Sometimes, emotions might be mysterious. Who hasn’t, after all,
experienced a sudden, out-of-control wrath or a depressing feeling for
no apparent reason?
Our opinions about our emotions—whether they’re a good, controllable
force in our life or unwelcome intruders that wreck havoc on our
psyche—additionally add to the complexity. The implicit and explicit
signals we receive from our parents and culture, as well as our own
experiences, may have shaped these unconscious views.

According to recent research, the views about our emotions, such as
whether they are “good” or “bad” or “controllable” or even
“uncontrollable,” have a significant impact on us. Thinking that
emotions may be modified when they become problematic can help us
recover more quickly from emotional distress and keep us from
developing depressive and anxiety disorders.

Can you control your feelings?
Imagine being ignored by a dear friend when you show up to her holiday
party. You’d probably be offended or irritated. Nevertheless, if you
tried to view the circumstance differently—perhaps your friend missed
you or was preoccupied with hosting—that would enable you to relax and
prevent you from reacting inappropriately.

Emotion regulation, as it is known in the scientific community, is
linked to a number of advantageous outcomes, including improved mental
health, moral judgment, memory, and overall well being. Reappraising
an emotionally painful experience in a more favorable light (like you
may do at that holiday party) is a specific emotion-management
technique that is frequently quite helpful.

Nonetheless, some of us doubt our ability to control our emotions. In
light of this, several recent research examined the potential effects
of this notion on our behavior and emotions.

In one study, 355 college-aged students were asked whether they agreed
or disagreed with the following statements: “The reality is, you have
very little control over your emotions” and “If you want to, you can
change the emotions you have.” They also discussed how much they
utilized reappraisal to manage their emotions and how much they felt
happy, satisfied with their lives, depressed, or anxious.

The research revealed that it mattered how people perceived their
feelings. Reappraisal was utilized more frequently by people who
believed that feelings could be changed, and as a result, they had
more emotional well-being and life satisfaction.
The researchers come to the conclusion that “how people believe about
the malleability of their emotions seems to be a critical aspect in
emotional functioning.”

More than 200 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 answered
questions about whether they thought that emotions could be changed or
were immutable as well as whether they employed reappraisal or
suppression (trying to stifle feelings) to deal with challenging
emotions. Then, using surveys and parent reports, researchers assessed
the participants’ emotional health at the start of the trial and 18
months later.

Reappraisal was employed more frequently and resulted in less
depression 18 months later in youths who thought they could manage
their emotions. They also did not attempt to suppress their emotions
nearly as frequently as other young people, which is positive because
suppression has been linked to worsen their emotional health.

The actions you do when distressing emotions arise in daily life are
shaped by your ideas once you have acquired them, according to Ford.
“We didn’t find much evidence for it, although it’s also possible the
opposite is true—that very severe despair could make you believe your
emotions are uncontrollable.”

Many of us are familiar with the advantages of having a growth
mindset: People are more driven to persevere and achieve better when
they think that learning and intellect are acquired through effort
rather than innate skill. When you think of feelings as something you
can influence via effort rather than as something that is beyond your
control, you may be more motivated to adopt ways to manage them
better. This is according to emotion researchers. So, emotions, are
they good or bad?

When determining whether an emotion is “good” or “bad,” people
frequently consider whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. For example,
happiness is good, whereas anger is negative. But, a lot of emotion
experts think that emotions, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant,
are valuable and adaptive and may tell us a lot about what’s going on
in the world. In other words, even negative feelings can be positive.
Does holding that belief affect our wellbeing? I just might, according
to some studies.

Ford and her colleagues recently examined how participants with
various emotional beliefs responded to stressors in a research. In one
experiment, participants were purposefully put under stress by having
to deliver an impromptu talk; in another, participants kept daily
diaries about how they dealt with pressures in their everyday lives.
Participants also discussed their emotional acceptance and judgmental
tendencies.

Those who accepted their sentiments in both scenarios, felt less
stressed-related negative emotion than those who evaluated their
feelings, but they did not feel more happy emotion. In the second
study, people who accepted emotions six months later reported feeling
less depressed and nervous and more content with their lives.

According to Ford, acceptance “may be a beneficial method to allow
individuals to feel better—maybe not right away, but with a delay—and
it might help them to participate with the world in constructive
ways.”

Her findings lends credence to earlier studies that highlight the
advantages of holding that all emotions have value and are beneficial.
For instance, a study indicated that participants who perceived
emotions as beneficial also reported being happier and having more
social support than people who perceived emotions as detrimental.
Also, participants’ performance on a timed reasoning exercise improved
in proportion to how useful they perceived emotions to be in their
lives. This is surprising given how frequently individuals contrast
reason and emotion.

Similar to this, other studies have shown that having a high value on
happiness might make people unhappy because they struggle to live up
to their own lofty expectations and feel let down. Yet, mindfulness
meditation, which teaches people to be uncritical of their
experiences, including their emotions, can promote psychological
well-being. Overall, it appears that recognizing our feelings no
matter what they are while having coping mechanisms for challenging
feelings may be beneficial for our wellbeing.

According to Smith, “people already have experiences with modifying
their feelings since they constantly observe individuals controlling
their emotions, such as when they feel sad but resist sobbing. “One
effective component of our intervention seems to be students’ belief
that they can not only change their emotions, but also get better at
it,” says the study.

We wish every human well.