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How can I learn to control my emotions when I don't even know what they are?

257 Answers
Last Updated: 04/20/2020 at 6:41pm
★ This question about Managing Emotions was starred by a moderator on 5/12/2016.
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Shawn Wilson, LCSW

Clinical Social Work/Therapist

I provide supportive counseling and psychotherapy. I utilize cognitive-behavioral and solution focused strategies to address client concerns. Personal coaching is available.

Top Rated Answers
Anonymous
July 2nd, 2015 9:11pm
Try keeping a journal. You can look back through what you have written and try to figure out what is going on. Do you cry and you think it is for no reason? What was happening when you started to cry? If you try to track your thought and feelings you can better understand what is happening to you.
Anonymous
July 3rd, 2015 7:43am
The first step is to identify what exactly is it that you are feeling. Make sure that not knowing your emotions doesn't make you do something irrational. Silence is always the better option when in doubt. Take some time out, introspect into what exactly is going on and how you feel about it. Only then will you be able to manage your emotions.
braveTalker56
July 3rd, 2015 4:06pm
By Taking charge of your breathing. When your body experiences intense emotions, you may enter the body’s “fight or flight” mode. This response activates your sympathetic nervous system by sending adrenaline and other chemicals racing through your body, raising your heart rate, making your breathing shallower, and causing your muscles to feel tight and tense. Breathing deeply and evenly will help you feel calmer and will provide much-needed oxygen to your body, helping you relax. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen below your rib cage. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4. Feel your lungs and abdomen expand as you fill them with air. Hold the breath for 1 or 2 seconds, then slowly release the breath through your mouth. Aim for 6-10 deep breaths per minute If you can’t inhale for a full 4-count, don’t worry. Just try to make your breaths as deep and even as you can. You can improve your deep breathing with regular practice.
Ieatkrogans
July 3rd, 2015 9:16pm
Emotions are going to prevail anything you try to tell yourself. It's in the way you act on them. Your actions speak truer than words to explain how you feel.
Sara5
July 4th, 2015 2:10am
Reading about emotions.Talking with friends and family.Meeting psychologist.Chatting with people seeking help
Bethywethy93
July 4th, 2015 2:05pm
I did everything i could to try figure out what my emotions are and how i can help to calm those emotions down,maybe meditation and being more aware when you are doing certain things and see if they are triggered my anything you are doing...i hope this helps
aShhhley
July 4th, 2015 4:05pm
I know it's easier said than done, but it's often best to find what the emotion are before trying to control them. What triggers them? What eases them? What emotion is it closest to? Learn to take a deep breath and think about what caused this emotional response before reacting to it.
Anonymous
July 4th, 2015 4:52pm
well start with that then. you dont know how to control them cause you dont know what they are so start with that, try and understand what they are one by one and only then you can learn to control them and live wiht them
Br33zyS3tz
July 4th, 2015 9:20pm
When emotions are running wild, it is important to breathe and relax; to not let such emotions control your behavior. It is hard to gain control of things you may or may not understand fully, therefore, just practice keeping a positive and optimistic perspective. You must overcome feelings of doubt, anxiety, fear, frustration, discomfort, unhappiness, confusion, unknowingness, etc. in an effort to remain sane and peaceful. Take a step back, acknowledge that you are experiencing some tough, weird, sometimes tumultuous times and keep hold of your pride and determination, your desire to be in control; do not fall victim to troubled emotions. Breathe, meditate, read, listen to music, relax, suntan, talk to friends and family; do not ever allow yourself to suffer alone, there are always ears and hearts that will be available to listen and console. Have faith and stay calm.
Anonymous
July 5th, 2015 4:01am
I can take some time, perhaps a minute or two, to sit down and reflect on what had caused these emotions. This helps me to properly evaluate on what to do later, despite not being able to identify how I'm feeling.
EmpathicAlice
July 5th, 2015 9:52am
You can control them by reflecting on what made you feel that emotion. When you know, you can think of ways to control that emotion and control any possible triggers.
