Most men struggle with their emotions. They either suppress them and pretend they don’t exist. Or they let their emotions overwhelm them and turn them into a helpless victim.
Both of these strategies backfire. They ruin your success with women. Sabotage your happiness. And even kill your gym gains.
That’s the bad news.
The good news?
Controlling your emotions is easier than you think. In this episode, you’ll discover 3 proven strategies for taking control of your emotions. And then using your emotions to give you everything you want in life.
Listen to the episode now and master your emotions.
Show highlights include:
- The empirically proven way to increase the intensity and frequency of positive emotions (and decrease the intensity and frequency of negative emotions) (2:48)
- The counterintuitive way reaching your big financial or fitness goals can actually make you more miserable (4:06)
- How to “tap into” your emotions at will so you can make more money, attract more loving relationships, and even become sexier (6:18)
- The weird, almost unbelievable way to attract an intimate, long-term relationship by meditating (even if you have no idea how to do it) (11:10)
- The insidious way toxic repression of your emotions make lengthy relationships impossible (and how being present reverses this) (13:46)
- Why repressing your emotions is like slapping band-aids on a wound while it rots underneath and poisons your whole body (18:53)
- How to become physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger by embracing sadness and vulnerability (22:30)
- The powerful “Titration Technique” for taking complete control over your emotions like you can for hot and cold water faucets (24:46)
- 3 “emotional skill workouts” you can practice right now to master your emotions (26:48)
- How your thoughts morph life-threatening fears into blissful moments of joy (and how applying this fact gives you control over your emotions) (29:11)
- Why repressing your emotions kills your gym gains (34:21)
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
In the previous episode, we explored repression, emotional repression, emotional suppression, and how so much of the old-fashioned masculinity or some versions of toxic masculinity—which is a kind of macho masculinity that sees emotions, emotions other anger, sees emotions other than anger as a kind of weakness or vulnerability, emotional vulnerability as weakness—are preventing men from experiencing the fullness and the richness of life. [00:57.3]
A life lived under emotional repression ends up, over the long term, becoming one that is robbed of its color, of its variety, of the great range that is already there in human experience, but that because of repression and suppression is unavailable to the person suffering from toxic repression, and instead he lives a gray life, a black-and-white life, a life that’s robbed of color.
As well, on the other end of the spectrum, on the other extreme on the other extreme from repression is overwhelm, emotional overwhelm, and I’ve touched on that only briefly, but I just want to mention that here again, emotional overwhelm as the other side of the spectrum, where instead of suppression, you have the opposite of anything goes and there’s no control whatsoever and it just feels like it’s controlling you.
The emotions control you, and then you end up trying to control the sources or the triggers, which often is other people, but it also might be the environment around you or a combination of them, because other people are part of the environment around you, and you blame them for how you feel. [02:06.5]
This is like the common way that college students nowadays are taught or indoctrinated in this kind of brainwashing of “I’m helpless in the face of emotional overwhelm and I must blame it on others.” Either way, there’s no control over emotion. One is a kind of just shutting everything down and the other is being flooded, emotionally overwhelmed, and either way, there’s very little skill or facility with emotions. There’s actually very little control or management or regulation of one’s own emotions.
We covered that and the reasons for that in the last episode, and I ended with the sort of hope that there is a way. There’s an empirically verified way in actually multiple ways, multiple approaches that have been proven to give you the skills with your emotions so that you can have it relatively within your control for you to increase the intensity and frequency of the emotions you’d like to experience and decrease the intensity and frequency of the emotions you’d rather not experience. [03:11.3]
These include, if you want to experience more joy, happiness, love and fulfillment on a consistent basis, if you have the skills to do that, this is available to you. There’s actually a way to learn it, and because these are skills there, these are emotional skills, and being skills, you can train them, you can improve in them, and therefore you can master them, right?
You can learn them. You can improve in them. You can master them, and that’s what we’re going to be diving deeper into in this episode and I covered this in the last episode, but just by way of review, remember emotions are everything, the beginning and ends of all of our goals and aims.
