“You have to take the emotion out of it” is a statement that many hear in the corporate world. It seems like good advice. It looks like a good way to help others develop EQ (Emotional Intelligence),

Have you ever been able to “take the emotion” out of a situation? Truly? Or have you gotten good at suppressing the emotion, pushing it down, and attempting to force a smile?

Admittedly, far too many people treat emotions as if they are as real, as solid, as a glass of water on the table. Anger is anger; happiness is happiness; stress is stress, etc., but all of those are labels and concepts. “I feel [label of an emotion]” is the brain’s way of making sense of the sensory experience and create a plan of action. The brain will pull from past experiences to determine what to do next. “I feel angry” will result in looking back at what happened the times that sensation previously was felt and what happened after (maybe your fist met a wall?). The brain will sort out if it should repeat, or perhaps the decision will be to yell instead? Maybe fist should meet a face this time?

What should be done? What if the approach was, to be honest about the emotions that you feel?

I’m not suggesting that you react to every emotion. You needn’t blow up at a customer, colleague, friend, or lover because you feel angry or irritated. I’m suggesting awareness of the emotion and then being honest about that. “You know, what you said / the way you said it got under my skin and is causing some frustration.”

Now, many have been brainwashed to believe “no one can make you feel a certain way; you choose how you feel.” Allow me to address that plainly: bullshit. The reality is that none of us choose how to feel because emotions bubble to the surface and disappear.

This leads me back to the first part of my suggestion: awareness of the emotion. Ultimately, if you can look at the emotion for what it is, a fleeting feeling, a sensation arising in consciousness, then you can determine whether or not you need to take any action. You will feel the emotion, often to the fullest, and then observe it pass away. You won’t need to “take the emotion out of it” because you’ll react mindfully and with the appropriate level of emotion.

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