Give Up The Need To Be Right

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

“Do you want to be right or happy?” – Dr. Phil


Some people seem to have the need to be right or at least convince others that their views are ‘right’ and the other person’s are wrong. If you enter into a discussion with them it quickly turns to a debate or an argument. If you do not agreed with them they will often spin the situation so it appears they are right.  If they are proven wrong they feel defeated, humiliated, and their ego take’s a hard hit.

In a conversation with a right-fighter it turns crazy real fast and you find yourself pulled into a competition where someone, usually you, are going to lose. For the right-fighter to be good with themself they must win and the other person must lose at any cost.

The right-fighter may actually use terms like, “In my humble opinion…” or “I may be wrong, but…”, yet if it appears like their position could actually be wrong the claws come out. It’s now a full on fight. They seem to relish the fight as much as being right. They actually believe they are right without any doubt. Pride seems to be the fuel they run on.

If they are proven wrong  embarrassment and inner frustration surface, then intense anger is triggered, which often leads to a full-blown explosion.


Mark Had All The Answers

Diane had gone home after the accident because of a very bad headache. The nurse at work advised her to rest with an ice pack on her head. She heard Mark come in the house yelling at her. She wanted to bury her head under the pillow and ignore his voice, but it got closer and closer as he walked toward the bedroom.

“There’s no way to avoid this,” she told herself as she slowly got up and walked toward the kitchen.


Differing Opinions

Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, defines the need to be right as a form of violence. At its mildest, it’s inflexibility. At its height, it manifests as dominance.

The primary emotion that drives the need to be right is fear. The opposite primary emotion is confidence. Tolle states that when a person functions in the opposite of “right-fighting” they will display humility and compassion with confidence.

When they are in right-fighter mode they will deflect any and everything that does not agree with them. If something gets through their defenses it is then flipped and blamed on the other person.

The Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 states,  “…whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…”

People who have had to deal with “right-fighters” know it’s excruciating to be hammered until they give in and concide the right-fighter’s point of view, but we all know, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” 

They’re often blamed for causing an argument, for not agreeing when they must know the right-fighter is right, or any other number of accusations.

It seems like the “right-fighter” believes that accepting a differing view or even accepting that someone else has a different opinion is weakness. Instead, acknowledging differing views can be a powerful act of understanding,compassion, and self-confidence.


Right-Fighter Definition

A right-fighter is someone who struggles to win arguments, even if they doubt their own view. A right-fighter is someone who gets overly emotional or angry when people do not agree with them and their opinions or beliefs. A right-fighter is someone who insists on having the last word in an argument or refuses to back down no matter what.Dr. Shawn Byler, Ph.R.D. in Psychology*

Hopefully, most people will (1) use active listening to really understand what the other person is saying, (2) consider the facts that s/he are putting forth, and (3) acknowledge that the speaker may have a point. That’s not saying that they agree or disagree, but that the opposing argument has given value enough to be considered.

On the other hand, the right-fighter will challenge any argument or idea, because his or her personal value is tied to the outcome of being right. Often, the subject doesn’t really matter. For the right-fighter to feel lovable and worthy, s/he must be right. It all comes down to a matter of low self-worth or low self-esteem.

Since s/he must be right, the others around are alienated, creating in them the feelings of not being heard or valued or appreciated or even liked.

According to Dr. Shawn Byler, “right-fighting is an acceptable form of violence or aggression. Because the right-fighting pattern usually ends up one sided and includes a winner and a loser, the effects are similar to those of physical abuse.”


The Recipient

Valjean in Les Miserables found himself on the wrong side of the right-fighter Javert who said, You are wrong. And always have been wrong. I am just a man, no worse than any man.”

Many of us, like Valjean, suffer the weight of the right-fighter’s unfair and unjustified  inditment. 

Any of us, who find ourselves going head to head with a right-fighter, must own our responsibility, like Valijean did in the beginning of the story. Many of us learn to be submissive in order to keep the peace. Still others fight back, which intensifies the confrontation. But, like Valjean, we need to learn how to forgive and walk away.

Toward the end of the story, Valjean learns that challenging Javert was not the answer. He set Javert free by showing him mercy, “You are free. There are no conditions, no bargains or petitions. There is nothing that I blame you for. You’ve done your duty, nothing more.” He required nothing from Javert, no apology, no setting the record straight, no need to show other his wrongs. He just gives him freedom.


Right-Fighting In:


Dr. Gray points out that “winning” at the other person’s expense is always a net loss for the relationship. Dr. Gray works with married couples, but this principle is true for any relationship. 


I just listened to Dr. Joel Parker with Veterinary Practice Solutions on YouTube. He talks about new hires that are right-fighters. He listed two things to help get the person in line with company policy. He said to give them two weeks to see beyond their argument. If it doesn’t change, cut them loose.

Friends or Family

A friend and I talked on the phone on a weekly basis. We had been friends for years. Several times she launched into right-fighting. One time she asked me for some information, which I gave to her. She became indignant that I would give her information that didn’t agree with her view point. We still talk occasionally, but not as often. 


When the right-fighter is a parent, the child is the victim of emotional abuse. It can be particularly harmful to the child because s/he always feels like the “loser” and his or her opinions are never valid or important. Hence, they do not feel loved or accepted.


Don’t Get Sucked In

  • When the right-fighter attempts to suck you into the encounter. Stop. Excuse yourself and walk away. If you continue it will only become and argument or a fight.
  • Exercise active listen. Be aware of where the conversation is leading.
  • Stay neutral.
  • Everyone sees situations differently. There are no two people on this earth with exactly the same perspective. Respect it. 
  • Respect the person. That does not mean you have to agree or disagree.
  • Take a serious look at your own perspective.
  • Don’t give the right-fighter the right or opportunity to affect your identity or invalidate you as a person.
  • Don’t get suckered into trying to show them where they are right or wrong.
  • The most important factor is to follow Valjean’s example and forgive, admit when you are wrong, help to heal any and all wounds, give grace and mercy. 


Scripture encourages us to abandon the need to win or be right, and identifies the qualifity of confidence that is involved.

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”


How to Break The Habit


The first step to change is to become aware and acknowledge the tendency of being a right-fighter. You cannot change what you do not acknowledge. Does this sound like you?

If you learn to recognize the defensive feeling that starts to rise internally when you get into a discussion, you can exercise a new behavior and do the opposite. At this point it isn’t an argument to win, but you are beginning to feel challenged. Defensiveness is a habit that you can break. As with any other habit, whether overeating, drinking, drugs, etc, you need to recognize that first desire to defend.

Accept the fact that right-fighting is not a healthy way of relating to others. Right-fighters demonstrate their low self-esteem. In other words, they fear rejection. Yet, when they are in the throes of the argument, and their defensiveness is rising, they do not see that they are actually pushing the other person away which leads to rejection.

