I know what you’re thinking, not another article on controlling emotions and feelings – well, yes. However, I wanted to approach this subject from a different tack. I discuss this topic so often because of the dearth witnessed in choosing proper emotional responses or not choosing an emotional response to the improvement of the environmental conditions in a situation. Across the globe, we find daily, even hourly, instances where emotional diatribes are ruling common sense, destroying logic, and creating hordes of emotionally charged people hell-bent on destroying. If I can help just one person understand this cycle of emotional abuse and then choose to correct their behavior, even if that person is only me, I consider these articles successful
Today’s title comes from Charles W. Penrose (n.d.), who penned the following poem, which has been set to music; the poem is based upon Proverbs 16:32, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”
School Thy Feelings
School thy feelings, O my brother,
Train thy warm, impulsive soul,
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings, there is power
In the cool, collected mind;
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.
School thy feelings; condemnation_
Never pass on friend or foe,
Tho’ the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.
Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial,
Half its bitterness hath fled
Art thou falsely, basely slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard;
Keep thy rising anger down.
Rest thyself on this assurance:
Time’s a friend to innocense,
And the patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings,
Quiv’ring strings a breath can move,
And the Gospel’s sweet revealings,
Tune them with the key of love.
Hearts so sensitively molded,
Strongly fortified should be,
Train’d to firmness and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother,
Train them in the path of right.
Consider with me these words for a moment. Controlling emotion is hard, I understand completely. However, how often do we try to control emotion? I have been driving, stuck in restricted traffic, and becoming a raving lunatic through choice because of how someone else drove. My feelings caused them no harm but embarrassed me. I witnessed road rage, where a 30-car pileup at 45 mph was narrowly avoided. These two gentlemen would speed up, get around the other, then brake check, hindering and hampering the smooth flow of traffic due to selfish emotional choices.
Besides traffic, where else do we frequently witness unchecked emotional interactions? Politics, the news, sports arenas, the supermarket, but worst of all is social media, and especially in the emotional controls social media companies exert upon those wishing to use the service. Consider LinkedIn, they have policies in place to police thought, and curb conversation between professionals, solely because another person complained. Facebook banned President Trump, using false pretenses and sophistry when the reality is that the media giant always wanted to exert control and thwart free and open communication.
Speaking of President Trump, what about the behaviors excused under the banner, “Trump Derangement Syndrome?” The behaviors of these adults, acting worse than a spoiled toddler, was beyond deplorable, detestable, and needed public shaming. Instead, their behavior got excused, tolerated, and America is worse for having emotional behavior justified in this manner.
As a kid, if my parents did not like another child’s behavior, I was refused the opportunity to play with that child for fear the child’s emotional behaviors would rub off on me, and I would begin to act like a nincompoop! Yet, as an adult, I can witness rampant emotionally charged conduct, and I have to tolerate nonsense due to helicopter parents, political choices, and the media; I think not! I firmly support Robert Solomon’s claim that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct. In supporting this line of reasoning, I affirm I am not perfect in choosing better emotions, choosing the proper emotion, or even judging social situations properly to emote at all. However, now that I have been made aware, I am actively striving to emote less and know the why behind my emotions to empower better decision-making down the road.
There is a piece of golden advice given to commanders in the military, choose when to become angry as a method of commanding performance improvement. I had a commander who understood this principle well and many an officer who had no clue. I met non-commissioned officers who understood this principle well and others who had been promoted above their level of incompetence, who chose not to understand the value of controlling emotional outbursts. I have worked with managers across America in a myriad of positions who could learn this lesson, and I have met some amazing people who know this lesson all too well and apply it perfectly.
Consider well the words from Charles Penrose, and believe you can choose to emote or not to emote, when to emote, where, and how to emote, as tools for improving communication, performance in yourself and others, and in making better decisions. Runaway emotions hinder, not help, performance. Emotional hyperbole thwarts and hurts everyone, everything, and everywhere it is found. How embarrassing to you is it when you witness emotional meltdowns? Be it a toddler, teenager, or adult; the sight is truly embarrassing when emotions run away.
Thus, on this Memorial Weekend, let us firmly recommit to living life with more controlled emotions where we are choosing our emotional states more precisely. Selecting our emotions more carefully and allowing the emotions of others to have less hold upon our minds and bodies. As I continue to make strides in not allowing myself to be hooked into other people’s emotions, I do not lose anything, and the control gained improves how I feel mentally and physically.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.