Emotion Commotion: Emotional Habits

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Written by Kimberly Elmore

I’ve been struggling to write this column for the past several weeks. A case of “writer’s block,” I think. I recently read a post on Positively Positive that got me thinking. In this post, the blogger says “emotions can become habits.” Our emotional responses to situations and/or other people are habitual, if we let them be.

Emotional Habits is this month’s emotion top. This section is all about emotions. Kimberly Elmore, an Identity Staff Writer has dedicated her time to educate and discuss a particular emotion in each issue. It’s a great way for women to open up and become more aware of our emotions, feelings, and human behavior. All of these emotions help us understand how to Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM and to Feel Beautiful Everyday!TM

I’ve been struggling to write this column for the past several weeks. A case of “writer’s block,” I think. I recently read a post on Positively Positive that got me thinking. In this post, the blogger says “emotions can become habits.” Our emotional responses to situations and/or other people are habitual, if we let them be.

Think about what (or who) triggers you and what your emotional response tends to be. Is your emotional response (aka: habit): Fear? Anger? Jealousy? Insecurity? Distrust? Lonely? Isolating?

And, why does one react that way and is it a habit?

According to George Stanciu, author of The Three Big Questions blog, “Instinct directs each higher animal to have the right emotion at the right time, to the right degree, and for the right purpose. Fear forces a rabbit to flee from a coyote, not a ground squirrel; anger compels a moose to defend itself from an attacking wolf; desire causes bears to mate in late spring, so their cubs will be born in the winter den. Human life, though, is not this simple.   Humans have two ways of appraising what is good for us – the mind and the emotions – and neither appraisal is determined by nature; even worse, the mind and the emotions often give opposite appraisals of what is good for us.”


Our mind can think one way, but then our emotions interject and compel us to feel another way. So our mind is often times “at battle” with our emotions. After all, our thoughts affect our emotions and our emotions affect our behavior:

The Mind Thinks: I should go to the gym so that I get healthier and feel better about myself.
Emotional Response (examples of feelings: fear, lazy, sadness, etc.): Eh, it doesn’t matter, I’ll always be fat. Why should I bother?
The Mind Thinks: I should go out and meet new people, make new friends.
Emotional Response (examples of feelings: fear, insecurity, distrust, etc): It won’t matter; any efforts I make won’t pay off. I’m not likeable.
The Mind Thinks: I’m really into this person. I should let him/her know how I feel.
Emotional Response (examples of feelings: fear, insecurity, unworthy, etc): It won’t matter; they’re probably not that into me.

There seems to be a reoccurring feeling in each of the above scenarios of the mind versus emotions — and that reoccurring feeling is — fear. Many of us, because of our life experiences and perceptions, live from a place of fear. And fear is a debilitating emotional habit.

There are two “ruling,” if you will, emotions that humans feel: one is fear and the other is love. When one lives from a place of fear, one’s emotional habits will be fear-based (such as: anger, resentment, loneliness). When one lives from a place of love, one’s emotional habits will be love-based (such as: humility, compassion, understanding).

I refer again to George Stanciu, author of The Three Big Questions blog, as he shared the following: “Short-temperedness, quarrelsomeness, stinginess, greediness, and deceitfulness cut us off from others. On the other hand, friendliness, a cheerful disposition, generosity, and truthfulness connect us to others. Ignorance, greed, and anger, what Buddha called the three poisons, are the obstacles that stand in the way of each person becoming connected to all that is. If we wish to become who we truly are by nature, we must strive to be truthful, selfless, and compassionate.”

Consider how fear-based emotions affect your life. Think about how fear-based assumptions and judgments of others disconnect us from others and affect our relationships with others. Stanciu, in his The Three Big Questions Blog on Choosing Emotional Habits, shares this insight: “If truthfulness is extended beyond truth-telling to include the capacity to see things exactly as they are, freed from subjective distortions, then, truthfulness also means to see oneself exactly for what one is, neither more nor less. Such self-awareness is humility. Objective sight reveals that underneath the faults and weaknesses of one’s neighbor lies suffering and a profound unknown. Compassion flows from seeing that one’s neighbor is essentially no different from oneself.”

In Stanciu’s blog entitled How Emotional Habits Can Be Changed, he offers up the following suggestions:

–Use willpower to act in a way that opposes the tendency of the emotional habit.

–If willpower is too difficult to overcome the habitual emotion, focus on the physical component of the emotion. For example, if when you feel a certain emotion (anger, anxiety, etc.) and along with that emotion your chest feels tight or you have sweaty palms, focus on the chest tightness or sweaty palms. If you focus on the emotion, it may intensify the emotion, but focusing on the physical component can weaken the emotion.

–Gradually face your fear-based emotion (you don’t have to do this alone, seek out a friend to help). What keeps a fear alive is the avoidance of what is feared. Avoidance allows for the instant gratification of relief; however, in the long term your fear only becomes more entrenched within in you, your mind, and your emotional response.

–Act as you desire to become. Since we become the way we act, a person can become a different kind of person by acting as if he or she were already that kind of person. Want to be more compassionate? Do something compassionate for someone else.

Much like any other habit, changing our emotional habits takes practice. Push yourself to become aware of the emotional habits that don’t positively serve you or others, so that you can change your fear-based emotions to love-based emotions. It won’t happen overnight; it’s a process, but it’s a process that will be worth it.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”–John Lennon



About the author

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Kimberly Elmore

Identity writer Kimberly Elmore is currently employed by Delta Dental of New Jersey in the corporate communications department as the community relations coordinator. She serves as one of our top and longest contributors.

Kimberly has been a huge part of Identity's success since the beginning of 2006. During Kimberly's college years she served as the arts & entertainment editor of her college newspaper and interned in the public relations department at the March of Dimes.

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