Martin Messier

April 12, 2023

More On Mastering Emotions

My last post spawned some interesting discussions around the issue of emotional mastery.

Let me share a bit more about my experience and see if this resonates with you.

I used to believe that I SHOULDN’T feel a certain way in certain circumstances. For instance, I shouldn’t feel angry when someone criticizes me or tells me they don’t like something I’ve done.

For some reason, I believed that it’s not spiritual to feel that way, or that everyone is entitled to their opinion, or whatever else.

You have to get the message.

But the truth is that that anger is just a message. It’s a pointer.

And I only have to feel it as long as necessary for me to get the message.

Trying to repress our emotions as a form of emotional mastery is similar to try to shut down your phone system because telemarketers are bothering you.

Sure, telemarketers will call your home, but so will your best friends. If you cut off the phone, you knock out your communication with your buddies as well.

The instant you perceive emotions as a messaging system, you move on to the second step: learning to interpret the message accurately so that you can take effective action (once again, either realign your values or realign your circumstances).

What about long-lasting disempowering emotions?

Cherry commented on my previous post: “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?”

When modeling people who feel anger or resentment for long periods of time, I’ve found that this stems from a belief that has a “should” in it. “People shouldn’t do this” or “this should be different” or “I shouldn’t have to do this” and so forth and so on.

The word “should” has a peculiar effect on our nervous system. It disengages us from reality. Moreover, the problem with “should” is that we can’t do anything about it. It totally disempowers us.

Think about it for a second.

“People shouldn’t treat me this way.”

Perhaps, but they do. Whatcha gonna do about it?

“This is line shouldn’t take this long.”

Perhaps, but it is taking this long. What now?

“Shoulds” create endless loops in our nervous systems and we cycle stress through them.

So what’s the antidote?

The instant you either take action or realign your values, the loop ends. No “shoulds” anymore. All taken care of.

“Yeah, but I shouldn’t have to realign my values or take action…”

I rest my case.

  • Interesting stuff about emotions as a message to be “read, interpreted and consciously acted upon”. I will use that distinction. Thanks!

    So glad to see you writing about the dreaded “should” word Martin. It is also almost completely ineffective when telling others what the should or should not do. It sets up a defensive reaction. Much better to say,”If I was in your situation I would….” Then they have a choice!

    There is a fun saying that I use, “Don’t should all over me!” People get it then.


  • Great stuff, Martin (commenting on “should”).

    We can turn the viewer 180 with the word “must.” I must do, say, be……

    Mike, enjoyed your insight. Keep it coming guys,


    • Shah,

      Big question. I wish I could answer it but its scope is too broad.

      The Meta-Model of language in therapy consists of several language patterns and verbal challenges. You learn how to detect the patterns and apply the challenges to recover “hidden” or “unconscious” portions of the client’s mental models or maps.

      I suggest you first read through Wikipedia’s article on the Meta-Model. It will help you understand those language patterns.

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