Like other habits, you are able to release it. Right-fighting does not need to define who you are. 


Hooked on Being Right

  • Acknowledge that right-fighting is a destructive habit. 
  • Don’t beat yourself up over it – eliminate the shame.
  • Accept that right-fighting doesn’t work – for you or the other person. It will never bring you the value, lovability and worth that you so earnestly desire.
  • Accept that, like any other habit, right-fighting does not have to define you.
  • Find safe people who sincerely love you that can help you separated being corrected from being wrong and help you see that you are valued and loved.
  • Build up your own self-esteem by talking to and encouraging yourself. When you feel worthless or devalued tell yourself the opposite.
  • When you feel the emotional charge of defensiveness starting to rise on the inside walk away. Don’t engage the other person.
  • Remind yourself and act like you believe you are valued and are worthy. Talk to yourself.
  • Allow others to hold a differing opinion than yours. Don’t allow yourself to get defensive over it. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself it’s okay. 

Psalm 34:14 “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”


Mark Had To Be Right

After Diane’s car accident on Cumberland Blvd earlier that day, Mark, her husband, drove her car home from the office, where the Motor Pool had left it after repairs. Diane drove his car. From the time he walked in the door after getting her car, he did not stop talking.

“You know I don’t like the work they do at the Motor Pool. Why did you let them take it there?” Mark asked.

Before Diane could say a word he started in again.

“The guys that work in the Motor Pool are students. They don’t even know how to work on a car correctly. They’re just students. Now, we’re going to have problems with the car. I just know it. Why didn’t you call me?”

“I did call you, but you didn’t answer your phone, as usual.”

“No you didn’t,” Mark said as he pulled out his cell phone and started going through it, with a strange look on his face. “No, no calls.”

“I called your office phone. Remember, you said you never answer your cell phone at work,” Diane replied.

“That’s not true. I have never said that to you. You know I’m in and out and not always at my desk. You know that,” he said. “Plus, I didn’t get a message that you called from the operator either. You’re lying. You’re just trying not to take any responsibility for allowing our car, our personal car, to be taken to the Motor Pool. Maybe you have a thing for Ted who works over there. Is that it?”

Mark walked over to her and lifted her chin so he could look right into her eyes, with noses almost touching, “Is that it? You and Ted? I knew it. I’ve suspected it for a long time. You’re always talking about Ted. Now, our car is whacked and we can’t collect the insurance on it because you let TED fix the car. I can’t sue because you took it to TED. How dare you?”

“You are making all this up. You’re talking crazy,” Diane said with the pitch in her voice raised significantly. “I don’t have a thing going with Ted. I barely even know him and “no” I don’t talk about him. The car is fine. They fixed it.”

“No, it’s not. You didn’t drive it. Did the nurse send you home? Have you been laying in bed all day? I suppose you’ve used all your sick pay also, just laying in bed. I’m going to find a way to sue the city and the university.”

“You are talking crazy. I’m not talking to you any more. I’m learning to not get suckered into your right-fighting. Good night.”

“Where’s dinner? You didn’t fix anything for dinner. I’m starved,” he said.

“Fix it yourself. I’m going to bed.”

He followed her down the hallway to the door of the bedroom. She went in, shut and locked the door. He pounded on the door several times, yelling threats and profanities through the door. Diane went to bed and put the pillow over her head to muffle some of the noise. He finally left and she went to sleep. He had to leave earlier in the morning so she hoped to avoid him. His right-fighting seemed to be getting worse rather than better.

“I wish I could get him to go see a counselor, but I’d just get another argument.”



We often learn from childhood to “fight for our piece of the pie.” As we grow older we learn to defend ourselves and convince others that we are right. Unfortunately, we all come equiped to fall into the mindset that we are “always right.” We all possess the ability to breed disagreement, conflict, anger, and resentment. It is a choice we have to make.

At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, hopefully, we learn that right-fighting is not a healthy form of conflict resolution. In fact, it never resolves a situation. It only creates more hard feelings.

We can learn and practice active listening which tells the other person that we are interested and trying to understand what they are saying. Arguments often escalate because one or both parties refuse to look at the other person’s point of view or ideas. Listening is a good first step to resolving an issue and avoiding conflict.

Ask questions to understand. Many of us don’t know how to listen to understand. But, occasionally, even when we do ask questions, the discussion can still end in conflict and argument. 

If your conversation is heading in the direction of an argument pull out before it gets to that point. Ask for a time out. If you just walk away, it may cause more damage, so agree to continue at a different time.

I think we can all learn a lesson from Valjean in Les Miserables.  He required nothing from Javert, no apology, no setting the record straight, no need to show others his wrongs. Just give freedom with forgiveness.

It’s Okay, Dad Always Picks Up The Tab

Photo by Luis Fernandes from Pexels

Photo by Luis Fernandes from Pexels

Robin hears a knock at the door.

Who’s knocking at the door. I’m not expecting anyone. I’m not ready for company. I’m not dressed. Look at my hair. Maybe, it’s just a salesman,” she said as she walked to the door trying to straighten her hair as she went.

“Just a minute,” she yells.

You remember Robin, right?

“Jerry, Hazel?” Robin said. “What…what can I help you with?”

“You gave us your card. We need your help so we thought we’d just come over,” Jerry said as they pushed past Robin to enter her house.

“Yes, I gave you my card. It has my contact info, but how did you get my address?”

“Oh, I cross referenced it online,” Jerry said.

“I wasn’t expecting you. Actually, I have to be in class in a little while and as you can see I’m not ready to go to class. Can we make this another time?” Robin said.

“This won’t take long, trust me,” Jerry said as he and Hazel found a seat on her couch after moving stuff to the floor.

Jerry started telling about how he got started gambling. On his 21st birthday his dad took him to a casino and taught him how to play poker with the “big boys.” Dad had taught him the game at home. They played all the time and Dad said he was ready.”

“That was the best birthday present ever. An expensive dinner out with just the two of us at the casino. We watch several of the games then dad said it was time to play. He got me setup with chips and picked the table for me and he went to a different table. I was on my own. I was so excited. My first big game. I did well for awhile then I started to lose. Dad had told me I was good so I just knew I could turn it around. I kept playing.”

“Why did they let you keep playing?” Robin asked. “I’m sure it was obvious you were ja beginner.”

“I didn’t even think about it. Later I discovered my Dad had set a $15,000 limit for each of us.”

“Wow. Is your Dad a millionaire or something?” Robin asked.

“No, but even when he loses, he wins enough to cover everything. He’s rarely in the hole.”

Jerry kept talking. Robin looked at her watch several times, but didn’t say anything. She told herself that Jerry and Hazel really needed her help. She hoped the professor would understand, even though, he had said the only reasons you could miss this class were if you were in the hospital or the morgue. She squirmed in her chair, but neither of them seemed to notice. I’ll tell him the circumstances, that I was helping someone. He’ll understand. Robin managed to focus on Jerry’s story, again.