Especially because I know I have many achievers who are listening and I resonate with them because I have many achiever parts, and we achievers hyper-focus on these goals as if, and we forget that there’s a reason why we pick these goals in the first place. [04:05.5]
But because we forget that, the reasons why, we just get stuck on these goals and think that the goals are valuable, in and of themselves, and typical achiever goals are money, making more money, making a certain amount of money, and then as you get closer to that, you have to keep raising that amount that you’d be satisfied with. You may not believe that, because maybe the goal that you’ve set for yourself is so far off and so out of your league that you don’t realize that, but if you are a true achiever, as you get closer to that monetary goal, you’ll necessarily have to raise it in order for you to continue being an achiever.
It might be a fitness goal, and in order to sustain the fitness goal, you have to keep ratcheting up the stakes. You’ve got to keep raising the standard there. Maybe for some of you, the goal has to do with women and success with women or your social life. [04:52.8]
Whatever it is, you have these goals and you think it’s just, no, duh, obvious why you would have those goals, but hopefully you can understand that those goals are not, in and of themselves, good. It’s the reasons why you’re pursuing them that make it good or bad for you, and the whole reason why you’re pursuing the goals in the first place is, to skip to the end of the argument—if you want to get into this a bit more deeply, I covered it in the last episode, but to skip to the end—the reason you are aiming for these goals is because you are hoping that, if you achieve these goals, it will make you feel a different way.
You’re hoping, at the end of it, that if you can accomplish these goals, whether it might even just be something as simple as a sense of accomplishment, but very often, I mean, if it’s a big-ass goal, it’s probably not just the sense of accomplishment. You could have chosen something else. But, generally, if you’re early in the achiever journey, it might just be security. It might just be a sense of certainty that you will have enough money to put food on the table or to pay your rent. [05:54.6]
As you get better at being an achiever, that will go up and up, and so you might be aiming for a sense of a significance or a sense that you are enough or that you’ve accomplished enough, that you’re worthy, that you’re good enough now, and that you can finally rest. Whatever it is that you’re hoping to feel as a result of getting those goals, notice, those are feelings. Those are emotions. The whole project of pursuing this goal gets off the ground because of emotion, and then what you’re hoping to get at the end is what? Emotions.
So, the beginning and the end of this journey that you’re working so hard for—and for achievers, this might be a multi-year, multi-decade journey to finally feel like you’re enough, right?—that starts and ends with emotion, and then, in the middle, for you to actually experience the richness of life, it’s also emotion, what you’re hoping to experience in flow or on a day-to-day basis.
Up and down the whole spectrum of human experience from the beginning to the end, especially as an achiever—I’m just taking achiever as an easy example because I know many of you are achievers—that especially for achievers and this might be shocking to achievers, up and down the whole spectrum, it is emotion. To get off the ground at all, it’s emotion. [07:10.7]
I gave the example of Buridan’s ass, and if you don’t know what that is about, I explained that in the last episode, but it’s great to remember this point and Buridan is a 14th-century philosopher and he came up with this example, and the ass is a donkey. It’s not actually his ass, so the ass is a donkey.
Buridan’s donkey is at a crossroads, and he’s equally thirsty and hungry, and down one road is food and down the other road is water. He’s equally distant. The donkey is equally distant from the water and the food, and he is equally thirsty and hungry, doesn’t know what to do, stands there in indecision because he’s got equally weighted desires, and dies.
This is a great way to understand how emotions work in decision-making, that it all starts with emotion to get going and choose a goal or aim. It’s got to be a preference. It’s got to be a desire, a want that overpowers the other options, and so you move forward with that one. Without that desire a preference or want, you won’t be able to move forward and this is Buridan’s ass. [08:18.7]
From the beginning to the end, it’s all about human emotion in terms of your behavior and your decision-making. Emotion is not just guided, but it sets the agenda, and then it guides it along the way and it selects what you will actually be aiming for. If you have no control or little control over your emotions, then you’re kind of going around out like a chicken with its head cut off, just mindlessly carrying out some tasks without reflecting on why you’re doing it in the first place. [08:49.1]
In the last episode, I also busted a myth that I’ve called the Cartesian error and I borrow this from the book Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio, but it encapsulates a huge amount of research literature that spans many decades. It includes work by Jonathan Haidt that some of you might have heard of. I’ve mentioned him and his work before, but many, many others in top research institutes around the world on understanding the intimate and inextricable, the essential connection between what we artificially consider to be thinking and emotion.