PondIsle
July 5th, 2015 2:10pm
Recognizing your emotions is the first step. I would suggest keeping a sort of journal, explaining how you are feeling (even if you can't say "I'm angry", you could say, "my heart is racing, and I can't stop shaking") and try to write about what happened directly before the emotion or what set it off, if you know. Practicing mindfulness and meditation are also great tools to center yourself.
peachysunny
July 5th, 2015 8:45pm
find out what they are by exsploring your self and self healing and then breate and do yoga or read and paint and calm down
amiableLove11
July 5th, 2015 10:06pm
Controlling your emotions for myself has been closer to finding a correct way to express them and being honest with friends and family. Instead of blaming others for mistakes, try to calmly vocalize why you are frustrated. Instead of sitting in sadness and not seeking help, explain to friends and family how you have been feeling. Do not be afraid of making mistakes when explaining how you feel, mistakes help us learn exactly what is going on inside our minds.
emmiekoala
July 8th, 2015 12:19am
I think a very key aspect to controlling your emotions is self awareness. It's not totally easy to be aware of yourself sometimes, but it is definitely not impossible. Next time you are feeling some emotion, stop to think about that emotion and analyse why you are feeling it and what makes you feel it so uncontrollably. If you keep doing this, it will become easier and easier for you to control your emotions because you are actually able to understand them.
olderlesbian108
July 8th, 2015 12:56am
Emotions are important. They give us clues to how we are feeling. However, its not always appropriate to express emotions in every situation or at some moments. There are times when expressing emotions may make us feel unsafe, or vulnerable in a way that we can't deal with right then. Controlling your emotions isn't about pushing them down, or denying them. Its more about hesitating before expressing them and taking a moment to check with yourself "is this a good thing to express right now?". Will my expressing this now hurt me, or hurt someone else?" To me, that is what controlling emotions is about. Not denial. Just choosing the right time and place. Just making sure that you won't regret something that you say in the heat of the moment.
rainyRose49
July 8th, 2015 7:01am
I found that finding an individual I trust to help me process through what emotions were so that I could learn to recognize them was a great first step on the path of having a better handle on them. I would often text her and say "These are the physical symptoms and here is how my thoughts are right now" and she would then respond with "It sounds like you might be feeling the following emotions". Then we would break it down what each one looked, felt and sounded like. Now when I feel them getting out of what I feel comfortable handling on my own, I can text her and explain why I feel out of control and she walks me through mindful awareness exercises to bring me back to baseline.
PeaceForYou
July 8th, 2015 1:39pm
I can learn to control my emotions by taking steps to identify the emotions I am experiencing, seeking help/support from fellow sufferers or a mental health professional and/or speaking with family members.
johnphan7Cups
July 8th, 2015 7:33pm
According to my personal experience, there is hardly a way that you can fully control your emotions when you don't have an understanding of what they are, the only way that might work is that you try to do things that would give you positive emotions so that they could suppress the emotions that you are uncertain about.
originalLion57
July 8th, 2015 9:42pm
Identify your emotions, are you sad, angry, do you feel hurt and betrayed? Figure out why, what has happened, what could have triggered these feelings? Something with your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend? Something way back in your past that is still haunting you? Identify the cause or causes. Then you can treat your emotions, perhaps needing professional help.
Anonymous
July 9th, 2015 12:32am
I find using art (even though I cannot draw!) helps express my feelings when words fail me. I normally get a blank paper, pencils and paints and I splash all the colours relating to my mood on the paper. It is definitely relieving and calming. If you do this, avoid trying to make any sort of structured picture since that could lead to fustration.
JaimieF
July 9th, 2015 3:15am
Try journaling. It's good to reflect and possibly even realize what those emotions are. But regardless of whether you can specify your emotions, you can try putting your current actions into words and see what you can discern from stream of consciousness. This will help you feel better and perhaps make wiser decisions on what to do next. Essentially, being aware helps.