“Jerry, let me interrupt for a moment. How many times has he bailed you out of gambling debts?” Robin asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve lost track at this point. But, it’s been several years.”

“And he’s still bailing you out?”

Hazel spoke up, “We’ve been married now for a little over a year and I know he’s bailed Jerry out probably 8 to 10 times. Dad said this was the last. If he cuts Jerry off and Jerry keeps gambling we’re up a creek without a paddle. We won’t make it.”

Robin studied Hazel’s body language for a few minutes. She had been wringing her hands all the time she was talking. Tears started rolling down her face. She brushed them away with the back of her hand.

Boundaries? Why Do They Matter?

Photo by Jacob Morch from Pexels

According to Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend in Boundaries, “boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for, gives me freedom.”

Prov 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Having clear boundaries is essential for having a healthy, balanced life and relationships. But many people think that setting firm boundaries is being selfish and unloving.

When you know who you are, your values, needs and wants, you are protecting yourself both physically and mentally.

Boundaries also enables you to communicate with others about who you are, how you would and would not like to be treated. They also protect things that are valuable and important to you.

In essence, when you set your boundaries you are respecting yourself and believing that you are worth defending.

Boundary enforcement behaviors include, refusing to answer questions that make you feel uncomfortable, avoiding life threatening situations, moving away from sketchy situations, abiding by your personal values and beliefs, knowing that others don’t know what you want or need without you speaking up.


Setting Healthy Boundaries

  • Appropriate trust. Move step by step into intimacy – emotionally and physically. Make people earn your trust. Don’t give it away. Don’t try to purchase affection or trade intimacy for commitment.
  • Stay focused on your own personal growth.
  • Maintain personal values despite what others want, say, or do.
  • Notice and speak up when someone invades your boundaries.
  • Trust your own decisions and don’t allow yourself to be talked out of them.
  • Know who you are and what you want. Stick to it.
  • Respect yourself – Do not put too much hope in someone else to behave in your best interest.
  • Recognize that friends and family are not mindreaders. You have to speak up.
  • Do not allow someone to take advantage of you and your generosity.
  • Say “No” to food, gifts, touch, and sex that you do not want or are not in your best interest.

 The first step in setting good boundaries is to identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limitations in all work and personal relationships. Being self-aware identifies your limitations, what you are comfortable with and what you are not. Write them down. Make sure you limitations are firmly set in your mind before trying to relay your boundaries to someone else.


Speaking Up Assertively

Step two is assertively telling others about your boundaries. Assertiveness is not negative, as it is so often viewed. Assertive communication means you are expressing your message in a clear and direct manner, while still respecting yourself and others.

Assertive communication helps minimize conflicts, control anger, meet your needs in a healthier manner, and have more positive relationships.

People often confuse assertiveness with aggression, but they are different.

Aggressive_Assertive Chart

Tips for Speaking Up Assertively:


Jerry Learns About Boundaries

As Robin listened to both Jerry and Hazel she recognized one problem. A problem she too was having at that very moment – no boundaries. She looked at her watch again. She still had time to make class on time. Jerry kept talking as if these were just the most amazing stories, stories about how much he’d lost in gambling, how many times his Dad had bailed him out.

Jenny held up her hand for silence.

“Jerry, it sounds to me like we all have a particular problem here – boundaries. You come into my house without calling first or even asking if I have time to talk to you. If I allow this to continue I have a problem with setting boundaries.”

“Hazel, you said Jerry’s Dad said this was the last time. Is that correct?”


“But…” Jerry tried to interrupt.

Jenny held up her hand for silence. Jerry slumped back into his chair with a pout on his face as he pulled his jacket collar up around his face.

“Hazel, I want you to talk to his Dad and make sure he does what he says. The reason he’s out so much money is because he keeps relaxing the boundaries. Boundaries must be firm.”

“But…” Jerry tried again.

“No, Jerry,” Hazel said. “I like what I’m hearing. I’m so tired of the gambling and all the mess that goes with it.”

“Good,” Robin said. “Now, Hazel, what boundaries are you going to set?”

Everyone was quiet, so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

“Well, actually, I’ve been thinking about it. I want a family, but I don’t want to bring a baby into this mess. I don’t want to be in this mess either.”

She turned to Jerry, “I love you very much, but I, honestly, can’t take this any more. I’m glad we came to see Robin. I now know what I need to do. You must adhere to all of the requirements your Dad has set forth – Gambler’s Anonymous, Counseling, Pay your Dad back. If you don’t I’m going to go stay with my parents until you get your act together. I’m also going to talk to your Dad. He won’t back down this time. If he does back down and/or if you don’t follow through, I’m gone for good.”


“No buts about it,” Hazel said. “One more thing…she paused…I’m pregnant and I’m not bringing a baby into this mess. Now, it’s time for us to get out of here so Robin can get to class.”

Hazel stood up and pulled Jerry up by his jacket collar.

“Thank you, Robin. I really needed the moral support. You really helped.”

“Thank you. You are welcome, Hazel and you have my card. Call me and leave a message if I’m not available to answer. And, Jerry, next time call first.”

Jerry didn’t respond. He walked out the door like a little kid who’d got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.



Setting healthy boundaries and assertively communicating them to others shows respect for yourself. Not enforcing boundaries is like trying to protect and care for your yard when you don’t know where the property lines are.

When we bought our house seven years ago we were sure where the property line was. There were two sheds in the back yard, one was painted the same color as our deck, so we assumed it was our shed.

Within the last year we discovered that the shed belonged to the neighbor and 90% of the side yard also belonged to the neighbor. It’s very confusing. If we didn’t get along well with our neighbors it could be potentially dangerous.

It’s important to know where your boundaries are. It helps you develop more self-worth and be confident and secure.

God designed us to be responsible for everything that makes up “us.” God created us to be responsible for what is in our soul. Boundaries help us define what we are responsible for. Too many times, our family, life, or circumstances confuse us about where our boundaries, parameters, are. We don’t know where our property lines are. Therefore, don’t maintain our property.

Remember, boundaries also show us what is not ours, what we are not responsible for. We are not responsible for others. Everybody is responsible for their own property, their own soul.

Boundaries also protect you from being unfairly burdened with responsibilities that others should be handling for themselves.

When our life is over here on this earth, we will have to give an accounting for how we maintained our property – our soul and our life.

How Do I Rewrite My Life?

Image by william68 from Pixabay

Image by william68 from Pixabay

Identify Your Thoughts and Emotions

In order to make changes you must first become aware of your automatic thoughts and the associated emotions. Some changes are easy to make just by changing your automatic thoughts. Others are more difficult because the core beliefs are multifaceted and require more work.

Start by making the easier changes first.

The first step is to identify your automatic thoughts, core beliefs, and the accompanying emotions. Identify what you have convinced yourself is true, but in reality may be false.