The Cartesian error is traces back to a kind of caricature of Descartes if “I think, therefore I am” who overemphasized, over-prioritized thinking over feeling, and it would be actually more accurate to make it “I feel, therefore I am.”
In this episode, I want to draw your attention to some emotional skills that you can learn, improve in, and train in and master, and these are all skills that have a lot of empirical backing to them. They have been verified through scores and scores of scientific evidence and research papers published over many decades. [10:04.4]
Okay, I’ve got three broad categories of emotional skills and the first category is more purely focused on the emotions themselves. I’ll just give you an example of a few here and just a few to get you started, and these are a few that I’ve done quite a lot of research around and development on in partnership with a team that’s developing a technological innovation to help mental health, and part of this is a project called “Emotional Mastery” and you can find the link from my website under Online Courses, and then scroll to the bottom and you’ll see the affiliated programs. As of the recording of this, that might change later, but that’s where you can find the link. I’ll just tell you a few of these emotional skills that you can work on, that you can learn, work on, train, get better at, practice, and so forth. [11:00.2]
The first skill is present awareness. This incorporates a lot of mindfulness training, and with this type of presence, presence, by the way, is sort of a gateway to and is one of the essential foundational skills that are required, especially for a man, to succeed in a relationship, in an intimate relationship.
A lot of men, because of their decades of repression and suppression, have a lot of trouble actually being present. In fact, I had many decades of practice suppressing and repressing my own emotions and seeing myself as ultra-rational and intellectual, and this meant that I didn’t actually understand what presence meant. When I heard the word “presence”, I thought it could mean being present or I thought it was more like charisma, like your presence in the room kind of thing, like, do you take up a lot of space? Do you draw attention to yourself? That kind of thing. [11:57.5]
That’s not what I mean by presence in the therapeutic context. It’s a lot more like mindfulness and being present with your woman in an intimate relationship, and the same with women. I’m just kind of speaking more to men. I mean, this is called “Masculine Psychology” for a reason. Women, generally, are better at being present, because basically what presence, being present means is you’re fully emotionally, intellectually, physically there, focused and immersed in flow with the other person in that interaction, whether it’s a conversation. It doesn’t even need to be through talking with words. It can just really be making eye contact and feeling whatever they’re feeling and being fully immersed in that interaction, that space, with the other person.
This is really difficult for a lot of men who are really good at suppressing and repressing their emotions because presence requires vulnerability. It requires that you’re fully there and open, and aren’t guarded and don’t have any barriers up or any shields up, and aren’t talking as a way of or intellectualizing as a way of protecting yourself, which is a common use of the intellect. [13:10.8]
This is why most professors don’t understand emotions, or even if they’re researchers, they understand it at arm’s length, like an object of study in a laboratory, but they’re not practitioners themselves and presence is one of the first ways that you can tell they’re not really emotionally and intellectually present. They might be there physically, but they’re thinking about some problem they’re working on in their research, or with business people, they’re already thinking about the next meeting or they’re thinking about how they look there and they’re not really there with you.
I mean, that’s an interpersonal application of the skill of presence, but the skill of presence in and of itself needs to be worked on on its own and mindfulness is a great way of doing that. At the most basic level presence means being present with yourself with what thoughts and feelings are happening for you, and they might be in your unconscious because repression and suppression means that you’ve shoved them into your unconscious, so you’re not even consciously aware of what you’re feeling. [14:09.2]
There are a lot of men who have been laboring under toxic repression of their emotions for so long that they don’t actually know why they think what they think or feel what they feel, and even more alarming, they don’t know what they’re even feeling and they might not even know what they’re thinking in terms of if they’re asked, What do you want or what is your preference here, or what do you really want?
