feelings in amygdala

If you’ve been noticing your moods and emotions these last two weeks, you might have learned more about yourself. Perhaps you had a lot more feelings than you previously thought in any one day. Perhaps you held them in check, (had feelings and sat on them for example), but then at night, you got hit with them one after another—boom, boom, boom—when a family member said something ‘harmless’ to you, and you reacted and things escalated. What did you do after that?

Perhaps you had trouble becoming aware of your feelings as you were having them, and then after a blurt, an unkind remark, a rant, or a bout of indigestion, became aware that you just had this feeling of anger, anxiety, fear, etc., (fill in the blank).

To all these “perhaps” I say good! because your level of self-awareness about your moods and feelings is rising! The only way we can ramp up our EI is to start by becoming more and more aware of what our feelings are when we are having them. This takes practice and time. Keep thinking of building a strong foundation stone by stone.

Last post I suggested to focus on becoming more aware of your feelings and emotions as you are having them. This involves noticing, witnessing without judgment if possible!

This time around I’d like you to become more aware of your responses to your emotions and moods. We all have feelings on a regular basis. That’s a part of our being human. The question for each of us is what do we do about these feelings? Do we act on them? Witness them? Act on them sometimes, but not the other times when we are applying reason and logic to our emotions and our situations?

A TRUISM WE OFTEN FORGET: WE CANNOT CONTROL OUR FEELINGS, WE CAN ONLY CONTROL OUR RESPONSES TO OUR FEELINGS. In other words, feelings happen, but we can control how we react or respond to those happenings inside us.

To help you think about your responses to your emotions here are some examples of behavioral responses to feelings.

Feelings of anxiety

I have one client who talks faster and faster, and basically stops listening as her anxiety rises. A barrage of words is her defense against anxiety. It doesn’t work well as a response to her emotion of anxiety though, because those around her become angry and anxious themselves when they aren’t listened to, or can’t get a word in.

Another client gets more controlling, and makes demands rather than requests of her staff as her anxiety builds. As she barks orders she spreads the anxiety, and pretty soon the staff is operating on automatic pilot—just going through the motions to ‘get the job done’. The result is that creative thinking goes out the window, innovation will probably not happen, and the same mistakes will be repeated time after time in the effort to calm the boss and the atmosphere.

So what can you do to recognize that your emotions are sometimes playing out unconsciously in your behavior?


Make a self-study: what are your more automatic responses as you react to your own feelings? This is where your self-awareness, the foundation of EI, is your best friend. We want to know our default responses to our emotions and moods. The goal is to be able to pick and choose our responses, and not always go into default mode. The reason is probably pretty obvious: sometimes our default mode works just fine. Other times, our default mode is dysfunctional, or merely not effective, or just a poor choice when there are other more collaborative, calmer, effective responses from which to choose.

See if you can answer these questions over the next few weeks:

1     When I get anxious in the work arena I often/sometimes….

2     When I get anxious outside of work I often/sometimes…..

3     When I get angry at work I often/sometimes……

4     When I get angry in my personal life I often, sometimes…

5     When I feel centered in situations I often/sometimes….

6    When I feel calm in meetings I often/sometimes

7     When I feel powerful I often/sometimes…..

8      When I feel disappointed in myself I often/sometimes…

9     When I feel disappointed in others I often/sometimes…

Perhaps it’s time to start your Inner Fitness™ journal. In it you can keep track of your answers to your self-study and jot down whatever miscellaneous thoughts you have as you take this journey.