For example, are you always complaining or quick to place blame? Take notes! Ask yourself why you are feeling this way? The emotions behind these types of comments are the keys to discovering what you believe. When you understand what you believe and why, you will be able to change the belief and the associated emotion .

A simple step, but not an easy step, is to catch the thought before you say it and change it to the opposite. Catch your complaining thought and turn it into a thankful thought.


Complaining Comment

“I really wish you’d help with the kids instead of going fishing (whatever) all the time?”


The Opposite

“Thank you for helping me do the dishes, yesterday. I really appreciate it.”

When you practice saying The Opposite, you will soon see a difference in your attitude and the other person’s attitude.

Pay attention to the negative things you hear yourself say and the negative thoughts you think. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel that way?” The emotion and feeling behind those thoughts and words are the keys to discovering what you truly believe. This will identify your starting point to begin the change process.

The list of thoughts below will help you begin to identify your negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings that lead to negative behavior.

Read these statements. Have you ever had thoughts like these? If so, put a check by the ones you’ve had.

  • I can’t do this. I’ll never get it right.
  • She’s really going to be upset with me (when there really isn’t a good reason).
  • I know I shouldn’t eat that piece of cake, but I’m fat any way, what difference is it going to make?
  • I can’t stop drinking. The last time I tried I got really sick.
  • I know he’s having an affair.
  • The boss said there was a possibility of a lay-off. I know I’m going to get fired  and I’ll never find another job. My family will leave me. I’ll end up living under a bridge, homeless.
  • I’m not smart enough. I can’t do anything right.
  • It’s his fault we’re in debt. Because of him we’re going to lose everything.
  • It’s not fair. I sit at home alone just so he can go jam with his buddies. It’s just not fair.
  • Why should I try? Life is hopeless. I couldn’t do it anyway.
  • I’ll never find a good job. I’ll never be able to take care of my family.
  • If I didn’t have to work so much, I’d be happier.
  • If I got more sex I’d be more loving. It’s all her fault.
  • We’ve always done it this way, so you should listen to me.
  • If she’d just be nice to me I’d love her more.
  • I’ve given up everything for my kids and now they never come to see me.
  • I’ll never get a promotion. She’ll get it because I know she’s sleeping her way to the top.
  • She will do this or else.
  • If he loved me he’d know what I needed. I shouldn’t have to say anything.
  • They don’t treat me right. I’ll teach them, I’ll leave.
  • I’m too slow. I can’t keep up. I know I’m going to get fired.
  • Things never work out for me.
  • I’m not pretty/handsome enough.


Analyze Your Thoughts and Emotions

Now, select the one automatic thought that causes you the most problems or comes up the most often. It may be from the list above or one of your own. Answer these questions about that thought. Write as many details as possible.

  • Describe the event, situation, or memory.
  • What goes through your mind when you read or think about it.
  • Describe any emotions or emotional reactions you get when you read the statement or recall the memory?  
  • List any other thoughts that go through your mind when you recall the event.

Thankfully, you can choose what you think. You can become aware of your automatic thoughts, emotions, and core beliefs. If you question and evaluate them, you can change them.

This will be a journey worth taking.

Identify Changes Needed Using your automatic thought from above or your own list:  

  • Identify destructive feelings and behaviors that you would like to get rid of.  
  • Identify constructive feelings and behaviors that you have or would like to have.

Once you have analyzed your automatic thoughts, emotions, and feelings and you know what you want to change write a letter to yourself.

Include in the letter

  • A complete statement of the information from above.
  • Talk about your emotions (happy, fearful, angry, depressed, etc.) and where you would like to be.
  • Describe where the core belief came from, if possible.
  • Add what you are going to change the thought to – the new thought.
  • Set goals to change your life. Write them out.
  • Identify your downward spirals. List the circumstances that cause them and how you are going to prevent them.


Here’s what you are committing to:

  • Learning to be aware when you become emotionally charged and become aware of your negative thoughts and feelings through documenting daily.
  • Restructuring your negative thoughts to positive thoughts which will begin creating positive feelings.
  • Creating a plan of action for other peoples emergencies, or should I say, not taking on other’s emergencies.
  • Being conscious of other people’s atmosphere (moods, attitudes) and not getting sucked in.
  • Eradicating your negative thoughts and emotions and replacing them with positive, constructive thoughts and emotions.
  • Not judging others.
  • Seeking to be a positive influence in other people’s lives.

Draw up a contract with yourself for the above changes. Sign it

Fred’s Destructive Behavior

“Fred, Fred, are you alright?” the supervisor asked again as he walked by for the third time.


“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine,” Fred said as he leaned back in his chair still keeping his eyes on the floor. He felt as if he was trying to catch his breath after a hard punch to the gut.

The supervisor put his hand on Fred’s shoulder, “I just wanted to give you a head’s up so it won’t be a surprise.”

Fred continued to sit. The supervisor slowly removed his hand from Fred’s shoulder. He bent over slightly and looked into Fred’s face then shaking his head walked out.

Here it goes again. I thought this time I could advance and be able to take care of my family. Maybe my dad was right. I’ll never get a good job. What am I going to tell my wife. She just quit her job because mine was “secure”, yeah right.

Fred slammed his fist down on the desk, closed the lid on his laptop without logging off, grabbed his jacket and walked out of his cubicle headed toward the door.

“Fred, I’ve got a question about… are you leaving now, we’ve got an hour left?” Marty, another employee, said.

Fred walk passed Marty pushing him up against the wall and kept walking without a word. He jumped in his car and revved up the engine. Gravel flew as he fishtailed out of the parking lot. His erratic driving began to calm when he noticed the bar on his left. I haven’t been there for, what, it must be almost a year. I need a drink. If I ever needed one it’s now. He slowed then turned the corner to go around the block. I told Mary I wouldn’t drink any more. She said if I drank any more it was over, but I’ve been so good and I can’t go home like this. She’ll understand. Maybe I should call my sponsor. No, he’s working. What can he do, anyway? I just need to calm down and get my emotions under control. He slowed as he passed the bar. I’ll just have one. I can handle one. It’ll help me get myself under control before I go home. He cranked the steering wheel to the left and turned into the parking lot. Just one!

“Fred, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Where ya been?” the bar tender said.

“I’ve been busy, but today is a really bad day.”

“Do you want the usual?”

“Make it a double.”

“Yeah, I moved clear across the country to take this job because they really wanted me, now the first little hiccup and they’re firing me,” Fred said slurring his words,“ Give me another and this time make it a Triple.”

The bar tender grabbed his arm as he nearly slid off his stool, “No more. You’re over the limit. I’m calling you a cab.”

Fred instantly reached over the counter swiping the glasses and bottles onto the floor, “How dare you cut me off? I haven’t had that many. Every body’s against me.”

