Handling unwanted emotional reactions

Do you cry when you are angry? A lot of people do, usually women. Most people who cry when they are angry become frustrated by their tears because they are an unwanted expression that often leads to feeling disempowered.

Firstly let’s examine what the tear reaction stimulates in others. Firstly it usually deflects conversation away from the intended topic even if the person crying is wanting to state their view point.

The range of reactions in others can be:

  1. Going into comfort mode and treating the other person like a “wounded bird”.
  2. Irritation response either implied or spoken. “you shouldn’t bring emotions to work!”
  3. Embarrassment and apology for upsetting the other person.
  4. A desperate attempt to pretend nothing is happening.

If you have been that person crying have you ever tried to stop yourself? I speak from experience here the result is not pretty. I found myself sounding like a performing seal with snot and tears running down my face. Humiliating!

The next option is for the person in tears to run to the bathroom and an “appropriate female” is sent to make sure you are alright! As a woman in business there can often be the feeling that you have let yourself down and that others are not taking you seriously.

Fortunately there is a solution but before we get there I’d like to suggest a reason for this phenomenon.

When I took my psychology degree I remember reading about a particular research project around gender stereo typing. In the research a six month old baby was filmed crying and screaming and generally expressing itself.

The film was shown to various people and the following question was asked:

“What emotion is baby James experiencing?”

They then showed the film to some other people and said:

“What emotion is baby Jane experiencing?”

The most common answer for baby “James” was anger and for baby “Jane” the answer was usually upset. Same baby, same footage different interpretation.

This is an example of the way we learn to interpret and label our own emotions. It is not uncommon for us to become unconsciously confused about our own emotions based on faulty feedback from our adult caregivers.

The reality is that we do not really know what emotion the baby was experiencing, we can only guess. Yet we have a tendency to tell children their emotions, or tell them they are hungry or tired based on visual or auditory clues that we are interpreting on their behalf.

Women who cry when they are angry have picked up some faulty labelling and triggers probably based on well meaning feedback from adults when they were children.

So what is the answer?

The following is the technique I used my self and now I no longer cry when I’m angry. I am able to express myself appropriately and cleanly.

Step one – when the tears start just allow them to be there.

Step two – say to the person you are with

 “Yes I’m crying, it’s just an expression of my anger and I’d like to carry on talking about ……(fill in your own topic heading).”

Step three – keep going through the tears.

The first time you do this you will probably continue to cry for a few minutes and your breathing may also be a little erratic. Make a point of straightening your posture and breathing fully into your lungs.

As soon as you label your emotion as anger the tears will have served their purpose and so will stop naturally. By repeating this process you will be re-training your unconscious response. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.



About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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3 Responses to Handling unwanted emotional reactions

  1. Deborah says:

    I like this and will definitely give it a try. Most of the time I cry when I am angry, that is if I am ever angry at all. I must admit it is an emotion I avoid afraid of the risk of rejection. Thank you Melody this makes a lot of sense.

  2. Pingback: Handling unwanted emotional reactions | Journey to a New You

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