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Mastering Your Emotions Is Not About Changing Them

My email address has been down for some time now. Just discovered that today.

And I was wondering why I was getting no email for the past couple of days...

Don't you get pissed when that kind of stuff happens to you?

I sure do.

Which brings me to something important about learning and mastering NLP: emotional mastery.

When I first started learning NLP, I believed that from that moment on, I should be able to feel the way I wanted, whenever I wanted, and that I should have absolute control over my emotions.

As I progressed, I discovered this was the farthest thing from the truth.

In fact, whatever emotion comes up serves only as a messaging system that lets you know what you're currently living isn't aligned with your values.

EDIT: whatever "painful" emotion comes up. Thanks for pointing that out, Mike.

So now, when I start feeling bad, it's only a matter of seconds before I figure out what my system is trying to tell me.

And then the solution comes easy: take action or change your values.

One or the other.

No way around it.

Let me know if you'd like to learn more about this by posting some comments here below and I'll give you some really good stuff.

    • Hey Cherry! I’ll definitely write more about that. Tell me more about what happened last week.

  • I actually have a question:

    When you say “Take action or change your values” what do you mean exactly by “take action?”

    And What do you mena by “change your values?” Do you mean changing the hierarchie of your values or something else?

    Also a question not related to this topic if I may: changing beliefs… I haven’t been able to change any belief with myself, submodalities didn’t do the job… I can’t actually tell myself a methaphor… I haven’t learned about sleight of mouth in my trainings… what would be another way to change a belief?

    Thanks by the way for the website, I love your articles and your ebook

    • Hey Fatih,

      Let’s say that I start to feel angry because some of my employees are acting in a totally selfish way, disregarding their co-workers’ and the company’s needs.

      What’s really happening here is that one of my values, win-win solutions, is getting violated repeatedly. At this point, if I choose to take action, I might:

      1. Call for a meeting with my staff
      2. Fire employees with a destructive attitude
      3. Request that the manager align everyone
      4. So forth and so on

      By taking action, I mean that I can try to bring the world into alignment with my values.

      I used “change my values” as a sweeping generalization. It can mean one of three things:

      1. Re-ordering my values hierarchy
      2. Adding new values or removing values from my top ten values
      3. Changing the criteria associated to my values to meet/avoid them differently

      There’s actually not just one way to actually do this. There are several different strategies to get this done.

      Submodality shifts usually won’t work effectively to change beliefs (except for intonation submodalities) for the simple reason that beliefs are linguistic constructs. Submodality work is EXTREMELY effective in working with pre-linguistic patterns, such as nail biting, emotional outbursts, nervous ticks, etc.

      Beliefs, however, aren’t simple sensory constructs. They involve language and, as such, can be changed simply using language.

      Would you have specific examples of beliefs you’d like to change/install? It will be a lot easier to explain/demonstrate with some concrete cases.

      And by the way, thanks for the props!

  • Hi Martin, I think that in this context the word emotions would be described as “emotions that feel negative to me”. Obviously many emotions are wonderful, or are appropriate to the context. For example if my dog gets run over by a recklessly driven car it is appropriate to feel both sad and angry, at least for a while. Who would want to feel happy in that circumstance?

    I very much appreciate your contribution to my knowledge of NLP and thank you for encouraging me to contribute!

    Mike

    • Thanks for your comment, Mike. I’ve included what you pointed out as an edit in the original post.

      Actually, to me all emotions are appropriate in any context, as they are just markers. If you’re feeling pleasure, it means the situation aligns with your values. In the case of a painful emotion, the situation probably doesn’t align with your values (even if it might feel appopriate to feel sad and angry in the circumstances of the death of your dog).

      In NLP, there are many tiny distinctions that can make a huge difference in our understanding of how our psychic-emotional system works. For instance:

      1. pleasurable vs. painful emotion
      2. appopriate vs. inappropriate emotion
      3. empowering vs. disempowering emotion

      I’ve found many fascinating nuances as well in values hierarchies that most practitioners don’t usually pick up on.

      Keep rocking!

      • You said,”I’ve found many fascinating nuances as well in values hierarchies that most practitioners don’t usually pick up on.”

        Please sir, kindly share more….

  • Hi Martin

    Thanks for the answers, it makes much more sense to me now.

    About the beliefs change, yes I actually do have a belief I’ve been struggling with for a while now. Whenever somebody disagrees with me on something, I immediately feel “They must know it better than me, so I’m wrong about what I know.” So that’s the belief that limits me in a huge way. What would you do with this?

    • First, notice that there are three elements at play with two linkages.

      1. Somebody disagrees with me on something.
      2. They must know it better than me.
      3. I’m wrong about what I know.

      The first link is pre-linguistic. When somebody disagrees, you FEEL they must know it better than you. It’s a direct sensory connection.

      The second link is linguistic. They must know it better than you, so you’re wrong about what you know.

      There are many paths you can take in experimenting with this and gaining new choices. Here are two just to get started:

      1. When someone knows something better than you, what else could it mean?

      Stop for a second and consider the question above. Identify several possibilities.

      2. Wonder: What’s great about someone disagreeing with me?

      Then, go back to a time when someone disagreed with you and live through it feeling great about it. After, imagine a possible future disagreement and live through it feeling great about it. Then, come back to the present with what you learned.

      Share with us what happened.

  • Hi Martin,

    thanks for asking what happened last week. I got an angry e-mail from a client. Immediately I got angry, because I get angry every time someone jumps to conclusion that it must be me or my company that is to blame for everything. It angers me when people fail to stop and think “is it possible that it could be something I am doing wrong?” before they blame everyone else. This is how I do things. The good thing is, I took constructive action after that, one that will help me in the future.