He turned and staggered towards the door. The bar tender slammed down the phone and ran around the counter to keep him from leaving until the cab arrived. Fred pulled his left arm free and swung his right arm around but missed the bar tenders head.

“Fred, you need to calm down. This isn’t going to help,” he said as he pulled out a chair and pushed him down. He turned to the bouncer, “Keep him here until the cab comes. Make sure the cabby knows where to take him. Make it clear that he can’t let him out anywhere along the way.”

“Got it boss.”

The bar tender could hear Fred beating on the table spouting profanities as he walked back to the counter.

With every cycle Fred’s thoughts, feelings, and actions escalated. It became a downward spiral until something bad happens. Now, he’s drunk and in real danger of losing his family. If there is no effort made to reverse the destructive thoughts, it is too often a traumatic event that snaps the person back to reality or they go from rage to depression or deeper depression. This can create a “crash and burn” situation. Hopefully, their emotions cool and their automatic thoughts are then, at least, filed back in the drawer until next time and life goes back to normal. The best situation is to recognize them and change them before irrepairable damage is done.



Amazingly, you can retrain your brain. You can replace those negative, automatic thoughts and core beliefs, which will have an effect on your emotions. You can make your brain to work for you instead of against you.

We’re not talking about “sheer willpower”, we’re talking about replacing the negative, destructive, automatic thoughts with positive, constructive, automatic thoughts so that you make more constructive choices and perform more constructive behaviors and accomplish more of what you really want to accomplish in your life.

Your automatic thoughts and core beliefs, controlled by the emotional center of your brain, operate similar to the thermostat on your furnace.

Scientists have discovered a control response mechanism that is naturally present in humans and animals. For example, if you are overweight and want to lose weight we know we have to eat right and exercise.

If your brain is conditioned to keep you at a certain weight, your comfort zone, like the furnace keeps the room at a certain temperature, you will get stuck on a gain and loss cycle never getting to your goal weight or if you achieve the weight you won’t be able to maintain it.

In order to successfully change this destructive pattern you must change your automatic thoughts and your core beliefs.

As mentioned above your internal thermostat will raise doubts and fears and even launch sabotaging behaviors any time you step out of that comfort zone.

If you experience any sudden change your will receive an emotional response – red flashing light. Your brain begins to worry and starts maneuvering to bring you back into your comfort zone whether the change is positive or negative. How? Your automatic thoughts kick in.

What do you need to do to change it?

Rewrite the script of your ME- MOVIE.

Fred’s Rewrite

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

“Fred, Fred, are you alright?” the supervisor asked again as he walked by for the third time.


“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine,” Fred said as he leaned back in his chair still keeping his eyes on the floor. He felt as if he was trying to catch his breath after a hard punch to the gut.

The supervisor put his hand on Fred’s shoulder, “I just wanted to give you a head’s up so it won’t be a surprise.”

Fred continued to sit. The supervisor slowly removed his hand from Fred’s shoulder. He bent over slightly and looked into Fred’s face then shaking his head walked out.

Fred thought to himself, “Here it goes again. I thought this time I could advance and be able to take care of my family. Maybe my dad was right. I’ll never get a good job. What am I going to tell my wife. She just quit her job because mine was ‘secure’. Yeah right.”

Fred stopped. He took several deep breaths to calm himself. He could see the red light flashing in his mind. He said to himself over and over, “My dad is wrong. I am doing great.”

After several minutes of saying the opposite to his automatic thoughts, he walked into the supervisor’s office.

“Excuse me, I have a question,” he said to the supervisor as he looked up.

“Am I being fired?” Fred asked.

“Absolutely not. Actually, we’re giving you 2 maybe 3 days of extra vacation while we get everything ready for the new contract. Fired, no way! You are the best draftsman we’ve ever had. You’ve done such a great job that we decided we’d give you a bonus instead of sitting here for 2 days without much to do.”

“Thank you, sir. I really appreciate it.” Fred said then turned and walked back to his desk.

The supervisor followed him, “Fred, you actually don’t have much to do now, do you?”

“No sir. I finished everything for the last contract.”

“Then, why don’t you take the rest of the week off also. Call me on Tuesday and I’ll tell you where we stand,” the supervisor said.

“Thank you, sir,” Fred said as he began putting his desk in order to leave.

Fred began thinking, ”Wow! Look what I would have missed if I’d had listened to the words in my memory. My wife and kids were going to be so excited. We can actually take a short vacation. Let’s see, where can we go?”

Does The Script of Your Me-Movie Need Rewriting?

What’s a Me-Movie?

We all know that movies are a sequential series of images and sounds that engage the viewers imagination to tell a story or create a perceived experience. Every life is a story. Let’s turn our attention to the perceived experiences of our lives that I will call your ME-MOVIE.

According to the latest scientific evidence, your ME-MOVIE started production one week after conception. Although you rarely, actually view yourself in action, you are the main character in your ME-MOVIE. As you move through time, you record through your senses and your memory every experience you have.

There are a lot of supporting actors and actresses. Your  parents or primary caregivers play a major role in your movie, as well as, siblings and extended family. The relationships and interactions among these leading characters greatly affect the script in your ME-MOVIE.

A recent survey conducted by Hart Research for ZERO TO THREE revealed that most parents are not aware of how deeply babies and toddlers are affected by their early experiences and the events going on around them.

Even though babies don’t understand what is happening, they are like sponges absorbing the emotions of their parents or caregivers. Even before birth, they sense conflict, arguments, sadness, anger, stress, as well as, love, warmth, security, and excitement. All of these experiences are recorded in the child’s ME-MOVIE, in your ME-MOVIE.

Your experiences create your core beliefs or mindset which create your automatic thoughts, which are continually playing in the background of your mind. They direct how you evaluate new events and situations, continuously shaping who you are and what you are capable of.

Even the simplist beliefs have emotional memory at their core and control how you feel, what you say to yourself and others, and dictate how you will behave, consequently, creating new scenes in your ME-MOVIE and forming the qualities of the main character for better or for worse.


Your Script

The script of your ME-MOVIE is self-controlled, self-directed, and self-programmed, whether it’s positive or negative. It can program you to fail or to succeed. What you say to yourself can program you to have a happy, productive life or one of failure and unhappiness.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

The Bible tells us to destroy thought distortions, such as worries, fears, self-condemning, critical, or negative thoughts. We are told to test or analyze our thoughts and replace the distortions with thoughts that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. This sounds rather idealistic and, perhaps, impossible. The fact is it can be done. We can retrain our brains.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB) states that “We are destroying speculations (worries, fears, Distorted Thoughts) … and taking every thought captive (Thought Restructuring)”  

Romans 12:2 (NASB) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— meditate on these things.”

This illuminates the process of Rewriting the Script of Your ME- MOVIE.


Fred’s Begins His Journey

We will be looking in on a character we will call Fred as he takes the journey of becoming more aware of his negative, automatic thoughts and core beliefs, and how he starts the process of change.