They’re waiting instead to be told what to do so that they can carry out the orders, because that’s their M.O. and it has been that way. It might be the M.O. like orders from society, from teachers, from parents. It might even be a kind of implicit kind of communication of “Obviously you should do well in school. That’s what we want from you,” and so they get set on that as a goal, or “Obviously we want you to make money,” and they unthinkingly, unreflectively, mindlessly go about attacking these goals and that’s what I was referring to earlier, the Cartesian error. [15:07.3]
One way to overturn that is practicing presence and that’s one of the most basic skills, because if you can’t be with your emotions, if you can’t even sense what emotions you are feeling, then obviously you can’t work with them. The first step is to actually get comfortable and get skilled and practice being fully aware in the present moment with what you’re thinking and feeling, and what you’re doing physically.
You can mindfully, for instance, drink a cup of tea. This is a common practice in Zen monasteries or meditation or mindfulness retreats and things like this. You can mindfully sweep the temple grounds and this is a real practice that has gone on for hundreds of years, actually thousands of years, mindfully walking, and this is just being, the skill of being fully aware in the present moment.
Now I’ve done a lot, a dozen or so podcasts on mindfulness, on meditation, so if you want to get more into that, I’ve got a lot of content. Just look through my channels, not just in this podcast series, but my earlier podcast, as well as on my YouTube content and you can just go to my site to find these. [16:14.8]
When you’re good at being present, when you’re good at presence, you can be with your thoughts, feelings, and fully immersed in your behaviors or actions, without blanking, without numbing, without denying, without distracting, without fleeing from them.
This is a tremendous power that comes from growing this level of self-awareness and maintaining presence with whatever is going on for you, even in the most challenging circumstances and there are levels to this, but you need the most basic level to get started on these other emotional skills, just being fully aware and being able to be with whatever is coming up for you in the present moment. [17:00.0]
Okay, here’s another skill, endurance, to be able to endure whatever emotions are coming up, and this is something I raised in the last episode. Endurance. If you see it as endurance, that’s a kind of a challenge to all of us achievers because we think it’s some kind of weakness, but if you’re afraid that emotions and vulnerability is weakness, you are a scaredy-cat. You’re a coward or you are already afraid. You’re not such a tough guy. Right? Toxic masculinity that sees sadness or feelings as a weakness.
No, it’s the opposite that you are or the weak one because you’re too scared to be sad. That’s sad, right? If you put it that way, it’s a challenge of developing your resilience, because you’re too weak to endure the emotions that come up. Then, hopefully, it’s like a challenge to the masculine energy to step up, to be able to endure whatever emotions come up. [17:54.5]
Now, I know a lot of guys say, There’s too much pain. There’s too much pain. No, I don’t want to feel it, and I’d rather be numbingly, mindlessly, unfeeling going about achieving or being productive. But they think that they’re tougher that way, but they’re not. They’re actually weaker that way, because they’re too scared and they don’t have the endurance to last with whatever pain comes up.
If you just repress the pain, if you just ignore it that doesn’t actually solve the problem. You’re not actually dealing with it, and I think if you’re intellectual, you know this, but maybe you’ve spent too long and around too many people who have the toxic view that emotions are better swept under the rug than to be pulled out so that you can endure them and get through them onto the other side, because then you will get to the other side.
Emotions, because they are felt physically, cannot stay in your system forever, even though it may feel that way, and if you can endure it long enough, it will pass and then another wave will come, but there will be a space between these waves when you can catch a breath and you’ve got to endure these waves in order to process them. [19:05.0]
If you lock them up, sweep them under the rug, you suppress them or repress them, you’ll never be able to work on them, and therefore it’s sort of like and the analogy I like to use is like you have a wound. Instead of tending to the wound and cleaning it out, and actually healing it, you, instead, just put all of these bandages over it and you just continue to walk on as if it weren’t there.
You might be very successful in just putting lots of Band-Aids on it, but eventually what will happen is the wound will not heal properly and it will just fester, and then it will rot, right? And then, it will start to get all yellow and pussy, but instead of actually cleaning it out, you just keep covering it up with some bandages and you just keep swapping bandages every day.
