Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Control My Emotions?
“I get mad at my parents and say things I don’t mean. I’ll stay away from them until I get over it.—Kate, aged 13.
“Insecurity is my biggest struggle. Sometimes I feel I’m dying inside.”—Ivan, aged 19.
EMOTIONS are powerful. They affect the way you think and act. They can motivate you for both good and bad. At times, they may even seem to overwhelm you. “I hardly ever feel that I’m good enough,” says 20-year-old Jacob. “Often, I fail to meet my own expectations. Sometimes I just cry, or I get so angry that I take it out on those around me. It’s hard to control what I’m feeling.”
Part of becoming a mature, responsible adult, however, is learning to control one’s emotions. Some experts now feel that the ability to manage emotions and to deal with people is more valuable than intelligence. In any event, the Bible places a high value on controlling one’s feelings. For example, Proverbs 25:28 says: “If you cannot control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without walls, open to attack.” (Today’s English Version) What makes it so hard to control one’s feelings?
A Challenge for Youths
People of all ages and backgrounds struggle with controlling their emotions. However, the struggle can be particularly challenging during one’s transition from adolescence to adulthood. Says the book Changing Bodies, Changing Lives by Ruth Bell: “Most teenagers feel a jumble of crazy, beautiful, frightening, mixed-up emotions. A lot of people have several different feelings at the same time about the same things. . . . One minute you may feel a particular way, and then a minute later you may find yourself feeling the opposite way.”
As a young person, you are also inexperienced. (Proverbs 1:4) So, as you encounter new situations and challenges for the first time, it is only natural to feel a bit insecure and perhaps overwhelmed. Fortunately, your Creator well understands your feelings. He knows even your “disquieting thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23) In his Word he has set forth some principles that can help.
A Key to Controlling Emotions
One key to controlling your emotions is learning to control your thoughts. Negative thoughts can sap you of the energy you need to take action. (Proverbs 24:10) But how can you learn to think positively and thus be helped to control your emotions?
One way is to refuse to dwell on negative things that make you feel depressed or insecure. By following the Bible advice to focus on things that are “serious” and “righteous,” you can replace negative thoughts with positive ones. (Philippians 4:8) Doing this may not be easy, but with effort it can be done.
Consider a young woman named Jasmine. “I feel so overwhelmed by all that I’m faced with,” she once lamented. “New job, new responsibilities. My emotions are spent. I find it difficult to breathe.” It is not surprising for a youth to feel that way on occasion, and it can cause one to feel insecure, unsure of oneself. The Bible tells us about a young man named Timothy, who was superbly qualified for the responsibilities he was given. Yet, it appears that he battled feelings of inadequacy.—1 Timothy 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 1:6, 7.
It may well be that you feel insecure when you are confronted with a new or unfamiliar task. ‘I’ll never be able to do this,’ you may tell yourself. But you can control such feelings of insecurity by refusing to dwell on negative thoughts. Focus on learning to do the task competently. Ask questions, and follow instructions.—Proverbs 1:5, 7.
The more competent you become at a task, the less insecure you will feel. Do not dwell on your weaknesses, allowing them to paralyze you and prevent you from applying yourself to making improvement. One time when the apostle Paul was criticized, he replied: “Even if I am unskilled in speech, I certainly am not in knowledge.” (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6) Similarly, you can build your confidence by acknowledging your strengths and turning to God for help to cope with your weaknesses. God really can help you, as he did people in the past.—Exodus 4:10.
Another way you can help to control your emotions is to set modest, realistic goals and accept your limitations. Also avoid unfairly comparing yourself with others. At Galatians 6:4, the Bible gives good advice when it says: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”
Slowing Down Anger
Managing anger can be another difficult challenge. Like Kate, mentioned at the outset, anger prompts many young ones to say and do things that are hurtful or destructive.
Granted, it is normal to feel anger at times. But remember the first murderer, Cain. When he became “hot with great anger,” God warned him that such anger could lead to his committing serious sin. He asked Cain: “Will you, for your part, get the mastery over [sin]?” (Genesis 4:5-7) Cain failed to heed this divine advice, but with God’s help you can control your anger and avoid sinning!
Again it comes down to controlling your thoughts. At Proverbs 19:11, the Bible says: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.” When someone upsets you, try to understand why he or she behaved that way. Was that person deliberately trying to hurt you? Could it be that he or she was acting impulsively or out of ignorance? Making allowances for the mistakes of others reflects God’s own mercy, and it can help slow down your feelings of anger.
What, though, if anger is justified? The Scriptures say: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) If necessary, talk the matter out with the individual. (Matthew 5:23, 24) Or perhaps the best thing to do is simply to let the matter drop—let go of the anger and move on with your life.
Interestingly, your friends can have an influence on how you deal with anger. The Bible thus directs: “Do not have companionship with anyone given to anger; and with a man having fits of rage you must not enter in, that you may not get familiar with his paths and certainly take a snare for your soul.”—Proverbs 22:24, 25.
Being around people who make an effort to control their anger can help you to develop self-control yourself. The Christian congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are full of such mature individuals, many of whom are older and more experienced than you. Get to know some of them. Watch how they cope with problems. They may also be able to give you “skillful direction” when you face difficulties. (Proverbs 24:6) Jacob, quoted earlier, relates: “A mature friend who can remind me of God’s Word is priceless. When I remember that Jehovah loves me despite my insecurities, I’m able to feel in control and remain calm.”
Other Practical Steps
A popular exercise book says: “Countless studies have proven that how you move your body influences your mood through your biochemistry. Hormone and oxygen levels all change with the kind of movements you make.” There is no question about it, physical exercise is beneficial. The Bible tells us: “Physical exercise has some value.” (1 Timothy 4:8, Today’s English Version) Why not establish a modest routine of regular exercise? It can have a good effect on the way you feel. Maintaining a healthful diet can likewise bring benefits.
Consider, too, your choices of music and entertainment. A study published in The Harvard Mental Health Letter said: “Viewing violence . . . tends to stir angry and aggressive feelings. . . . People watching violent films thought more aggressive thoughts and showed a rise in blood pressure.” So make wise decisions when it comes to what you listen to and watch.—Psalm 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Ultimately, the best way to learn to control your emotions is to develop a close friendship with your Creator. He invites each of us to speak to him in prayer, to pour out our feelings and emotions. “Do not be anxious over anything,” encouraged the apostle Paul. “Let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers.” Yes, you can develop the inner strength to face any situation in life. The apostle Paul added: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:6, 7, 13.
Young Malika says: “I’ve learned to pray, pray, and pray. Knowing Jehovah cares helps me to feel calm and more in control of my emotions.” With God’s help, you too can learn to control your emotions.
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One key to controlling your emotions is learning to control your thoughts
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Association with older ones can teach you how to handle your feelings