Fred, a engineering draftsman for a mid-sized manufacturing plant in a small mid-western town, is told he MAY BE laid-off his job by the end of the week. His automatic thought was “I’m being fired.” He became very anxious, replaying his automatic thoughts over and over in his mind.

With each cycle he became more anxious, adding more thoughts making a “mountain out of a mole-hill.” During the week his job performance began to lag. He took more breaks.

He became moody and irritable. He said to a co-worker, “Why should I work, Friday’s my last day? I’m being fired.”

When he acted on his thoughts and feelings, his behavior generated new, more intense emotions, thus, beginning another cycle. By Friday Fred felt physically ill, very fearful, and angry.

He went to work, packed up his desk, and started to leave the building without a word to or from his supervisor. He had totally convinced himself that Friday was his last day. He was being fired!


Thoughts and Emotions

We discussed emotions in the post How To Regulate Your Emotions So They Don’t Regulate You.

To get a thorough understanding of emotions you have to see how they relate to your thoughts. The relationship between thoughts and emotions is complicated. They can be experienced together or separately and one will trigger the other. Both thoughts and emotions can be triggered by an external event or by memories or core beliefs.

Thoughts, though, are your mental ideas, opinions, and core beliefs about yourself and the world around you.

“It’s only in recent decades that we’ve recognized and validated that emotions are a powerful attention directing system—an amplification device—in our brain. They are responsible for creating the visceral responses regarded as feelings, that in turn are transformed into thoughts and the formation of beliefs to help us make sense of what we experience at the moment and to use for future reference.”  Mary C. Lamia Ph.D.


Are you where you want to be in life?

Is there a difference between where you are and where you want to be?

Your life is determined by your emotions and thoughts, which then are reflected in how you feel and how you act. In other words, your life is exactly how you have designed it to be by what you think, feel, and do.

Constructive thoughts usually lead to constructive behaviors. Destructive thoughts usually lead to destructive behaviors.

Destructive thoughts can come from many sources. It may be a statement made by someone that you just can’t get out of your mind or maybe an event from the past that makes you depressed, angry, impulsive, or fearful.

When you allow destructive thoughts to dominate your thinking, they negatively affect your life. But, like the oyster, you can take these thoughts, irritating grains of sand, and turn them into “pearls of great value”.


Preparation To Rewrite

The strategies presented below will provide a simple method for change that will significantly improve the quality of every aspect of your life. This is not a clinical resource and is not designed for people who are suffering with chronic depression, anxiety, panic, fear, or any other extreme emotional disorder requiring professional counseling.

However, it could be beneficial used in addition to counseling. You will learn how to use your emotional responses, as a flashing red light on the dashboard of your life, to indicate that you have a potential thought or behavioral problem.

For example, if you become intensely angry at what someone else says or does, you will feel physical changes in your body. These changes are the flashing red light that indicates there could be a problem. Once you become aware of your emotional responses you can identify and analyze your thoughts and restructure them. This will change your feelings and your behavior, thereby, improving the quality of your life.

Is this a quick fix? No. Your troublesome thoughts and behaviors didn’t appear overnight. Likewise, change is going to take time. Your thought patterns, distortions, and quirks are habits that you have been developing or reinforcing since childhood.

Statistically, it takes on the average 66 days of a consistent new behavior to develop a new habit. Brian Tracy states that “the time period can be any length from a single second to several years. The speed of new habit pattern development is largely determined by the intensity of the emotion that accompanies the decision to begin acting in a particular way.”

Steps To Change

Script Rewriting, which is Thought Restructuring in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a tool to help you create new thoughts, which will result in new feelings and new, healthier behaviors. You can begin by simply identifying and documenting your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors using a tool of your choice: smartphones, cameras, recorders, notebooks, computers, tablets, paper, pencils, pens, scrapbooks, crayons, spray paint, sock puppets, flannel graphs… whatever you have available and like to use.

Please, be honest with yourself as you answer these questions and read the examples. Use as much information as necessary to fully process your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some thoughts or events will take more processing than others.

Choose a technique from the suggestions above or be creative and develop your own, as long as it works. Find something that fits your personality. These exercises are to assist you in making changes, not to be a drudgery or busy work. If you don’t like to write, use a recorder or video or another method that will help you rewrite your script. Remember, though, writing usually helps you process your emotions, thoughts, and feelings more effectively.


The Feedback Loop

Feedback Loop

In the basic Feedback Loop our automatic thoughts trigger emotional responses to situations or the reverse. The CHECK-SELF light, in the middle of the diagram, represents physical responses like clenched teeth, clenching of the fist, increased heart rate, narrowed or wide eyes, rapid breathing, seeing red, tears, crying, shouting, threatening, sweaty palms, tense muscles, etc.

As our thoughts or emotions become more conscious they affect our feelings and, ultimately, determine our behavior. As you can see from the diagram above, you can experience a chaotic feedback loop where your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can jump from one to another and intensify with each cycle.

At this point, the CHECK-SELF light should be flashing read indicating that your thoughts and/or emotions need attention.They are in danger of going out of control and need to be slowed, evaluated, controlled, and changed.

This is analogous to the check engine light or other alarms or indicators on the dash board of a car. They are not designed to force you to stop and address the problem. They are designed to make you aware of a potentially serious problem in the operation of your vehicle, like running out of gas, overheating the engine, or low oil pressure.

We have all experienced situations where our mind seems to run wild. Our emotional responses spike. We do and say things we wouldn’t normally do or say, creating a frenzy of emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we may later regret.


Back To Fred

With each cycle, his thoughts and feelings became more negative and distorted from reality. It has been scientifically proven that we can convince our minds that something is true by repeating it over and over until we believe it. It then becomes part of our core beliefs, true or false.

What have you convinced yourself is true, but in reality may be false? Begin writing about your thoughts, physical response that indicate an emotion, and your feelings? Is it really true or could it possibly be false?

For Fred, it began with an “automatic thought” from his core beliefs, which triggered an emotional response. His automatic thought – “The boss said there was a possibility of a lay-off. I know I’m going to get fired and I’ll never find another job. My family will leave me. I’ll end up living under a bridge, homeless.” His core belief – “I’ll never amount to anything. I’m not smart enough. I can’t do anything right. Things never work out for me.”

In reality – his supervisor was trying to explain that he was only getting a couple of days off until a new contract was approved. Administration didn’t expect it to last more than 2 or 3 days. But, his automatic thoughts and emotions kicked-in and he didn’t hear everything the supervisor said.

When he heard the words “laid-off” his automatic thought, “I’m getting fired,” flew into his mind clouding his ability to think rationally. In fact, his mind was so clouded that he couldn’t hear anything else. The automatic thought caused an emotional reaction. His heart started to race. His breathing became short and erratic. His palms became sweaty and muscles began to tense.


