’m really angry right now. This situation is really upsetting me. I’m really hurt by what that person said…” 

Again, there’s a difference between noting that anger or that hurt and making bad decisions based on it. 

Many problems in life really would be solved if, in the moment, we could simply pause and take a deep breath. Just take a little beat before making some irrational and destructive decision based on whatever emotion we’re experiencing at the time.

I often tell people struggling with intrusive thoughts: the thought, and your reaction to the thought, are two separate things. They are not tied up, you know, inextricably linked in any way.

Thus there’s a decision to be made there in terms of choosing your perspective on the thought, and how you want to respond to it.

Emotions and emotional control work in a similar way.

So here’s an emotion. But your reaction, what you actually do with that emotional energy, is entirely your choice. Your reaction, the choice that you make with that energy is not bound with the energy itself. We can experience great pain, anger, joy, happiness, without making irrational decisions based on it.

Remember, also, that you don’t have to believe every thought you have. 

And you also don’t have to trust each and every emotion you have.

I don’t know about you. But I’ve had certain moments in my life, including very recently, when I felt hurt, angry, or disappointed, or whatever. And once I paused, took a deep breath, and got a little distance from the situation… I realized that my feelings were my feelings, I’m not going to deny that they were there. But my emotions weren’t taking into account the entire situation. 

In other words, maybe my anger or disappointment, fear, or hurt, were a little short-sighted. My emotion was not based on the entire reality of the situation, or what was really going on.

And once again, this is why pausing and taking a deep breath, and taking a minute before you make any decision based on your emotion is so powerful.

If you’re struggling to achieve emotional control, a good question to come back to is:

What is the fear? 

There is some experience of fear behind just about every single challenging emotion.

Some questions, some trepidation, some experience of fear, even if it’s irrational, behind just about every single negative feeling that we might have.

And as I say all the time, 

Once we become clear on what we’re fearful of, it suddenly becomes less so. 

So we need to get a picture of our fear; we need to get clear on exactly what we’re fearful of because that simple step goes a long way towards transcending that fear. 

Another question on the topic of emotional control is to remember that emotions are simply a form of energy, like anything else.

And energy can be neither created nor destroyed; it can merely change forms. 


What are you going to do with this energy?

So, the obvious question is, what are you going to do with this energy if you’re feeling angry, if you’re feeling sad, if you’re feeling scared, if you’re feeling hurt?

Whatever you’re feeling, there is some positive potential use of that energy.

That energy needs to go somewhere. And we often channel our energy in these moments into, let’s say, bad choices, such as yelling at our partner, or saying something we regret…

how to achieve emotional control

So obviously, a better choice is to do something different with that energy.

There are a million examples of what you can do with negative emotional energy. Some of this can simply be exercised physically. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I have some great workouts when I’m feeling angry or feeling upset about something.

You can channel that into a good direction, like a physical workout. Or, another example, you can express yourself creatively. You can simply journal, you can write a poem, you can do whatever you want. 

The point is, make sure you’re making deliberate decisions in terms of what you’re doing with this energy.

Don’t let this energy control you because if you give it a chance to control you, it will. It’s a much better choice to simply pause, take stock of what you’re feeling, identify what you’re feeling, and decide to do something better with that energy.

If you’d like more information about my work, or you’d like to work with me one-on-one, please visit this page.

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Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.