Can emotions be controlled, the same way we control our thoughts or actions?

Quora answer to "Can emotions be controlled, the same way we control our thoughts or actions?"

Hi Christopher and thanks for the A2A.

"Control" is a tricky word. I would avoid using it with respect to emotions, because all emotions have a basis, and understanding that basis is the key to influencing how we feel. But the emotions themselves are not something we should try to "control," IMO, as that response evokes ego, repressive reflexes, self-judgement, and a host of other potentially unhealthy responses.

The other answers so far have focused on methods of influencing emotional patterns, habits and reflexes, and indeed CBT is an excellent therapeutic resource for this. There is a workbook called Mind over Mood by Greenberger and Padesky that provides an excellent practical approach to this method. Another method called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and which is largely derived from CBT, may be an even more effective approach. Although it is relatively new, DBT incorporates Buddhist mindfulness in the mix, and emphasizes a tools-based approach to emotional regulation that can be especially effective when there are barriers to introspection. In concert with these modalities there is also "Motivational Interviewing," which uses additional guided techniques to align behavior (and ultimately thoughts and emotions) with internalized values. Something all of these approaches have in common is a fundamental honoring of the individual's sovereignty over there own person: a "client-centered" and collaborative engagement that aims for fairly rapid benefits produced mainly by the client themselves.

Now there is a deficit to these approaches: they don't address what I would call deeper, structural barriers that may be at the root of some patterns of thought and emotion. These barriers can be neurological, chemical, psychological, energetic or spiritual - and cognitive approaches simply fall short of penetrating them at all. There are therapeutic approaches like Hakomi that are more effective at getting at some of these issues, and it is worth taking a close look at why and how Hakomi works. I have also proposed something called AMR (Active Memory Reorganization) which also attempts to address deeper, multidimensional structures that cognitive approaches can't reach. But there isn't a lot of science around either of these yet. Which is one reason why mainstream Western medicine defaults to pharmacology, surgery, ECT or other extreme interventions when confronted with severely destructive, seemingly intractable emotional, behavioral or cognitive cycles. But I think that, ultimately, the scientific community will have to conclude that body-centered psychotherapy with cognitive, energetic and spiritual components will probably be the most client-centered, efficacious and compassionate course of collaborative action.

There are also other several other, alternative approaches which can have substantial impact on this area of our well-being in the short-term. Among these are modes of bodywork that activate or release repressed material, forms of hypnotherapy that find alternative pathways to the same, or energetic healing modalities that can circumvent or repair structural barriers. I've practiced many of these, and seen various levels of success with them - usually dependent upon a client's receptivity, *and some sort of cognitive, habit-changing follow-up*. In other words, these methods can provide temporary or cathartic relief, but if the underlying factors (be they core material from childhood, repressed memories of traumatic events, physiological issues, self-care habits, etc.) aren't consciously addressed in an ongoing fashion by the client themselves, the results tend not to be enduring ones. In our consumer-based society, it's easy for people to become habituated to externalizing their healing, rather than taking personal responsibility for it. Likewise, modern Western medicine incentivizes repeat consumption of superficial treatments, rather than preventative medicine or addressing causal issues. So this is an uphill challenge to be sure.

My 2 cents.


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