IndIsh
July 9th, 2015 9:14am
concentrate on breathing, relax stop and think, are you hungry, look for the core of the emotion meditate
boo
July 9th, 2015 12:51pm
Firstly, try to understand your emotions. What are you feeling? Why are you feeling that? And then try to reduce the circumstances where your emotions are unable to control
lovelyCupcake26
July 9th, 2015 6:08pm
go to the web site, i mean google, DBT and that place will teach you all you need to know about both problems
Anonymous
July 9th, 2015 11:58pm
i would do stuff that you love and that makes you happy. i usually listen to music and sing or i go outside and look at the sky or go on a walk
Anonymous
July 10th, 2015 1:29am
In order to control your emotions you must identify what they are, and that they are happening. Emotions sometimes come in like a gust of wind, and they can sweep you away without even realizing where you are going. To identify your emotion, try to go into your thoughts and start asking yourself questions. "Am I feeling angry or frustrated? Am I feeling anxious or sad?? The answer could present itself by asking simple questions. Try to explain the event to yourself or a friend that can listen, and see if the emotion can be read by dissecting what is happening.
friendlyJoy23
July 10th, 2015 6:40am
The five steps to overcoming panic attacks are: Acknowledge & Accept Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work) Actions (to make myself more comfortable) Repeat End Let's take a look at what each step entails. Acknowledge & Accept All progress starts here. This is the most important single step to overcoming panic attacks. Acknowledge Here I acknowledge the present reality, that I'm afraid and starting to panic. I won't try to ignore it, or pretend it's not there. I won't struggle to distract myself, tell myself to "stop thinking about it!", or snap any rubber bands on my wrist. I'm acknowledging simply that I am afraid, not that I am in danger. The thought that I am in danger is just another symptom of panic, not an important or useful thought. Accept Here I accept the fact that I'm afraid at this moment. I don't fight the feeling; ask God to take it away; blame myself, or anybody else. I accept, as best I can, that I'm afraid in the same way I would accept a headache. I don't like headaches, but I don't bang my head against the wall in an effort to get rid of them, because that makes them worse. Overcoming panic attacks begins with working with, not against, my panic and anxiety symptoms. How Can I Accept a Panic Attack? What makes a panic attack acceptable (not desirable, but acceptable) is that, while it feels awful and fills me with dread, it isn't dangerous. It won't kill me or make me crazy. Someone pointing a gun at me, that's not acceptable. I might get hurt or killed. If someone points a gun at me, I have to do whatever I can to change that: run, hide, fight, yell, bribe, or beg, because the consequence of being shot is so terrible that I must try to avoid it. On the other hand - a policeman giving me a ticket, even if I don't deserve it, I can live with that, and can hopefully keep my temper in check so I don't make things worse for myself. Accepting the symptoms, not resisting, is a powerful step to overcoming panic attacks. What Can a Panic Attack Do to Me? It makes me feel afraid, that's what a panic attack does. And, if I'm having a panic attack, I'm already there! I'm already experiencing the worst that will happen. I just need to ride it out. That's the surest path to overcoming panic attacks. Why should I accept a panic attack? Because the more I resist panic, the worse it gets. The more I develop the habit of acceptance, the more progress I make toward my goal of overcoming panic attacks. That's Acknowledge & Accept. How does that compare to what you usually do during a panic attack? Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work) Wait What I mean by "Wait" is this: don't just do something, stand there. It's similar to the suggestion "count to ten before you get mad". One of the hallmarks of a panic attack is that it temporarily robs you of your ability to think, remember, and concentrate. This step will buy you a little time to regain those abilities before you take any action. When you react before you have a chance to think straight, what do you do? If you're like most people, you probably flee, or struggle. You do things that actually make it worse. This is what people mean when they say things like "I know I'm doing it to myself" and the harder I try, the worse it gets. Jumping into action too quickly is a big obstacle to overcoming panic attacks. So, even though you have a powerful urge to leave, postpone that decision for a little bit. Don't tell yourself you CAN'T leave - keep that option open so you don't feel trapped - but put off the decision about whether or not to leave. Stay in the situation. You don't need to run away to get relief. Let relief come to you. Watch Use the occasion to observe how the panic works, and how you respond to it. The best way to do this is to fill out a panic diary. The diary is a questionnaire which helps you notice important aspects of a panic attack, so you can respond more effectively over time. Feel free to download and reproduce it for your own personal use. You can also download a set of instructions. My patients often report that just filling out a diary helps them to calm down. How does this work? It's