Then you’ll notice that now the wound is starting to spread. The rot isn’t just confined to that small wound when it started. Now it has spread. Maybe you had a wound on your knee and now it has spread up to your thighs or down to your ankles, and now you can’t even [walk]. Eventually, you won’t be able to use your leg because it’s all rotting all the way up and down. Now you’ve got to lose your leg to save the rest of your body. [20:07.0]
That’s what happens actually with emotions that you repress that are too painful to endure, but because you’ve never brought them to the light of day, you’ve never gotten to clean them out, and the longer you wait, the more painful it is, right?
That’s actually a really good analogy. I messed up a couple years ago, a few years ago, and I injured my knee, scraped it real bad, and I was traveling between America to Singapore, and then back to Taiwan in the span of a week. I thought, I’ll wait till I get back to my home out in Taiwan to deal with it, and in the meantime, I just covered it up because I had events to do. I was very busy, lots of meetings and lots of flights.
By the time I got back to Taiwan a week later, it started off as just some scrape that if I had tended to it on that day, it would have been all right, obviously, but then it turned into all this yellow pus. It was festering and it was nasty, and it was painful, very, very sensitive. [21:02.3]
That meant that I had to go every day to the clinic and they cleaned it out and redressed the bandages every day, and it was very painful. What do they call it? Scaling. Debriding. It’s called debriding and that was painful, and I had to endure that I think for almost two months or maybe over two months, every day cleaning that thing out, and the first six weeks were incredibly painful.
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Anyway, that was just six weeks. I’ve dealt with people and I’m working with people who have been repressing emotions for three decades, or four decades, and it’s one thing to repress emotions. You can also repress memories that are attached to these emotions. [22:17.7]
When you finally bring them to light because they’ve been basically numbing and you’ve been losing an entire part of, I mean, your emotional body, so to speak, and finally bringing them up, you’re going to have to endure that pain of the debriding of these repressed emotions and dealing with them.
It’s never too late, right? You can either live with a life that is one-tenth of what it could be just to avoid bringing up the pain that you’ve been shoving under the rug, but it would be better for you to have the strength and the courage to face it, and that’s a clarion call to the masculine parts of you that will step up to this challenge that it’s the opposite. [23:00.0]
I’m changing up the paradigm here. I’m reframing the whole thing for you, right? So, it’s not weak to feel sadness or vulnerability. It’s the opposite. It’s strength because it would be weak for the macho masculine, who is scared of weakness, who thinks it’s beneath him, but it’s actually that he’s scared of it. He’s scared of the pain of facing these emotions.
You can actually train your resilience to endure whatever emotions come up, no matter how painful they feel in the present. You’re going to need to do that to persevere long enough, to break through to healing and growth in your life, and there are ways to do this, to increase your threshold of tolerance for any emotions, no matter how painful or uncomfortable, and there are ways of coping during any crisis, even when it feels impossible to endure it. You can actually tap in to this healing power of radical acceptance instead of being forced to be shackled by the weight of your toxic shame, for instance. [24:03.2]
There’s a whole set of endurance skills and I’ve got a section, and I think it’s about 15 modules in “Emotional Mastery” that run you through basic emotion endurance skills and techniques, and these are things that you can get better at, you can do each day and get stronger at, and you can actually build up your tolerance, just like you would in a workout. For what previously was painful, it can actually now be something that is cathartic that feels incredibly fulfilling when you come out the other end of it, and being with the parts of you that are holding this pain is essential for your healing and growth.
One other skill is what I call titration. You might also see it as a kind of regulation, and this is the ability to increase or decrease at will the intensity of your emotions so that you can control your emotions so that they don’t control you. [25:02.8]
Along the way, you’ll also learn how to control your own thoughts and your behaviors, because it’s all connected and there are actual skills here. There are techniques that you can practice and get better at and make second nature. You can actually train your ability to reduce the intensity of any overwhelming emotions or to steer your emotions in one direction or another, all that will. For those younger guys listening to this or younger people listening to this who have been coddled by their society, by your teachers, by your education systems, you really need to develop the skill of emotion titration.
