General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Do we control our emotions, or is it the other way around?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30390points) November 17th, 2011

I’m angry over a situation. I’ll get over it, but for right now, it hurts.

A friend suggested that I “want” to be angry.

For those who know a little or a lot about the psychology of emotions, what’s going on when we have feelings?

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16 Answers

anartist's avatar

It depends on who “we” are. Some control, some are controlled.

JilltheTooth's avatar

It depends on a case by case basis. Sometimes we react based on our emotional state, and sometimes, even though we may be in an emotional state, we react based on a reasonable assessment of the situation. In my experience, when someone suggests that I’m angry because I “want” to be angry, they’re being rather patronizing and deserve to be slapped.

MilkyWay's avatar

I agree with @anartist . It depends on your personality.

Earthgirl's avatar

We can control our thoughts for the most part and our reactions to a situation.That in turn can control our emotions. The things we tell ourselves in our head become part of the logic that decides what our emotional response will be. Sometimes the emotional reaction is so swift and unthinking that we don’t realize that it is partly our underlying assumptions (“that’s not fair!” for instance, or “You don’t understand!” or” I’ve been wronged!”) that is making the emotion so intense. So if we choose to talk back to those thoughts we can moderate our emotional state. Some people are better at this than others.

I knew a woman who told me that when she gets mad she just sees red! I went out with her brother and he said she had always had a nasty temper even as a child. So maybe part of it depends on how we are wired. I think you can improve on controlling your temper and your anger issues. You can be aware of what triggers the strong responses and what thoughts lead up to it. That is what cognitive therapy and anger management classes strive to do.

But sometimes it just feels good to be mad like you said. Maybe pressure has been building up about other things and this gives you a release. All those pent up feelings coming out can be very cathartic. Sometimes someone else is clearly in the wrong and we need to have it out with them. Still, it helps to be able to moderate our emotions so that we don’t overreact and can have a meaningful talk with the person who has angered or offended us.

Coloma's avatar

Emotions are there to teach us something, about ourselves and others.

They are neither good nor bad, they just are.

While I do subscribe to the camp of we are responsible for our feelings, this is one of those philosophies that can be manipulated, as can everything.

It is true that nobody causes you to feel a certain way, but, it is also true that if I walk up and smack you in the face that you would not be feeling hurt had I not slapped you. lol

For every truth there is an opposite truth.

We can decide HOW much energy we are going to give to anothers foolish words or actions, but if someone has behaved badly and caused hurt we should also acknowledge those feelings and not minimize the impact.

Self knowledge is crucial though in being able to determine if your feelings are really for the reasons you think, or, if they have triggered other unhealed raw spots from within that are bringing up old unresolved feelings relating to past issues and not present mooment reality.

XD's avatar

The idea that “you want to be angry” is probably an inarticulate way of addressing your psychic attachment to the circumstances. There are likely other times when similar circumstances appear before you, but they don’t bother you because you’re not as invested in some aspect of it. Maybe the emotion comes from the action of being attached to the circumstances (or attachment to unrelated circumstances for which the present circumstances function as an expedient target).

wonderingwhy's avatar

We can learn to control them once we recognize them. Until then they are very capable of controlling us. But with practice and patience we can allow them only the hold on us we deem appropriate.

Do you want to be angry? Only you can answer that, but consciously, I doubt it – if you wanted to be angry consciously you wouldn’t need to ask. Sub-consciously however perhaps you do. You may wish to take this as an opportunity to understand the depth of why you feel angry at all? What purpose does it serve? What could possibly be motivating you to feel it?

After all, while we frequently blame external sources, we are the only source of our emotions and as they will be with us for our lifetimes it only seems sensible that we understand them.

Berserker's avatar

I believe we’re animals, and that our goal is to survive. To me, emotions are tools that drive us. They make us think one thing, on which we act, but the outcome is what’s important as decreed by whatever decides how humans work.
Stupid example; get mad, break something. Now you can walk through. In my head it’s way more complicated than just a primitive outlook, and makes a lot of sense in societies. But it’s really hard to explain. It’s like say you cut yourself, your body then takes all your attention away, and gives it to the wound. You then go to mend it. That’s what I think emotions are like. Whether these emotions are happy or sad or angry or confused or scared or proud. We always act on them right away. And when we don’t, there’s probably a purpose for that, too.
What comes in the brain as understood by the one feeling the emotion, has nothing at all to do with what said emotion needs you to do, besides making a relation that works in making you act.
You can say this person is a bitch because they did something bad to you, and then you heighten yourself by thinking you’re better, and get into all this moral crap to justify why you’re superior. (general you, not Hawaii Jake you) But this makes you feel better and happier, and that’s what existence needs you to feel at the moment, so you can go on. They seem to all have their own purposes.
Damnit it’s too complicated for me to say lol. It just makes sense in my head, and there are so many things attached to it, that goes over into roles that people play that structures a society into something which encompasses our survival.
I certainly think emotions control us, even more so than we think. In fact, I believe the only reason we do think and are aware, is to be able to obey emotions.
Or maybe I think all that cuz I’m looking for a cop out in dealing with anything. XD

marinelife's avatar

No, feelings are our feelings. We need to process them, and then they dissipate or at least lose their power over our thoughts and actions.

thorninmud's avatar

We don’t have much say about whether or not a particular emotion arises. What we can do is control how we relate to that emotion.

There are responses that sustain the emotion, and responses that allow it to naturally fade. Mentally rehearsing the situation that provoked the emotion will feed it. Relating to the emotion as being your state—as in “I am furious!”— will also sustain it, because it now seems to be part of who you are.

On the other hand, focusing your attention on the actual physical sensations that accompany the emotion (rather than on the situation that triggered it) will diminish its power. It’s seen as nothing more than a certain way the body feels. Equally important is to not identify with the emotion. When anger is observed as just another phenomenon that has come into awareness—much like any other sensation one may become aware of —it has much less power than when it’s seen as a manifestation of oneself. Treated this way, emotions will arise and pass.

It’s not a matter of pushing emotions away or stifling them. That doesn’t work out well. It’s enough to clearly see them for what they are and letting them naturally go on their way. They’re a little like stray cats: they show up and then leave unless you keep feeding them, in which case they become yours.

roundsquare's avatar

In the short run, they control us. In the long run, we can learn to control them.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

We can and should learn how to behave in response to our emotions. There is some evidence that changing how we think and act can control at least some kinds of emotions such as those typically associated with depression, anxiety-based disorders and learned attitudes and beliefs.

Helpr's avatar

Learning to control emotions, not the other way, can and should be learned.

GracieT's avatar

Unfortunately I had to injure my brain in the frontal lobe. I have less control of my emotions than I used to. I cry about everything now and get mad about the littlest thing.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

In essence we control our emotions, but we often do not take that authority over them. If someone came up to you and said something derogatory about how you were dressed, if you like what you chose and felt the person saying it was not important and their opinion meant nothing to anyone, you would just brush it off and go about your day. People get angry, hurt, etc. when they run across unexpected or undesired actions, or incidence. If you believe you dressed nicely and your spouse, mother, etc. clowns you for choosing what you did, you were not expecting what you thought was an attack from them, you did not get the praise or support you were looking for, so you can become angry or hurt, there are many things people get angry, hurt, etc. over, that was just one example.

LostInParadise's avatar

There is a complex interplay between thought and emotion which determines who we are. If we did not have emotions we would not do anything. Why bother? We are driven by love, awe, anger, sadness, happiness and all of our other emotions. How we respond to our emotions is determined by our thought processes.

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