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Op-Ed: On learning to control and express emotions in healthy ways

By Marcus Hondro     Jun 3, 2015 in Health
There are many events in our world for us to get emotional about and recently while undergoing trauma I recalled past reading and work I'd done on my feelings. On having more choice with regard experiencing emotions and on increasing my emotional health.
Emotional intensity today
There is an emotional intensity in how many of us live our lives, for lack of a better phrase, and it's arguably due to so many contentious personal and world events to absorb. Our 'day to day' world and the world we read about and see on the news is often turbulent. That can create an emotional switch in us that is forever being turned on and off and on and off again.
It's not always pleasant, or healthy.
In 2010 in the wake of learning about 56 sled dogs being cruelly culled up in Whistler and dealing with the attendant sadness and anger, I wound up writing about it as a form of therapy. It was helpful and solidified my belief that we can learn to keep our emotional selves from causing extra pain, which happens when we simply withdraw or, worse, act out in anger.
It's a complex issue, and I'm hardly a therapist, but the bottom line is should you want to learn to control your emotions to a greater degree - you can. That's the way I came to understand things when I did some reading on the subject and that understanding has helped me over the past few years.
Working with emotions
Your emotions are your employees, with a job to do for you. They help you to identify who you want to be around and who you don't want to be around, how you feel about an issue, what you like and do not like. They help you communicate and motivate you toward action. You can learn to harness them while allowing that they need to be expressed.
When happy we like expressing our emotions but the emotions we associate with negative feelings concern us. It seems to me that the biggest worry people have when it comes to controlling their emotions are with feelings of anger and sadness. Reading about the cull of those sled dogs created a welling within me of those very emotions.
But as British fiction writer Sue Townsend had a therapist character tell her hero, Adrian Mole in one of her books about the hapless, and hilarious, Mole, it is important to recognize what you can do, and what you cannot do, about an issue that is causing you grief.
I couldn't save those dogs, that was over, but by staying with those feelings I could find a way to contribute to it not happening again. My choice was to write a story about the cull, to express my feelings about it and contribute to others learning what happens to sled dogs when their owners no longer have a use for them. And to do something else - write a local politician insisting on new laws to protect sled dogs.
Writing that story gave me an outlet and since I've written dozens of stories on the mistreatment of dogs and other animals, doing so whenever I encounter it. Often I'll include links where readers can make a donation in support of the animals in question. Here's a link to the highly respected International Animal Welfare Fund, should you care to contribute.
Controlling anger, sadness
Such an approach gets a strong recommendation from therapists because it works. "Learning to recognize and stay with our feelings is a valuable experience," says Kali Munro, a psychotherapist who writes online. Munro and other therapists are of the opinion that feeling and expressing emotions is the healthy way to live, and that's what I did by writing that story, and continue to do with stories on animal conservation and welfare.
Staying with our feelings doesn't mean anger must take hold of us or sadness cause us to withdraw. Munro writes that we "can be angry and choose how to respond rather than let the anger control us. The more we know about how we feel...the better we feel about ourselves."
Munro suggests doing so is a process of experiencing our feelings and finding healthy ways of releasing them. Too often people wind up feeling regret over actions that followed an onrush of anger that seemed to take control over them and our jails are full of people who acted in anger. Full of people who refused to learn to control and release emotions in a healthy manner.
Like so many things in our lives, learning to control our emotions requires ongoing effort, the effort to embrace a process of thought before action, over and over, each time issues come up, thereby taking the time to marshal in change. Eventually it becomes easier and still farther along the actions required to feel better become second nature.
The results are a much healthier, and happier, me - and you.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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