not that they're distracted from the subject of panic, because the diary questions are all about panic. It helps you get a little distance from your emotions. It works because, while you complete a diary, you're in the role of an observer, rather than feeling like a victim. The best way to use the diary is to fill it out during the attack, rather than after. If you're in a situation where writing is impractical, perhaps while driving a car, you can: use a digital recorder; have your support person read the questions to you and record your answers; or pull over for a few minutes to write. What About "Work"? If you're in a relatively passive situation during the panic attack - a passenger in a vehicle, getting your hair cut, or waiting in a waiting room - "Wait & Watch" is all you need. If you're in a more active role - driving a car or giving a presentation - then you also need to attend to the "Work" of conducting that activity. Do "Wait & Watch", but also remain engaged in your task. That's "Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work)". How does that compare to what you usually do during a panic attack? Actions (to make myself more comfortable) At this point, you've already gone through the two most important steps to overcoming panic attacks. These steps, and all the steps necessary to overcome panic disorder and phobia, are covered in much more detail in my Panic Attacks Workbook. What's Your Job During an Attack? It's not your job to bring the panic attack to an end; that will happen no matter what you do. Your job now is to see if you can make yourself a little more comfortable, while you wait for the attack to end. Here are a few techniques that my patients have found particularly useful in overcoming panic attacks. Belly Breathing Regardless of what else you do, do belly breathing. It's also known as diaphragmatic breathing, but I think "belly breathing" is more descriptive. Many people think they know how to do deep breathing, but don't do it correctly, so they don't get good results. A good belly breathing technique is a very powerful tool in the work of overcoming panic attacks! How to Talk to Yourself Talk to yourself (silently!) about what is happening, and what you need to do. One question my patients find very helpful is this: is it Danger or Discomfort?. Some of the other responses my patients like include the following: 1. Fine, let's have an attack! It's a good chance to practice my coping techniques. 2. Answer your "what if...?" fears by saying "So what? I'll get afraid, then calm down again." 3. It's okay to be afraid. Get Involved in the Present People don't panic in the present. People panic when they imagine something bad happening to them in the future or in the past. This is why your panic attacks are almost always accompanied by some "what if...?" thought. If a dog just bit my leg, I don't say "what if a dogbite?". The reason you say "what if...?" is because what you fear is not actually happening! Get back into the activity you were engaged in prior to the attack, and become involved with the people and objects around you. If you're in a store, resume shopping, reading labels, comparing prices, asking questions, etc. It will move you closer to your goal of overcoming panic attacks when you bring your focus and energy back to the present environment. By this I mean, work with what is around you. Work with Your Body Identify, and relax, the parts of your body that get most tense during a panic attack. This typically involves first tensing, and then relaxing, the muscles of your jaw, neck, shoulders, back and legs. Do not allow yourself to stand rigid, muscles tensed, and holding your breath. That just makes you feel worse! If you feel like you "can't move a muscle", start with just one finger! That's "Actions (to make myself more comfortable)". How does that compare with what you usually do during a panic attack? Repeat This step is here because you might start feeling better, then feel another wave of panic. Your first reaction might then be to think "Oh No, it didn't work!". The Repeat step is here to remind you that it's OK if that happens. Just take it from the top again. It's not unusual or dangerous. You may go through several cycles, and you just need to repeat the AWARE steps again, as often as you need. How does that compare with what you usually do? End This is here to remind you that your panic attack will end; that all panic attacks end; that they end regardless of how you respond; that it's not your job to make the attack end; and that your only job is to make yourself as comfortable as possible while waiting for the attack to end. Have these statements been true for you? Don't take my word for it. Review your own history of panic attacks and see. And maybe the next time you panic, when you notice yourself thinking, once again, "Will this ever end?", you'll find yourself answering, "YES!"
MathewTheBull
July 10th, 2015 7:00am
You need to identify and understand what emotions are in order for yourself to start moving ahead in life.
resourcefulCupcake48
July 10th, 2015 2:13pm
I think sometimes writing things down can really help. Often you feel so many different things but cannot put your finger on one particular emotion. Writing things down can help not only get out how you are feeling but can also help you determine what emotions you are feeling. In turn you can find ways to cope and deal with the way you are feeling.