Hi, I’m Doug Noll, and in this video, I’m going to give you one key practice that’s going to show you how to control your emotions in a relationship. Well, let’s start with a list of common relationship recommendations.
I went out onto Google the other day and I searched under the term how to control your emotions in a relationship. And I took the very first non-advertising article that came up, and in that article, a whole bunch of suggestions were given.
And I just wanna go through those suggestions with you and do a little criticism, because they’re really not that helpful. The first one was pause and think before you act. Well, that would be lovely if you could pause and think before you act.
You would have to be a Jedi master to do that. How many times have you been in a fight or argument and you couldn’t pause and think before you act because you got too emotional too fast, or your partner got too emotional too fast? So this is really difficult to do and it’s not very good advice at all.
How about learning how to process your emotions? Well, this is good advice for a long term strategy, but in the heat of the moment in a relationship fight or argument, absolutely worthless. Take a moment and ask yourself why.
Well, again, this is a great reflective question, but in a fight or argument, you won’t have time to ask yourself why and you won’t have time to distance yourself because you’re being hyper reactive, as is your partner.
So this is pretty worthless advice, too. Stop yourself from dwelling on negative thoughts. Well, this is a good long term advice, but again, in the heat of a fight or argument, worthless. Be careful with how you speak.
With a lot of training and a lot of practice, you can control how you speak. You can control your tone of voice, your tonality, volume and speed, and the words you use, but it takes a lot of practice ahead of time, so that in the heat of the moment, you can draw on those skills.
Learn how to communicate. I love this one, but communicate what and how? This advice is worthless because it doesn’t even define what communication is. Take as many deep breaths as you can. Well, this is a advice that a lot of people give, take a lot of deep breaths, and it’s based on, really, a misunderstanding of a part of our body called the polyvagal system.
I’m not gonna go into the polyvagal system. I’ve got other YouTubes on this, if you wanna learn more about it. Taking deep breaths is great, the problem is it takes too long for deep breathing to calm everything down.
Be mindful of your body language. Again, this works if you have training and a lot of practice, but you can’t do this on the fly in the moment in a fight or argument, unless you’ve had a lot of training.
Walk away to avoid clashing. Well, the problem with avoidant behavior in fights or arguments is it often is a way of defending yourself when you really should be confronting, and talking, and working through your differences.
So sometimes walking away is a good idea, but most of the time, it’s not. You need to learn how to deal with these difficult conversations. Accept facts and be rational. Well, I’m gonna explain just in a moment why this is some of the stupidest advice you can ever receive from anybody, because as I will point out in a moment, the fact of the matter is we are not rational beings, we’re emotional beings, so this is beyond stupid.
Learn how to forgive and move on. Forgiveness is a powerful tool, but the problem with forgiveness is that, oftentimes, if you’re the forgiving person and you’ve been victimized and that hurt remains, it’s going to fester.
So learning how to forgive is, again, another practice you have to learn and it is appropriate, but most of the time it just simply suppresses the upset and the distress that you feel, and really doesn’t help you deal with the problem.
So, as you can see, the number one ranking article on Google is just full of BS. So let’s get down to hard tax and find out what really can help. Now, there are a lot of different skills that I teach, and I’m only gonna share one important one with you today, but watch for my other videos, because over the course of time, you’ll see all the different tools that I’ve developed that actually do work that you can master in a very short period of time that will help you control your emotions in a relationship.
All right, the first thing that I wanna talk about is understand three principles. Burn these into your brain. Principle number one, we are 98% emotional and only 2% rational. We’ve been lied to for over 4,000 years.
We’ve been told that what separates us from other human beings is our rationality. And yet neuroscience has now established that we are emotional beings with only small, small times when we’re rational.
And in fact, I don’t even know what rationality is. I teach graduate courses at Pepperdine University in decision making under uncertainty and stress. And my students and I look at rationality in that class and everybody comes to the conclusion that there is no such thing as rationality, because the definition changes depending upon which discipline you’re in.
Economists have one definition of rationality. Psychologists have another definition of rationality, and other disciplines have other definitions of rationality. The law has a different definition of rationality.
And none of them cohere, none of them are the same. They’re all contradictory. The fact of the matter is we are not rational beings, we are emotional beings. And if you take nothing else away from this video, get this, we’re emotional, not rational beings.
Once you make that insight, everything changes. Principle number two, relationships are emotional. That’s why that advice about being rational in a relationship is so stupid. Relationships are purely emotional.
There’s no rationality involved in a relationship at all. It’s an emotional experience. Hopefully the emotional experience is positive, and loving, and kind, and gentle, and graceful, and soothing, and feeling safe, and feeling happy, and joyous, and excited.
But as we all know, it can also be sad, and angering, and frustrating, and feeling disrespected, or unheard and unappreciated. So there are all these different ways of expressing the emotional experiences we have in relationships, none of which are rational, all are emotional.
And of course, that gets us to principle number three, that relationships are not based on rationality. We don’t make cold, calculating decisions around relationships. They just happen, and they happen because we have emotions, not rationality.
So the new insight based on these three principles is very simple. You cannot solve a relationship issue with logic or rationality. You cannot explain, justify, appease, or problem solve a relationship problem, or a relationship conflict.
You have to solve relationship problems with emotional skills and with emotions. And if you don’t have those emotional skills and you have to rely on so-called rational thinking, you’re only going to make things worse.
