How Can I Control My Emotions?
WHAT do you think—is fire good or bad? You probably would say that the answer depends on the circumstances. On a cold winter night, logs burning in a fireplace can provide much-needed warmth. That’s good. Uncontrolled, however, the flames can quickly spread and destroy the entire house. That’s bad.
It’s similar with your emotions. When controlled, they’re beneficial, enabling you to develop warm friendships. Unrestrained, your emotions can be destructive, not only to you but also to those around you.
As an adolescent, you may at times find yourself overwhelmed by anger or sadness. How can you control those emotions? Let’s discuss them one at a time.
It isn’t easy to deal with the hurt and pain that arise when you’re a victim of mistreatment. Some in that position lose their self-control. In fact, the Bible speaks of people who are “given to anger” and “disposed to rage.” (Proverbs 22:24; 29:22) This is no trivial matter. Uncontrolled anger can cause you to take action that you’ll later regret. So how can you control your emotions when you’ve been mistreated?
First, analyze the situation squarely, and see if you can settle the matter in your heart.* (Psalm 4:4) Remember, paying back “injury for injury” will just make matters worse. (1 Thessalonians 5:15) After thinking the matter over and praying about it, you might find that you’re able to let go of resentment. Once you do that, you will reduce its hold on you.—Psalm 37:8.
But what if the hurt just won’t go away? The Bible says that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) Can you approach the person who hurt you? If that’s not advisable, you might benefit by talking to your parents or a mature friend about how you feel. If someone is purposely trying to harass you, make a special effort to be kind to that one. The chart on page 221 can help you to think up additional responses to situations that until now may have made you react impulsively.
By all means, pray to Jehovah, and ask him to help you avoid building up resentment toward the individual who hurt you. Remember this: Although you can’t change what happened, you can change your reaction to what happened. If you let yourself be consumed with resentment, you become as helpless as a hooked fish. You allow someone else to lead your thinking and emotions. Wouldn’t you rather be the one who is in control?—Romans 12:19.
Coping With Sadness
“Recently I have been moody and overly self-critical,” says 16-year-old Laura. “I get no joy out of life. I cry myself to sleep.” Like Laura, many young people feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life. What about you? Demands from your parents, friends, and teachers; the physical and emotional changes of puberty; or the feeling that you’re a failure because of some minor shortcoming—these things may leave you feeling miserable.
Some young people even resort to self-injury to relieve anguish.* If you’ve fallen victim to such a habit, try to discern the reason. For example, self-injury is often a way of coping with some form of stress. Is there a situation—perhaps with regard to your family or friends—that is causing you distress?
One of the best ways to deal with troubled feelings is to talk to a parent or a mature member of the Christian congregation who could prove to be one who is “born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) Liliana, 16, confided in some adult Christian sisters. “Since they are older than I am,” she says, “their advice is sound. They have become my friends.”* Dana, 15, says that she gained a measure of relief by increasing her share in the Christian ministry. “It was the best thing I could have done,” she says. “In fact, it was the happiest time of my life!”
Above all, if you’re sad and depressed, don’t neglect prayer. The psalmist David, who was no stranger to adversity, wrote: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) Jehovah knows about your suffering. More than that, “he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) If your heart condemns you, remember that ‘God is greater than your heart and knows all things.’ (1 John 3:20) He understands even better than you do why you’re distressed, and he can lift your emotional burdens.
If sadness persists, it could be that you suffer from a health disorder, such as depression.* If that’s the case, it would be good for you to get a medical checkup. Ignoring the situation would be like turning up the volume of a car radio to drown out a knocking noise in the engine. It’s far better to address the matter. Really, there’s no need to be ashamed of your condition. Many youths who suffer from depression and related disorders are being helped through treatment.
Remember, your emotions are like fire. When controlled, they’re beneficial; when unrestrained, they’re destructive. Do your best to keep your emotions in check. True, on occasion you will likely say or do things that you later regret. But be patient. In time, you’ll learn to control your emotions so that your emotions do not control you.
Are you a perfectionist? If so, how can you learn to cope with your failings?
If the mistreatment involves bullying, see Chapter 14 of this book for suggestions on how to deal with the situation. On the other hand, if a friend has made you angry, you may find the information in Chapter 10 helpful.
Self-injurers deliberately hurt themselves by various means, such as cutting, burning, bruising, or scraping their skin.
If you can’t bear a face-to-face talk, try writing a letter or speaking over the phone. Confiding is often the first step toward emotional healing.
For more information on depression, see Volume 1, chapter 13.
“Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Romans 12:21.
Each day, tell your parent(s) one good thing that happened to you—even if it’s just a little thing. Then when a serious problem arises, you’ll find it easier to talk to them. And they’ll be more inclined to listen.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
When your body is deprived of sufficient rest and nutrition, you’re less capable of dealing with your feelings.
The negative emotion I contend with most is ․․․․․
I will deal with this negative emotion by ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why is uncontrolled anger displeasing to God?
● In what ways can having an angry disposition hurt you?
● What are some ways you can cope with sadness?
[Blurb on page 223]
“The most important thing was knowing that someone really cared about me, that there was someone I could talk to when things looked bleak.”—Jennifer
[Chart/Pictures on page 221]
Control Your Anger
Complete the chart
A classmate ridicules me
Respond with an insult
Ignore the remark, and show my classmate that he will not provoke me
My sister “borrowed” my favorite shoes without asking me
Retaliate by “borrowing” something of hers
My parents say I’m grounded
[Picture on page 220]
A person who harbors resentment is like a hooked fish—both are controlled by someone else