Respect Your State

Emotional control starts with accepting and respecting the current state you are in. You can’t lie to yourself about how you feel. If you aren’t feeling great, telling yourself that you usually only bottles up those emotions until they later spill out.

You need to see the current state you are experiencing as normal. Respect your emotions, don’t deny them and once you do accept them, don’t make them wrong. Every feeling you are experiencing has been experienced by millions of people before you and will likely be felt by millions of people after you’re gone.

When I started to learn about how to control my emotions, I made this mistake. I would feel frustrated, anxious or overwhelmed and I would try to magically interrupt this emotional state. When this didn’t work that failure would cause those emotions to feed upon themselves. I would feel frustrated about feeling frustrated. I would feel anxious about being anxious. I would feel overwhelmed and depressed about being depressed.

I do a lot of personal journaling. Because of this I have a written record of my varying emotional states. If there is one thing I can attest to it is how fickle emotional states are. My emotions are rarely constant but always flowing up and down, like waves of energy. Up and down.

Throughout my day I make little mental notes whenever I am experiencing a particularly positive frame of mind. Later when I am feeling overwhelmed or frustrated I often find it difficult to see how I could have possibly perceived such a positive thought.

You can’t see happiness when you’re depressed and you can’t see depression when you’re happy. Your emotions are like a colored lens. Everything you see through a colored lens can only be viewed through that color. It is impossible to see red through a blue lens. Similarly it is impossible to see one emotion through the lens of another.

At first my reaction to these changes of state was that it was my responsibility to keep myself happy. Unfortunately, if I did slip into a negative state, this only made things worse. I would feel bad that I couldn’t move myself back to that positive state. The cycle would feed upon itself until I felt awful.

Respect your state. If you feel bad, that’s okay. That’s normal. Know that you will feel happy soon too. Trying to control how you feel in each moment is impossible. Like a boat caught in a raging river, you sometimes need to just ride the current out instead of fighting it. Emotional mastery techniques can only help you steer.

Long-term happiness isn’t a constant, just a ratio. I’m much happier now than I was a few years ago because I have a higher ratio of very happy thoughts to negative ones. The negative ones don’t disappear, they just don’t last as long and don’t have the same intensity.

Your emotions over even a small amount of given time is likely to fluctuate. When you begin to get more control over your life and create empowering belief structures you should notice a shift in the overall pattern of these emotions. Just like exercising regularly will give you more energy, but it doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel tired, improving your happiness will give you more emotional energy, but it doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel down.

Emotional control and long-term happiness comes later. First accept and respect your state.

  • Wulfen


    This is one of the posts that comes “just in time”. I’ve had a series of bad stuff happening to me in December, starting with a quite bad thing involving a car accident and my neck (though it’s not something really serious in the end) and ending in catching a simple cold, with a variety of different disgraces in the middle.

    The fact that it all started with a very bad thing and then stacked, made everything that came after much worser in my mind. For instance when I catched that simple cold (gone in a day) I was very frustrated about the fact that everything was going wrong.

    But I am a very dedicated practicioner of “inner game”, which is how the PUAs call state control and emotional mastery (a kind of a pun because “game” is the mix of attitude and behaviors to pick girls, so “inner game” is the “game” you have for yourself ;).

    Since long ago I had this idea of focusing in a primary goal per year or season (same as steve pavlina says on one of his latest posts). This last year I have focused primarily on developing my inner game. In fact I’ve written extensively on some “Wulfen’s Inner Game Method”, which if you are curious about, is here (warning: very long):

    Suffice to say, the basis for focusing a lot on emotional mastery is because I’ve traditionally had very low self-esteem and that was blocking me in too many levels.

    As of lately, however (since the summer) I was able to keep a very high state, using the methods I describe in the link above. Specifically meditation and emotional reframing (as Tony Robbins explains in “Awaken the Giant Within”, reframing negative emotions into positive ones) I had bad things happening and could keep a really high state with no problems.

    But somehow the stacking of several bad things happening to me in a row and very quickly brought me down. Of course this “depression” was nothing like the horrible lows I had when I was a chump, I was kind of normal, but lost a lot of my motivation to achieve, began to vegetate more, had some moments when I was really really down (but not that much and not lasting too long) and specially, as you say, I was frustrated about not being able to not be frustrated!

    Somehow a series of small and medium disasters were able to kick me down. I thought I had this “inner game” issue handled, and there it was, the Universe again, striking me until she saw me falling down. Putting roadblocks in the thing I wanted to achieve most.

    The thing is, I asked my mentor about this, he’s a very positive person and I have learnt loads from him, so basically I asked him how could I keep being positive about this. His answer?

    “Dude, you don’t have to be a buddhist monk! Shit happens!”