So I’m gonna give you the first emotional control trick in this video. There’ll be others to follow, but here’s a key one. Know your triggers. So you probably know what a trigger is. A trigger is something that happens in the environment around you, or perhaps it’s a memory, that sets off an automatic sequence of uncontrolled reactive behaviors.
Your triggers were programmed into you when you were very, very, very young, and you’re probably unconscious about most of the triggers that you have. And yet, when you’re in a relationship and the right circumstances appear, all of a sudden you get triggered like pulling a trigger on a gun and the bullet fires, and you have no control over it.
You just become a slave to your emotions and to your childhood programming. So the first step in learning how to control your emotions in a relationship is to explore your triggers. And I’m gonna show you exactly how to do that right now.
So if you got a piece of paper handy, do this, recall your last argument, whenever it was, your last fight or argument in your relationship, and I want you to write down answers to the following questions.
Where were you physically in the moment? Were you at home? And if at home, where were you? Living room, bedroom, kitchen? Where were you? What time of day did the argument occur? What was around you visually? And I want you to be really particular.
What were the wall hangs? Artwork, if anything? What kind of furniture? What did you see? What was around you? And be as descriptive as you can possibly be. What did you smell? And you’re thinking “Smell? Why would smell be important to understanding triggers?”” Our sense of smell is one of our most potent organs, sensory organs.
And there may be smells that were around you when you were three or four years old that caused you to associate smell with anger, or rage, or frustration, or not being appreciated, or being frustrated, or not being emotionally safe.
So you wanna pay attention to the smells that you have today in your relationship to see if any of those smells are in any way identical to the smells that might have programmed you when you were very young.
What textures, tactile sensations do you feel with your skin? Are you warm? Are you cold? Do you get goosebumps? What’s going on? So you wanna take all your sensory perception and think about what did I feel with my skin, my tactile sensations when I had my last fight or argument? What emotions did you experience? And just write them out, and I’ll give you a quick way to do this.
Six layers of emotions, anger emotions, dignitary emotions, like feeling disrespect, or unappreciated, or unsupported, fear emotions, which would include fear, and worry, and anxious, and being concerned, shame, humiliation, grief, or shame, humiliation, embarrassment.
Then under that, sadness and grief, and then under that, feeling abandoned, and unloved, and unlovable. So just take those six layers and find emotions in each category that you felt when you had that last fight or argument and write them down.
And then the last thing that you wanna write down is how did you behave? What did you do? What was your behavior? And what was the outcome of that behavior? Maybe you yelled and screamed. Maybe you withdrew.
Maybe you cried. Maybe you rolled your eyes and threw your hands up in the air. Maybe you tried to respond by problem solving or becoming rational. Maybe you walked out, maybe you put your fist through a wall, hopefully not, but what were the exact behaviors that you engaged in in your last fight or argument? Take an inventory of all of this and anything else that you can think of that was around you physically at the time of the fight or argument.
Now, the next thing you wanna ask, is this a recurring event? In other words, do you have recurring fights and arguments in your relationship? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably in a triggering environment and you wanna ask yourself, “When I’m in this place, at this time, with this person, am I likely to get triggered?” You can reprogram your own brain with the information that you’ve distilled from answering those questions.
So you ask yourself, if I’m triggered, I choose to respond by doing X, and the X is the behavior that you want to exhibit. So in a relationship, you might wanna say, if I’m triggered, I choose to respond by remaining calm and maintaining my equilibrium.
Now, make sure it’s a positive statement. You don’t wanna do something like, if I’m triggered, I choose to respond by not getting angry. You cannot control your emotions by suppressing them. Your emotions are just gonna come up.
But what you can do is choose your behavioral response to your emotions. And that’s what the X is. If I’m triggered and I get angry, I choose to respond by remaining calm, and cool, and maintaining my own self-equilibrium.
And then you wanna answer the question, the outcome of remaining calm, and cool, and maintaining my equilibrium will allow me to control my emotions. So you actually write that out on a piece of paper.
Over time, as you get triggered, the first couple of times you’ll still get triggered, but each time you get triggered, remember this reprogramming that you’ve done. And each time you’ll get further and further away from the reactivity so that you will be able to maintain your calm and cool, no matter what.
Understand that this takes time. Not a lot of time, but time, so you gotta practice it. Allow for failure. You’re not gonna succeed the first time you do this. It might take you three, or four, or five, or even 10 tries before you finally get the reprogramming in place.
And that’s okay. As long as you keep working on it, you’ll make progress. Be gentle to yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t set high expectations. This is a process and it just takes time to work into your brain.
Keep practicing and repeat this entire process for your top three triggers. And when you’ve got those triggers identified, then there are gonna be three more triggers that rise to the top and do the same thing.
Only work with three triggers at a time. In a matter of months, you will be able to control your emotions in relationships in a very positive, healthy, co-creative way. Well, as I said, my name is Doug Noll, I’m a lawyer turned peacemaker.
I’m an author, speaker, trainer, and visionary. I’m the co-founder of the award-winning Prison of Peace program, where we train murderers to be peacemakers in maximum security prisons. And I’m dedicated to helping people like you live fulfilled lives.
I offer individualized training and coaching to a select group of clients. And if you’d like to set up a call to explore possibilities, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a basic emotional competency course. It will teach you all the things that I’m talking about today, plus a whole bunch more at dougnoll.co/emotional-competency.