Titration is I’m using that term like a tap, like a tap like it on a sink. You can turn it on and you can turn it off, right? You can turn it on hot and cold, right? You can increase the intensity or decrease the intensity, and there are actual ways of doing that and you can get better at that. [26:00.8]
Now, this is a slightly more advanced skill than presence or even endurance, and we build up to that—and I do that in my program, “Emotional Mastery”, but whether you do it with me or with your therapist or with a therapy group, these are well-documented skills that you’ll find in DBT groups, especially Dialectical Behavior Therapy, but also in mindfulness-based CBT and MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) practices, ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).
My “Emotional Mastery” program draws on all of these modalities, as well as NVC (non-violent communication) when we get to the interpersonal aspect of it, and it’s all informed by IFS therapy (Internal Family Systems Therapy). I’ve talked especially a lot about IFS therapy in this podcast series.
But those are three examples of emotional mastery, emotional skills that you can learn, train, practice, and master presence, endurance, titration, or regulation, right, so that’s the first category. [27:02.8]
There’s another skill of a whole set of skills around IFS therapy of being with your parts as they’re feeling uncomfortable or emotions that they don’t like, and being able to be with them and help them, and eventually help them let go of their burdens and to help them integrate more in a more healthy way into your system overall, and so that’s a whole other set of skills.
There’s another category, the second category I wanted to bring up, which is a cognitive category and this is probably the oldest, most ancient type of therapy, which is philosophy, philosophy as therapy. Believe it or not, before the analytic turn in philosophy before the Enlightenment ruined philosophy in many ways or started the ruining of it, philosophy was primarily therapeutic in the East and West, all around the world, and still is a major part of therapy, getting clarity around your thoughts. [27:59.3]
There’s probably the most empirically-validated type of therapy, a whole type of therapy called cognitive therapy, and cognitive therapy is about catching distorted thinking and this is really just logic and clear thinking. If you have training in philosophy, you can already start. You’ll be a pro at cognitive therapy.
You don’t actually need to do cognitive therapy on its own if you are already a good philosopher or logician with informal logic, and you just apply the tools of informal logic to what you’re thinking and what thoughts are leading to the emotions that you’re feeling. That includes and that will require an emotion skill called “presence”, because if you’re not aware of what you’re thinking and feeling, you’re not going to be able to work on them through cognitive therapy.
That’s often where philosophers, professional philosophers, fall flat on their faces because they’ve repressed their emotions so much that they’ve severed the tie, or so they think, between their thoughts and their feelings that they often are emotionally stunted, even though they’re quite intellectually advanced. [29:02.5]
So, cognitive therapy definitely has its limits, but also along with all the emotional skills I’ve mentioned, plus the other emotional skills, the cognitive category of skills is really, really powerful and helpful, because we don’t want to just go in with our eyes closed and our brains shut off. You want to think about why, what thoughts are leading to these feelings, because make no mistake, thoughts leading to feelings.
The standard theory of emotions is cognitive. It’s that emotions consist of two components and the first is the phenomenology of it, the felt sense of it, the physical feelings, like the actual nerve endings and so forth, the heart beating a certain way, your breathing being a certain way. That’s the physicality of it, the physiology of it, the phenomenology of it. Then the other part of is phenomenology, plus the interpretation of it, the interpretations of the cognitive part.
The example I like to give is snake slithering toward you. You, most of us would start to panic or feel scared because our interpretation is snake equals danger or disgusted or something like that, like, Yuck, ah, ah, fear, right? That’s our interpretation of the snakes slithering towards us. [30:08.0]
Then there’s another guy who is like, Oh, there you are, it’s my pet snake, Todd, and he holds out his arm and the snakes curls around his arm and he pets the snake, and he’s really happy because his interpretation, his cognitive interpretation of the same phenomenology is it’s his pet snake, and so he is really happy.
Just notice the interpretation of it leads to an emotion, and if you can control the interpretation of it through philosophy, then you’re able to control how you feel just through thinking—and that’s not all of it. There are a lot of limits to it, limitations to it, especially if you’re not able to be present or endure the emotions that come up or that you’re feeling to trace them far back enough so you can find what the thoughts are, the interpretations themselves are that are creating this emotion. That’s basic.
