February 7, 2020 |Gideon Hanekom

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Do you control your emotions or are you controlled by your emotions? In this post, I share 7 emotional behaviours to look out for.

Everyone likes to think they have control over their emotions, but the truth is often far from reality.

Oftentimes, there are plenty of common signs or emotional behavioural patterns which indicate that a person is very much being controlled by their emotions even though they might believe the contrary.

In this post, I share seven (7) such emotional behaviours to look out for.

emotional behaviours

Before we look at whether you are controlled by your emotions or not, let’s first say a few things about the power of emotions.

Our emotional state at any given time, i.e. how we feel, directly impacts both our experience of each moment as well as how we express ourselves at that moment; in other words, how we behave as a result of how we feel.

In short, we can say that our emotions lead (or impact) our behaviour.

So, if we reverse engineer this idea, we can say that in order to change the results we get in life, we must change our actions or behaviours, which in turn requires us to generate the type of emotional state (or feeling) with the highest probability of leading to that type of behaviour.

In other words, before we can get a different result we need to behave differently, but before we can behave differently, we must feel differently.

For example, it is highly unlikely that you will act kindly in your relationship if you feel resentment.

Or, you most likely won’t criticise your spouse if you feel content and loved.

So, emotions directly impact our behaviour which leads to the results we typically get.

This is a hugely important concept to understand.

Because if you don’t, you can very easily overlook the importance of the main question of this post which is: Are you controlled by your emotions?

For if you are controlled by your emotions, you might discover that you have less mastery over yourself and the results you’re creating in your life than you thought.

The question of “are you controlled by your emotions” is really a question of: How much control do you really have?

If you are controlled by your emotions, you can very well end up being like a pebble in an ocean where every wave knocks you around back and forth.

Chances are you will have very little stability, certainty, or predictability in your life; or an area of your life.

And the only way to change that and start creating the results that you want is to know whether you are controlled by your emotions, and if so, how to take control back and get in control of your emotions.

So, to make it easy, I’ve identified seven behavioural patterns to consider which might indicate that you are controlled by your emotions rather than the other way around.

We won’t explore each of these too deeply as I simply want to create awareness through this post, rather than a deep exploration of each behavioural pattern on how to fix them.

Plus, oftentimes awareness is really all we need to start changing something.

When you know you’re doing something, you can start putting strategies in place to counteract or change that.

So, let’s look at some signs that could indicate your emotions control you.

7 important Emotional Behaviours to consider:

You procrastinate.

What is procrastination?

It’s the inability to get yourself to do something you know you should be doing.

Eventually, you’ll do it, but not at the best time.

But why does this happen?

It oftentimes happens because you don’t feel like doing something, so you find a way to squirm out of it, at least in the short term.

However, in the long-term, you pay the price in some form or another.

So, if you find that you’re somebody who keeps putting things off in the moment, you must ask yourself two questions:

  1. What is procrastination costing me right now, and
  2. What emotion or feeling is keeping me from acting?

Oftentimes when we realise our actions or inactions are costing us now, not later, it can motivate us into action.

Also, once we understand the feeling behind procrastination, we can either look at why that is as well as what needs to happen to change it.

Because sometimes we can alter or manipulate emotion through habitual behaviour.

In other words, if I can force myself to simply keep going on a task for five minutes only, every time I feel the need to stop or procrastinate, we might find ourselves sticking to the task a lot longer.

So, in a sense, we override the emotion in the interim through a “forced” or predetermined behaviour until it changes for real.

But, for now, simply become aware of procrastination in your life.

If you notice this consistent emotional behaviour, you might want to consider whether you are controlled by your emotions right now.

You lose your temper easily.

Do small things make you see red and cause you to simply lose it?

Do you lose your temper every day?

Losing your temper easily could seem like a normal thing to do, perhaps even a personality trait, but it could also indicate that you are controlled by your emotions and not the other way around.

In other words, you’re out of control.

When you lose your temper, you lose the ability to think and reason like a rational human being.

That’s not a good thing if this is a frequent or consistent emotional behaviour in your life.

For if it is, chances are you most likely experience a lot of frustration and lack the results you truly desire.

Someone who has control over their emotions, simply don’t lose their temper very easily.

Now, I need you to understand that anger is by no means an inferior emotion to something like joy.

Every motion has its purpose and unique function.

Every motion can be helpful or unhelpful depending on the context.

If, for example, I experienced joy instead of anger when I see a child being abused, not only would that be deemed “unhelpful” but also perhaps “questionable.”

Yet, joy is typically seen as a “good” emotion.

However, it is all contextual.

Each emotion can be helpful or unhelpful depending on the context.

So, the challenge isn’t so much about experiencing certain emotions more than others, it’s more a matter of having the ability to feel the most appropriate and helpful emotions depending on the context or situation.

If, for example, you can train yourself to remain calm and kind when your spouse is complaining about something, rather than lose your cool and act out aggressively, you will most likely increase your chances of creating a much happier and loving relationship than someone who does not.

Therefore, in the context of this post, the bigger question becomes:

If you really have control over your emotions, could you lose your temper easily and frequently?

I would argue, no.

So, if you do, it is more likely that you are controlled by your emotions (or at least this one) than not.