Conscious Thoughts

What do you say to yourself that might not be a true or a full statement?

Your automatic thoughts often take on a life of their own. They are familiar. You may have lived with many of these thoughts and core beliefs since childhood. As your automatic thoughts move into your conscious mind you rehearse them, which further reinforces them in your core beliefs, just like Fred did.


Fred’s Childhood

As a child, Fred was told that he would never amount to anything. At some point he began to believe it. Consequently, he never excelled in school. He didn’t see any point in going to college because he “just wasn’t smart enough”, until later in life. He never applied for more challenging jobs because he “couldn’t do it anyway, so why try”. These negative thoughts and feelings about himself were very deeply ingrained into his core beliefs about himself.

After his supervisor left his cubicle, Fred leaned forward in his chair and rested his head in his hands. Depression began to descend.

He recalled his father’s words from so many years ago, “You are so stupid. You’ll never amount to anything.” How many jobs have I had. I just can’t do anything right. I have really tried. I’ve taken all the extra training I could find in drafting. I thought I was doing well. I thought my supervisor liked my work, but here we go again. What am I going to tell Mary and the kids? They were all excited about going to Disney World on vacation. Now, we won’t be able to go. We can’t live on my unemployment, if I get unemployment. It’s barely enough to buy food, how are we ever going to make the mortgage payment? There aren’t any other drafting jobs in this little town. We moved here just for this job, now what are we going to do. The kids were upset about moving and now to be laid-off. They’ll never understand. Maybe I shouldn’t tell anyone until Friday.

Fred’s supervisor walked by again and saw Fred still sitting “Are you feeling okay, you don’t look so good?”

“I’m fine.”

How can he ask me if I’m okay? He’s firing me. He acts as if everything is normal. Doesn’t he even care that I’m going to lose my house, my family, everything. Doesn’t he care I’ll be homeless living under a bridge? Maybe I should leave now. Why wait and torture myself for the rest of the week? But, I do need that last paycheck deposited into my account. My last check… my last check, and they seemed very happy to get me just a year ago. They even gave me a good review, now without any warning, they’re letting me go. I just can’t believe it. How dare they fire me? I’m the only one that can do what I do. The owner’s son was going to school, maybe, he’s getting my job. I just can’t believe this.


Sound Familiar

Does any of this dialogue sound familiar? If so, write it down.

Your release may not be alcohol, it maybe that piece of chocolate cake, a Snickers bar, an extra-long workout, porn, staying late at work, watching videos for hours, or keeping your nose in a book.

When I was young I would play the piano when I was upset. My mother used to say she could tell I was upset by the way I attacked the keys.

You may say, exercise or playing the piano isn’t bad. You are right it isn’t. But if you are using it as an escape, if you are talking to yourself like Fred did, things are going to get worse.

  • How long did you “churn” on the thoughts going through your mind? An hour?   Half-a-day? Two days?
  • How did you blow it out of perspective?

You need to become aware of what is going through your mind and stop it. Plant and rehearse the opposite thought.

  • Negative Thought: “I’m being fired.”
  • Positive Thought: “That can’t mean I’m being fired. There must be something that I don’t understand. I’ll go ask.”
  • Negative Thought: “They liked me just a year ago. Now, I’m being fired.”
  • Positive Thought: “I know I have performed well and had good reviews. Everything’s going to be just fine.”



In a car, if the oil pressure light comes on you don’t put water in the radiator. The same is true with your CHECK-SELF light from the FEEDBACK LOOP above. You must IDENTIFY and INTERPRET the cause of the flashing red light.

The flashing red light may be an automatic thought that pops into you mind, or you body registers a physical change which signifies an emotions, which you then feel as a feeling. For example, somebody says something, your blush, which is caused by an emotions and registers as a feeling, embarrassment.

What is it that got your attention? Become aware. You cannot change anything you are not aware of. Becoming aware is the first step.

The point of this post is to begin the process of becoming aware of the automatic thoughts that go through your mind and create physical reactions that cause the red light to flash.

Often, the physical sensations or symptoms are experienced but not analyzed or evaluated. They are simply felt as feelings and acted on. This would be like seeing a trouble indicator on your car’s dashboard, getting angry with it, and blaming the car.

In the next post How To Rewrite Your ME-MOVIE will go into details about how to begin making changes.

How To Regulate Your Emotions So They Don’t Regulate You



Emotional self-regulation or emotion regulation is the ability to respond to emotionally intense situations in a manner that is socially acceptable, yet, still remain flexible enough to be spontaneous in your reactions and maintain the ability to delay spontaneous reactions when needed.

As adults, we must all learn to regulate our emotions, especially negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and frustration so they won’t drive our behavior or cause us to overreact in intense situations.  

We all have times when we allow negative emotions to control our thoughts and actions. Later, we often regret the things we say and do, wishing we had been more self-regulated.

In this post, we’ll be discussing negative emotions and how to take steps to improve our responses to emotional situations and conversations.

These steps will help improve your communications with others, as well as, improve mood, increase feelings of self-worth, and increase empathy for others.


Robin Overhears An Argument

Do you remember Robin at the Ferry Building Marketplace where she overheard a couple arguing?

Robin was working on a class assignment, observing how individuals interacted with each other using vocal elements and body language.

Robin witnessed and recorded an intense argument between a guy and his wife. She had just discovered that their bank account was overdrawn by $1000 because of gambling by her husband, unbeknownst to her.

Robin walked over to Jerry, after his wife, Hazel, stomped off.

What are emotions?

We often interchange the term emotions with the term feelings, but according to Neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, there is a big difference. Feelings emerge only when our brain registers a physical change in the body. Whereas, emotions are the initial, unconscious reaction to a stimulus.

For example, if someone embarrasses you, you begin to blush, when you get excited your heart beats faster if something scares you, your skin begins to pale. Emotions are strictly subconscious. Something triggers the body to react automatically or unconsciously. It is not something you can control.

On the other hand, according to Damasio, feelings occur only in the brain. When we become aware of the physical changes in our body we experience the feeling of embarrassment, excitement, fear or any other feeling.


Role of Emotions

Emotions play a very important role in your body. They stimulate an array of feelings, positive or negative, which allow and assist you in experiencing life. In essence, your emotions are your guidance system, your conscience. They make you who you are.

Your emotions are the reason behind your behavior. They get you moving. They also control your nonverbal communication automatically and unconsciously.

As we have discussed in previous posts, emotions communicate physically rather than verbally, giving you pertinent information about situations and people: affecting word choice, volume, pitch, inflection, the speed that is used, eye movement, facial expression, body movement, gestures, posture, eye contact.  

Emotions can give you erroneous information if they are connected to negative core beliefs.