But once you do, it’s a very useful skill to be able to call on for that cognitive set of skills to influence and transform your emotions. That’s a category cognitive, and you can do that through cognitive therapy or through training in philosophy, along with the first set of skills, the first category, which is more purely emotion skills. [31:13.0]
Then the third category is behavioral. You’ll notice that the famous type of therapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), is the combination of the second and third category, cognitive and behavioral. Behavioral, as it sounds, is about your behavior, and the more that you do something, the more it influences your thoughts and your feelings, and that’s just a really important thing to pay attention to.
Of course, your physiology influences how you feel and that has been one of the most basic things that have been proven out over the past us for your decades. It’s really important to be able to control your physiology, your physical body. It influences to a great degree what emotions you’re actually feeling.
Those who bought into, old folks like myself, Gen X and older, and even some older millennials who have bought into the Cartesian myth so deeply that they’re not aware of how they’re physical bought body influences their mind, let alone their mind influencing their body or how they’re feeling, so they’re cut off already from their feelings and the neck up is all they live in. [32:12.0]
But even more, they’re not able to take advantage of the incredibly powerful effects, downstream and upstream, of the body on your emotions. Your emotions are actually happening in your brain. It’s not some kind of ethereal mind, at least from a scientific perspective, right? You can actually track, if you were able to look into the brain, the emotions you’re feeling are happening somewhere in your brain.
Of course, your brain is connected through your spine, right down into the rest of your body through the autonomic nervous system, and there are real downstream effects of the emotions in your body and they’re upstream as well. If you take or if you eat a rotten food, it’s going to make you feel rotten, not just because it’s going to screw up your stomach and you’re going to be in the toilet, but also it’s going to influence how you feel, so you’re not going to be in a good mood, right? And that’s an easy example, a more extreme one, I guess, of something happening in the body that affects your mood and your emotions. [33:06.5]
But also it happens in a positive way, and so the easy example is the smile signaling to the brain that there’s something to be happy about, and so you get a little hit of happiness there just briefly. But all of that physiology, if you’re not in tune with what your body is doing to your mind– A lot of people who are emotionally repressed are also not actually present with their bodies. They might be working out and actually numbing their bodies.
A lot of guys who spend a lot of time working out in these kind of stiff standard bodybuilding movements are very strong. They’ve built up a lot of muscle, but many of them are unaware of their own bodies. If you ask them to isolate part of their bodies in a kind of dancing movement, unless they’re looking into a mirror, they’re not going to be able to do it very well, and even if they are looking in the mirror, they will probably still not be able to do it very well because they’re not very well-attuned to their bodies. [34:00.0]
This is something I learned the hard way, too, over many years of trying to get better at dancing for the purposes of attraction and going through so many different types of dancing classes and 101 training, and it was really only when I paired pure movement training, like pure movement training, with what I was doing in therapy and acting, method acting, that I was finally able to unlock the fact that the reason it was so hard for me to isolate various body parts and move them in dance without looking in the mirror, or even when I am looking in the mirror, and that stiffness that’s there is because of the repression. You can tell as you get better at the movement that you can tell somebody who is emotionally repressed by how they hold their bodies.
That’s the third category behavioral and pure behavior, as in just pure movement, but also, of course, the things that you’re doing, the activities that you’re doing throughout the day and throughout your life are actually programming you into certain habits of thoughts and feeling, and it’s a huge category and that would include in this category interpersonal skills. [35:06.0]
A big part of being good with women, and I know some of you who follow me because you’re looking to become better with women, and a big part of being better with women is developing interpersonal skills that will, of course, cover not just being better with women, but people, in general.
A huge part of that is being in control of your own emotions and Step 1 is just being aware of your own emotions, let alone being able to control them, but being able to control your own emotions is a prerequisite for influencing the emotions of others. The most direct pathway for influencing other people’s emotions is your own and this has been proven out.
