One key area of personal development which I notice a lot of people are interested in is managing emotions. This interest has good reasons, as your emotions influence your options and your options influence your results. Plus, it just feels bad to feel bad.
Managing emotions is also one of those key areas of personal development where a lot of people struggle. They read books and articles, go to trainings, try various methods and techniques, yet most of them don’t seem to be able to get rid of those pesky negative emotions they don’t want in their lives.
I believe that managing your emotions is an often misunderstood part of self-improvement, and this makes place for a lot of emotional mastery tools which provide nothing more than false hope or a short lived relief, often for big sums of money.
The Tool I Recommend
Considering this, I’ve decided to write a piece about the primary tool I employ for managing emotions, both with myself and with my clients, and which is by far the most effective I know: CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or Therapies). It represents a systemic approach to managing your emotions through changing thinking and behavioral patterns.
CBT has also been turned into CBC – Cognitive Behavioral Coaching – which is what I actually use in my communication coaching activity, but given the major similarities between the two, I will refer to both using the more commonly known name of CBT, to simplify things.
My intention here is not to describe Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in detail, nor to provide a manual on how to use it. You can find this kind of information in many other places.
My goal is only to show you why I think it’s an excellent tool for managing emotions. This will also make my life easier, as whenever I am asked what tools and why I recommend for dealing with fear, guilt, anxiety, depression, anger and so on, I will simply point people to this article from now on.
My Exploration of Emotional Mastery Tools
Over the years, I have looked into various tools for managing emotions. When I say ‘looked into’, this means I have:
- Used the tools one by one for myself and looked at the results;
- Gave them to others for testing or interviewed people who have used them;
- Searched for scientific research to back them up and analyzed the data.
The tools for managing emotions I have looked into include: NLP, EFT, The Sedona Method, positive affirmations, hypnosis, meditation and subliminal tapes. I have found some of these I mention to be effective in managing emotions to some degree, but none of them capable to be a complete tool for this purpose.
Some tools provide only a short term improvement of the emotional state, with no long term change; some of them work inconsistently, for some people but not for many other people. Some tools support the process of managing emotions but do not provide it themselves; some of them just create a placebo effect. Some tools are pure bullshit.
What actually bothered me is that a lot of these methods are marketed as powerful, miracle solutions to get read of all unwanted emotions and they don’t even live up to 10% of the promise.
What amused me is how some people will use an emotional management method for years, will encourage others to do the same and will think it’s a great method, even if it hasn’t really helped them improve more than marginally. That’s the definition of insanity to me.
In the end, I stopped at CBT. Ironically, it’s one of the first tools I have found, but I abandoned it before truly testing it because it didn’t look… sexy enough. It seemed rather repetitive, analytical and programmatic, and I was attracted by some of the flashier tools out there.
Now, I can tell you about my positive results in managing emotions using CBT, I can tell you about the consistent positive results my clients who used CBT effectively got, I can tell you about the inner logic of the techniques employed.
But from my perspective, all of these pale by comparison with another argument: the fact that worldwide, there are over 2000 rigorous scientific studies on the techniques and principles of CBT, which prove it to be highly effective. In terms of scientific support, it is light years away from almost any other tool out there for managing your emotions.
I know a lot of other methods claim to be supported by science. Don’t be fooled! Anyone can make claims such as these, quote fake research or create bias research, designed to support a certain conclusion. There is a lot more to getting scientific backup in the area of personal development than meets the eye.
CBT is not a miracle cure. It involves getting used to it. It involves a lot of work for identifying your current thinking patterns and beliefs, seeing what is irrational or non-constructive in them, and changing them gradually through cognitive and behavioral techniques.
It’s based on 3 R’s: reprogramming, repetition and reinforcement. If you stick to these three ways, you will see real progress and change in your habitual emotional reactions.
At the end of the day, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy promises less and offers more than any other tool I know for managing your emotions, which is why I recommend it whole-heartedly.