Are You Being Led By Your Emotions?

By: Kilondra Davis, MA

Our emotions are like the ocean, always changing. When thinking about the ocean, one minute there could be huge waves crashing and the next minute the waves may settle into little ones. While on another day the ocean may be calm without a wave in sight. Much like the ocean, our emotions fluctuate day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and even second by second.

Our emotions vary so often that one second we could be laughing at a funny movie scene and then crying during the very next scene! And it is all so normal!! Our emotions are often evoked by people, words, music, opinions, thoughts, circumstances, and environmental situations. Since our emotions can easily be wavered, it is important for us to use them as a gauge and not a guide.

When using our emotions as a gauge, it allows us to be in control of ourselves and making our emotions report to us rather than being dictated by them. For example, the dashboard lights on our cars come on to let us know that something is wrong. The option of not acting, acting, and when to act is up to us. This is what it would mean to use your emotions as a gauge, as an indication that something is wrong, and something needs to be checked out.

The opposite of this would be the dashboard light coming on and then the car driving itself to the auto shop or even shutting itself down. In this scenario, you, as the drive, would not have any control over what is happening, and the car has complete control.

The illustration of not being in control of your car can seem silly and far-fetched, So lets look at the negative consequences and harm of being dedicated by your emotions without the metaphor.

  • Regretting: Our emotions can lead us into doing things we will later regret. Acting out of sadness, anger, loneliness, and even hunger can cause us to behave in ways that we typically wouldn’t. This may include saying and doing hurtful things to ourselves or others, reaching out to negative people for comfort, and buying unnecessary items.
  • Worrying: Acting out of anxiety can leave us in a worry spiral, adding stress to ourselves and causing us not to focus about finding solutions
  • Giving Up: Acting out of hard emotions life frustration, anger, guilt, shame, fear, and sadness can cause us to isolate, withdraw, hide, and give up on our goals and dreams
  • Ignoring Potential Harm: Acting out of excitement and happiness can cause us to ignore the potential harm in a situation
  • Ignoring the Positive: Acting out of anger, frustration, disappointment can cause us to shutdown and no longer feel the need to participate in the good experience that is happening around us.

These negative results of being led by your emotions often take place because we become so consumed by the emotion that we are not longer deciding to act. Instead we are reacting to the emotion that is in control and sometimes we are acting to immediately appease the intensity of the emotions because we don’t know how else to respond to them.

Tips To Help Use Your Emotions As A Gauge

  • Remind yourself that just like the ocean’s waves, the intensity of the emotion will pass.
  • Wait until the intensity of the emotion passes before making big decisions. Use your coping skills and support system to help get through the intensity.
  • Allow yourself to take a step back and think about how you want to act.
  • Use RAOR to help cope with and pass the emotion. (More information on RAOR can be found in the previous blog post My Emotions Are Everywhere)


Emotions are much like wave, we can’t stop them from coming

but we can choose which ones to surf. ~Unknown

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