Primary Emotions

My research has revealed an inconsistency in how psychologists view primary and secondary emotions. Dr. Neel Burton M.D. in Psychology Today states, “In the 20th century, Paul Ekman identified six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise) and Robert Plutchik eight, which he grouped into four pairs of polar opposites (joy-sadness, anger-fear, trust-distrust, surprise-anticipation).”

A study by the University of Glasgow states that there are only four basic emotions that make up the primary emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted. According to the documentation, they are still working on definitive proof to back up their premise.

My research has shown that most of the literature on emotions adheres to Paul Ekman’s definition of six basic or primary emotions. In Ekman’s book Emotions Revealed, he tells about his collaboration with the late Silvan Tomkins, who stated that we often react to an initial emotional (primary emotion) reaction, which gives us a secondary emotion. For example, we may become angry because of the helpless feelings associated with the pain of being emotionally or physically hurt.

Primary emotions are easy to understand. Basically, they are your initial reactions to external events. Sudden events may cause you to experience an emotion. For example, You may feel sad when you hear about someone being hurt or you are anxious about a presentation you have to give at work or school.

Secondary emotions are more complex because they are triggered by your reactions to and interpretations of your primary emotions. It is when you feel something about the feeling itself. Example: You may feel angry about being hurt or shame about your anxiety. Your secondary reaction or emotion is more intense.

Primary and Secondary Emotions

Benefits of Handling Negative Emotions

Most experts use the “down-regulation or self-regulation” method of emotion regulation. It is a process of willfully reducing the intensity of your emotions.

When you “self-regulate” your emotions you can communicate more effectively, which allows for both parties to get their needs met. When you are able to regulate your emotions you decrease conflict and increase intimacy in your relationships, which also improves your interactions with others.

When you experience a secondary emotion, it may feel overwhelming. Sometimes you feel like you want to hit someone or do something to get the feelings to stop.

The feelings themselves are not dangerous or destructive, but the action you take could be. Often you feel like you are fixing the situation, but actually, all you are doing is alleviating your intense feelings. The action you take just make things worse. People often lash out then justify their actions or blame the other person for making them feel the intense emotion.

Remember, the other person didn’t ’cause’ your feelings; they are yours, and they are triggered by your own interpretation.

Repressing your emotions is also not a good idea. Repressed emotions make it more likely that you will act on them later at which time they may be more intense because of the build-up of the emotions.


Allow yourself to feel all your emotions, but resist acting on them while you’re upset.Laura Markham Ph.D.

    1. Feel The Emotion. Accept that you have them and you’re feeling them.
    2. Choose The Opposite Action.  Choose to do the opposite of what your impulses are telling you to do. This robs your anger or other emotion of power.
    3. Don’t Get Attached. You aren’t angry, you are feeling angry. The feelings will go away. Notice them. Acknowledge them. Let them go.
    4. Don’t take it personally. The feeling it created will go away.
    5. Anger is Defensive. Get in touch with the initial emotion underneath, then the anger will melt.
    6. Don’t Act. If it’s not an emergency, resist the urge to act. If you feel an urgent need to take action you are in fight or flight mode.
    7. Stop!! Breathe!! Sit and breathe. As you do the feelings will begin to evaporate.
    8. Don’t Jump To Conclusions. Don’t draw any conclusions when you’re angry. Do the opposite. Think about something restful and relaxing.
    9. Identify. When your emotions are hijacked don’t try to work on the real problem. Wait. Breathe. Identify the underlying primary emotion.
    10. Assess the information. Use the emotions as information to be able to resolve the real problem.


Robin and Jerry

Jerry continued to sit with his head down ignoring Robin.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I overheard your argument with the woman you were with. Is there anything I can do to help you?” Robin asked.

He shook his head but didn’t say anything.

Robin sat on the bench across from him, remaining quiet. Eventually, he raised his head and looked at her, “You’re still here? I figured you’d left also. Everybody does sooner or later.”

“Why do you say that?” Robin asked looking at Jerry who was looking at the floor again.

“I’m just a big screw-up,” he said. “I’m a throw-away.”

“No you aren’t,” another voice said.

Jerry looked up, “What are you doing here? I thought you were gone.”

Robin looked at Hazel and got up and slowly walked away, leaving Hazel and Jerry to work things out.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t follow my self-regulation procedure. It really took me by surprise. I’m also sorry I broke your phone. That one’s on me,” she said.

Hazel sat down on the bench where Robin had been.

“I’ve been trying to follow my self-regulation procedure before I do something like throwing your phone. I was instantly so angry that I couldn’t self-regulate soon enough. I walked through the Marketplace which helped me get ahold of myself. A thousand dollars is a lot of money and now your phone.

Hazel paused taking Jerry’s hand, “I’m really scared. I know what the guys at the game are capable of. I saw, what was his name, Sam, wasn’t it, after they worked him over. It took him months to recover. I’m surprised they didn’t kill him”

“They wouldn’t kill him. They wanted him to hurt,” Jerry said. “I’ve already taken care of the money. I got it from my dad, but I just put it in the bank. If you check now, you’ll see it’s okay. I was so afraid to tell you. I know how angry you get. I’m so sorry. I made a deal with my dad. I will have to work it off, plus go to Gambler’s Anonymous, plus counseling. I guess he figures I won’t have time to gamble.”

“Is that all?”

“No, he won’t ever bail me out again. That’s almost worse. To have my dad just walk away.”

“I’m so sorry,” Hazel said. “Now we have a phone to pay for too. I thought I could learn to self-regulate my anger, but I guess I can’t, not when it’s really tough. Maybe I need to go to a group that will hold me accountable also,” she said.


Emotional self-regulation is not easy. It is a learning process. If you are a person who stuffs your emotions down inside, like many of us are, at some point they explode so much force you may not be able to regulate them.

Some people may need therapy to help them be able to learn self-regulation. Meditation, mindfulness, stress management, and anger management may also be options to consider. These other techniques can also help to improve your mood, increase your feelings of self-worth, and increase your ability to extend empathy.

There are many techniques in helping to regulate your emotions. Most experts advise “self-regulation” or “down-regulation”, which is willfully reducing the intensity of your emotions. A person who is grieving can down-regulate his sadness by intentionally thinking of happy or amusing thoughts. If a person was anxious about a situation she could think about something totally different.

If a person suffers from depression, she could “up-regulate” her emotions to keep from crashing with an anxiety or depression attack.  

Also, the Bible warns us to guard our hearts against emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, grief, guilt, and more.

John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said, “If you abide in my word…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Psalms 34:14 “…seek peace and pursue it.” 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

We don’t always see our emotional responses or notice our feelings until they explode. I know, I for one, have a habit of stuffing my feelings until something triggers them.

I am learning to prayerfully turn situations over to God, to abide in His Word and receive a generous helping of His peace, forgiveness, mercy, grace, joy, and love. I’m seeking God’s help to share these with others using His wisdom to approach situations and reach constructive solutions, thereby, making positive changes to help me regulate my own emotions.