    Yep, you don’t need to feel great all the time. It’s ok to focus on the positive, and to manage petty and medium disgraces. But when something major happens, and you are unable to do anything about it, it’s ok to feel down. Not to revel in the sorrow, but to acknowledge it and let it pass.

    In the end, all I needed to manage this stuff was let it pass. After a week it seems my emotions have calmed down, some minor issues have been resolved, and also I am now in a position where I can do stuff about the bigger issues (you know, holidays are bad for bureucratic stuff).

    However struggling against negative feelings has not been without benefit. What could have left the “old Wulfen” devastated, simply brought me down. People saw that I was a little more laconic, a little more sad, but still fun to hang around. I’ve learnt to rein these bad feelings (I’ve exploded a couple of times, but only to very close people). I think being able to feing being very down it’s a good skill to have, even if it might seem a little deceptive. Because if you start acting happy, you somehow become happier. One of the best ways to become happy when you’re down is to try to cheer up someone else.

    And also after a couple weeks I’ve been able to reframe these emotions to positive again. Hey, all the bad stuff hapened *last year*, and that’s sooo long ago 😉

    Rock Hard, Ride Free,


  • Scott Young

    Once again a very insightful comment, Wulfen. Good luck with your success in the new year!

  • Michal

    Scott, I completely agree with you. I used to rely on affirmations and do whatever it takes to keep the good mood on all occasions. Then I realised all the anger and other negative emotions were piling up bit by bit because I wouldn’t allow them to show up. I always had to be positive, inspired and PERFECT.
    I ended up with depression;).
    Since then I allow negative feelings because they’re an integral part of my life.
    It’s like you’ve said – just waves. You just have to wait a moment and the good ones come. It’s better to invest energy in things that change your life for good (eg health, balance, energy levels) than use all these affirmations and other techniques. We should allow ourselves to be human.
    Wulfen, I’m a recovering AFC. I also have an area of focus this year (I call it ‘theme’ after Shapiro’s book ‘goal free living’). It’s emotions this year. So I’m going to invest a lot in the emotional field of my life – also in sarge. The problem I have and would like to solve this year is a sense of humor. Do you have any ways to develop this in yourself? I think it would be part of inner game too. It would be so much easier for the beginners in sarge if they could focus on developing sense of humor in the right beginning. It would give them confidence and much better inner game. Any advice?

  • Henrik Edberg

    Good post. What I have found (through Eckhart Tolle) is that when I accept a negative feeling, and just quitly observe it (usually the feeling that is located physically in middle of my chest) for perhaps 30 seconds to a couple of minutes the feeling just disappears.

    I think Tolle says that pain comes from the resistance to the feeling. When you accept it fully and surrender to it and just let it in into your body and feel it it´s like it just dissipates. Pretty counter-intuitive. But it often works for me and puts me in a relaxed state.

    Best wishes and good luck in 2007, Scott!

  • Scott Young

    Thanks for the comments Michal and Henrik,

    I completely agree that sometimes acknowledging a feeling can drastically lessen the intensity. Sometimes it won’t and you will still get caught up in a negative state, but respecting the state you are in is the first step in changing it.

  • Niels

    Maybe a good question to ask yourself: what is an emotion or a feeling? I recall Tony Robbins saying it’s a signal that something isn’t the way you want it. Some might call it a semi-automatic response on events. And then you might also just call it waves, having little or nothing to do with whatever is happening to the person having the emotions.

    Depending on your answer to this question your technique for “handling” negative emotions can differ from “ride it out” as Scott says, to consciously reinterpreting things or speaking affirmations or changing focus or changing your posture/physique.

    Another good question might be: Do negative emotions have a goal? Is it necessary for people to have negative emotions? Can we live without them?

    Then we could ask: would you like to overcome or do away with negative emotions? Maybe it adds colour to your life? Maybe you can only or more strongly appreciate the good if you have felt the bad?

    Steve Pavlina wrote in one of his articles that his underlying feeling of wellbeing increased over time so that even if he has some setbacks he still has un underlying feeling of bliss.

    Tynan from wrote the following post claiming never being unhappy again.

    Sorry for just asking questions , but it’s such an interesting topic, I’d like to further the discussion by asking questions.

  • Scott Young


    My advice really isn’t to “ride through” your emotions. Respecting your state is the first step to emotional control because you are simply observing what you are feeling right now. It is acknowledging the truth of the situation. From that truth you can begin to use all the other emotional master techniques that Tony, Steve or myself have offered.

    I have noticed a shift in myself towards complete happiness, but it is less a shift in circumstances then in perception. When you finally “get it” and start seeing life as an interesting game lived in each moment, that is when you can feel happy despite circumstance. I’m certainly nowhere close to a perfect level of enlightenment, but my minor experiences lead me to believe that it is definitely a state possible for all of us to achieve.