We see, hear and read of emotionally reactive people everywhere: in traffic, in shopping centers, in video comments, on forums, on social networks, on blogs, at work, everywhere.
These emotionally reactive people are the first to react to traffic jams, delays, miscommunications, problems, mistakes and controversial ideas.
We all know these people, and we’ve probably all felt the occasional flare of emotional fire when we see or experience something we disagree with. But some people are more emotionally reactive than others – and it makes their lives very, very difficult. Why? Because they’re enslaved by their emotions.
Picture a dog led by its master on a chain: and that is what an emotionally reactive person is, both the master and the dog. When the dog, a creature ruled by unconscious instinct sees a cat, it begins barking savagely, pulling its master behind it as it chases the cat relentlessly.
An emotionally reactive person is the same: when they see something they dislike, they’re immediately ruled by their unconscious reactions of “barking”, “biting” and “tearing to shreds”.
Each person is a Master if they choose to be, but emotionally reactive people give up this power to be pulled along by their savage reactions.
Heated arguing, indignant pontificating, and self-righteous hell-raising aren’t signs of intelligence. They’re signs of weakness and servitude.
Are You a Slave to Yourself?
Everyone to some extent is a slave to their emotional reactions. For the past few years I’ve struggled with becoming aware of my emotional-triggers, and it’s a long journey.
Becoming a Master is not an easy journey, and just like the owner and his unruly dog, stopping and pulling back takes a lot of strength and effort.
Personally, I’m in the transitional stages of feeling both annoyed and amused at the same time by certain people and situations. But what I’m really striving for is compassion, which can be hard to practice when people are out for your blood. I look to Spiritual Masters such as the Buddha and the Christian Jesus as examples of emotional mastery and empathetic understanding.
In fact, most religions and spiritual movements have central figures who epitomize mastery over mind, body and emotions, so take your pick.
But how exactly can we stop reacting out of anger, hatred, jealousy, embarrassment and other emotions that control our lives?
I like to stop and breathe, walk away, or pause the process of emotional snowballing in any way I can – just for a moment. These few moments are enough to regain mindfulness again. These few moments are enough to remind me of my inner work goal of self-mastery.
Being an emotionally reactive person causes so much pain, bitterness and isolation in our lives when we allow emotions to rule and affect us. To strive to become a Self-Master is to develop the ability to simply observe our feelings and emotions without identifying with them.
After all, feelings and emotions come, go and change – but our peaceful and still conscious selves always remain the same. If we can dwell in that inner core of silent awareness, we will find that nothing can affect us. This is truly what the meaning of “invincible” is.
So for today, why not stop and breathe deeply – if only for a brief moment. Such a simple act can help you tighten the leash on your destructive emotional reactions.
Want to see whether you’re emotionally reactive or not? Take our Emotionally Reactive Test.
If you would like further support on how to deal with emotional reactivity, check out my emotional triggers article.