You do what is easy or enjoyable, instead of what is needed.

This one is closely related to procrastination.

At any moment, there’s what you should be doing and what you want to do.

And rarely are they the same thing.

You should be finishing a specific task but instead, you opt to take yet another coffee break or watch another episode on Netflix.

Now, again, this might seem fairly innocent, but is it?

If our emotions lead our behaviour, then it’s fair to argue that when we fail to do something and choose to do something else, our emotions play a role in that.

This means you are controlled by your emotions rather than controlling yourself, what you feel, and what you do as a result.

So, which do YOU do?

Do you show discipline and do what is important when it’s required?

Or do you give in to the urge to do something else?

Now, this is an important question because …

Giving in to the urge to do something else rather than showing self-discipline, is one of the biggest obstacles to success.

At the end of the day, we all know what needs to be done, but we can’t get ourselves to do it often enough to enjoy lasting success.

And so, we pay the price with our (potential) success.

In summary, if you notice this emotional behaviour in your life of easily giving in to the urge to do something else when you need to do something more important, chances are you are controlled by your emotions.

It’s time to do something about it.

You repeat your mistakes.

One way of knowing that you’re controlled by your emotions is an inability to change your behaviour.

Repeating mistakes demonstrates that your rational thinking, intellect, decision-making, choices, and wisdom are being overridden by your emotions.

Because if your powers of reasoning were in charge, you wouldn’t repeat your mistakes.

Reason would override emotion.

But, if you notice that you’re repeating mistakes, there is a very high likelihood that you are controlled by your emotions.

Emotion is overriding your reason.

To be clear, someone who is focused on achieving a certain result in life also experiences the same temptations as other people.

Yet, they have trained themselves to override the unhelpful emotions that come with certain temptations and to remain disciplined and focused on the tasks at hand.

They don’t easily give in.

They don’t easily lose focus.

They don’t easily repeat the same mistakes.

So, what about you?

You fail to consider the consequences of your actions.

When your emotions are calling the shots, any consideration of consequences goes right out the window.

If you allow your emotions to be in control, your tendency will be to make yourself feel better now without concern for the future. 

It’s all about short-term gain and immediate gratification rather than long-term benefits.

If you notice this emotional behaviour in your life, you can almost be certain that you are controlled by your emotions.

You’re not really in control.

And therefore, you will most likely continue to struggle to create and achieve the results you say you want.

But sometimes this can be easily overturned by simply considering the consequences of your current actions.

Many people, in my experience, never sit down and truly reflect on the potential consequences and cost of their inaction or unhelpful actions in the present.

Consequently, they persist on the same path that keeps rendering the same results.

You frequently regret the things you say and do.

This one is closely related to the previous we fail to consider the consequences of your actions.

How often do you say something that you wish you could take back later?

Speaking before thinking is just another type of action where you fail to consider the consequences of your actions.

Impulsive actions and outbursts typically show that your emotions have control over your decision-making process, and you are controlled by your emotions.

Lastly …

Your actions are influenced by your mood.

Again, this one has to do with impulsiveness.

If you are controlled by your emotions, your actions will typically be influenced by your mood.

Some people make decisions regardless of their emotions, as in, they override how they feel to still do what needs to be done.

Others, however, find it more difficult.

Their actions are almost exclusively influenced by the mood, which in turn can be influenced by many different things.

Like, the weather, the government, their spouse, kids, the dog, their boss, the company and so on.

Consequently, they become victims of their own mood, which is typically determined extrinsically, as in, outside of them.

Those that are controlled by their emotions in this way, generally make different decisions depending on how they feel that day.

So, they tend to be all over the place, all the time.

Every day is another version of themselves depending on their mood.

It is sometimes very hard to navigate relationships with these types of individuals, as it is extremely difficult to predict their behaviour since it fluctuates quite a bit.

One day, they are happy but the next they’re angry.

You never know who for what you’re going to get.

If you notice that your actions are influenced by your mood, understand that you’re most likely controlled by your emotions but also, you might be making it very hard for people to connect with you in a healthy manner.

In closing

How much control do you (really) have?

Do your emotions drive your thoughts and behaviour?

Are your actions influenced by your mood or how you feel on the day?

Do you find yourself just giving up on something when you don’t feel like doing it?

Do you frequently think before you speak?

Listen, it’s one thing to believe that you have to control your life, but it’s another to actually have control in your life.

And we all lose control from time to time, by the way.

That’s called life.

The important question here, however, is: “what do the emotional behaviours in your life tell you?”

Because if something is a pattern, it’s most likely consistent.

And consistency is key.

When something is consistent, the results will reflect that.

Also, it’s not easy to learn how to override our emotions and allow rational thinking to prevail.

We are essentially emotional beings.

We feel.

Such is not always easy to override an instinctive feeling or emotional reaction in favour of a more rational cause of action.

But, more often than not, it is required.

The results we typically want in life demand it.

Look, at the end of the day, most of us want to improve something in our lives somewhat.

Even if it is just a little bit.

But new results demand new actions, which we now know, demand taking control of your emotions rather than being controlled by your emotions.

So, start asking yourself regularly in different situations what the smart decisions are here, and then do everything you can to follow that course of action.

About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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