    The problem is – and this is what I want to hear more about emotional mastery – is that this anger of mine won’t go away for hours. Any ideas on how to save hours and hours of negative, unproductive emotions?

  • Hi Cherry,

    When you wake up tomorrow, say out loud, “Someone is going to blame something on me today and I am not responsible.” You will expect it will happen. Say to yourself that you will examine the “complaint” for its merits, etc., and if you indeed have no responsibility, take none. Imagine you are just hearing this story about people unconnected to yourself, that you have no part in it. You should not feel and anger.

    If you fall into the “I’m angry and this is going to last a few hours” thing, practice thinking of a very pleasant experience you had recently. Anger and joy are imcompatible.

    Never responded to one of these before so I will leave my name and number in case that is the protocol,

    Colin S.

    • Hey Colin, thanks for sharing. I’ve deleted your phone number for privacy purposes.

  • Yes now I notice it, there is indeed first an “IF … THEN …” link, and then the second link is a Complexe Equivalence.

    So, as I see it, one way to deal with this belief is to disconnect the links, right? And another way I guess is to change the elements themselves?

    1) When someone knows something better than me, it could mean that I can learn from him, it could also mean that what he knows is not true. This could also mean that I AM disagreeing with HIM so I might know something better than him!

    2) What’s great about someone disagreeing with me: this means someone is really listening to me, he’s not pretending to listen. This disagreement gets me to experience someone else’s view. I may also learn more about the topic being disagreed on. This could also lead to me getting my facts right so next time I’ll know my topic much better than at the moment. What’s also great about someone disagreeing with me is the diversity, so we are not just sheep following a herd, we are independent beings smart enough to decide for ourselves what to belief.

    Well I must say Martin, I feel great at the moment, there was this realisation of independence in disagreeing with someone or someone disagreeing with me, this gave me a powerful feeling. Like it’s ok to disagree now. I’m kind of wondering how I’m going to act and feel different next time someone disagrees with me!

    These were 2 fantastic questions I didn’t think of before! As I was searching for answers I felt good, and I also got what you were doing with these questions: reframing. But obviously I don’t just want to get this belief of mine changed but mainly I want to know more ways of changing beliefs. So this one was a reframing. What are some more ways to do this thing? Any models you could name? That would be a great help to me.

    • Hey Fatih,

      You wrote: “Yes now I notice it, there is indeed first an “IF … THEN …” link, and then the second link is a Complexe Equivalence.”

      Pay close attention here. There was an “IF … THEN … ” link, but it didn’t exist in your nervous system as language. It was a straight sensory connection. This plays a big part in what kind of question will unlock new choices.

      You wrote: “Well I must say Martin, I feel great at the moment, there was this realisation of independence in disagreeing with someone or someone disagreeing with me, this gave me a powerful feeling. Like it’s ok to disagree now. I’m kind of wondering how I’m going to act and feel different next time someone disagrees with me!

      These were 2 fantastic questions I didn’t think of before! As I was searching for answers I felt good, and I also got what you were doing with these questions: reframing. But obviously I don’t just want to get this belief of mine changed but mainly I want to know more ways of changing beliefs. So this one was a reframing. What are some more ways to do this thing? Any models you could name? That would be a great help to me.”

      I’m glad that worked out for you.

      So you ask if there are ways other than reframing to change beliefs.

      None that I’d find useful.

      The model you’re looking for is Sleight of Mouth.

  • Actually Martin, now I realize, this wasn’t about someone knowing something better than I do. It was all about me having my own opinion about it, me having an opinion about my own… And for the last years I haven’t felt what I feel right now! A sense of freedom and strenght! You know I’ve been to many coaching session (14 hours to be precise) with NLP Coachs, they didn’t even get close to the what I wanted, and I lost a whole lot of money. And you just asked 2 questions, and I feel wonderful!! I’m really excited about how I will react when someone disagrees with me tomorrow… I can’t wait for someone to disagree with me! 🙂
    Thanks so much man.

  • Hi Martin
    “It was a straight sensory connection. This plays a big part in what kind of question will unlock new choices.” Is this taught in sleight of mouth?

    You know I noticed with myself that there are 2 kinds of beliefs that I have, some of them are things I believe in my head, and some of them are kinesthetic, which is really weird to me, it’s like my brain says “Hey believing this is just plain dumb” but my body feels that it is true. Say for instance in a shop, when I would want to go there and return something I recently bought, I immediately feel “they’re going to yell at me, get really mad, their face is going to turn red, veins popping up in their face, and then they will probably beat me up.” My brain says this is most likely not to happen, but still my feeling is that it just might and probably will, so I get scared like crazy. Is this the same like the one before, sensory connection? What questions would help here to change this one?

    By the way, good news, I’m completely different now about when people disagree. It actually worked. I’m still amazed of how quick this was (after 14 hours of useless coaching from others).

    • Hey Fatih,

      For some reason, WordPress didn’t tell me about your comment. So I just saw your question now.

      Here’s what I’d simply ask you: “What else could happen when you return something to a store?”

      Stop for a second and have fun with that question. Come up with 5 possibilities, one of which has to make you laugh until you have tears flowing.

  • Hi Martin,

    It’s very important that you believe you can deal with this emotion right now. The simplest, most powerful and quickest way to handle an emotion is to recall an instance in the past when you felt a similar emotion and recognize that you had successfully handled it before. If you dealt with it in the past then it is possible that you can deal with it again right now. Think about how you dealt with your emotions in the past and use this as your guide for what you can do right now to change how you feel.

    The best time to deal with an emotion is when you first start feeling it. So don’t delay in applying the six steps and save yourself the distress.

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