I mean, one of the easiest scientific concepts to just show or illustrate this is mirror neurons, but that’s just one of many, and we know that we start to pick up the moods of those around us and they affect us greatly. [35:54.5]
I mean, all of us men who are afraid of these emotions, you probably had a parent who was either very volatile, so they were very unpredictable, maybe came home from work and came home and just started shouting at the kids erratically, so it was unpredictable in the sense of “I don’t know if I’m going to get the calm Dad or Mom or the crazy or the angry one or the impatient one,” or you had a parent who was shut down and repressed him or herself, and so you’ve learned this from them and you picked it up from them. This is interpersonal, right?
Interpersonal skills, being able to master them, being able to control your own emotions is a pathway, as a quick and natural, and automatic and almost effortless way of influencing others’ emotions.
Okay, just to recap, the three broad categories of emotional skills I’ve covered here or just really just mentioned so that you’re aware of them is more purely emotional skills, such as presence, emotion endurance, emotion regulation, or titration, and the whole other subcategory of IFS, emotion skills like unburdening. Then the second category were cognitive ones. The third category were the behavioral ones. [37:05.3]
Just as we’re ending here, I wanted to tell you the story of a client and his name is Andrew, and Andrew is from a conservative, but technologically-advanced, very modern Asian country. Andrew grew up in a whole, that was incredibly repressed with parents that were very enmeshed with him, as is common in many Asian societies.
As he learned about toxic parenting, about assertiveness, about toxic shame, about boundaries, about mental health, about emotions, about repression, about healing and unburdening, as he learned about these on a cognitive theoretical level through my recorded courses, he was able to spot more and more what was happening, first, in himself, the emotions that he was feeling that he wasn’t even aware of before and that he was repressing and suppressing, but that were under the surface. He was able to spot them now because he was able to sense under the surface of what was going on and stay with them. [38:05.6]
It’s great to see that. I have a lot of intellectual type of clients or clients with strongly intellectual parts, especially in Asia, and they can leverage this to allow their intellectual parts to lead them through this process of healing because they can really capitalize on that second category of emotion skills coming from the cognitive set. Just understanding the theory of it, and intellectually, can help them to stay long enough and to really commit to feeling through and enduring the painful emotions, and being present with them as they come up.
As a result, Andrew was able to see how, in his day-to-day life, there were all of these different boundary violations that were going on and that he had been living under the weight of a lot of toxic shame, and he was able to get in touch with me to do some one-on-one work. [38:57.5]
It has been a joy and privilege to guide him through that, and more and more just finding that he’s even though still living in a kind of toxic situation with his family, and even really with his society and his peer group, as he’s improving that situation from this practical situation, he’s increasing his skills and his strength emotionally to be able to endure whatever comes up, to stay present with what comes up, to notice more and more in himself and in others as these emotions are coming up in himself and in others.
It has been a real joy and privilege to see that, this incredible freedom that’s happening relatively quickly as a result of him doing this cognitive work on his own just through my courses, leading to the research literature that he was digging into on his own, and then doing the emotional work together of developing that presence and that endurance, and so on, these emotion skills. [39:59.1]
I know that, for some of you, this might be airy-fairy. I don’t know, any talk of emotions might be. Those who live under the weights of toxic repression, especially this kind of repressive masculinity, the old-fashioned masculinity, might think that this is too nebulous, this too abstract, and they want some practical how-tos. Guess what, there are a lot of practical how-tos. There are a lot of techniques when it comes to emotional mastery and there is a lot of empirical evidence for these, and I walk guys through them.
I walk people through them in my program, this project that I’m on a team that I’m a minority owner in this team currently, and we’ve developed “Emotional Mastery”. We’re developing that as part of one of the many projects that are underway and that one is called “Emotional Mastery”, and you can find that in my site, under Online Courses and “Affiliated Programs” and check it out. “Emotional Mastery”.
In the next episode, I’m going to try to make this more concrete for you so you have a better idea so it’s not so abstract, an even better idea of what it might look like to master your emotions and to develop facility with these skills, to develop mastery with these skills. [41:09.8]
Thank you so much for listening, and if you like this podcast at all, please share it with anyone else that you think would benefit from it. Let me know what you thought in the comments and I look forward to hearing from you and I look forward to welcoming you in the next episode. For now, David Tian, signing out.
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