• How many of you have experienced “intense unpleasant emotions,” e.g. felt furious, crushed, or horrified?
  • How many of you have tried to suppress or control such emotions? What was the result?
  • How many of you have reacted out of control on auto-pilot mode? What was the result?

I am sure at some point in your life you have been involved in any of the above scenarios and the result in many instances may not be as desired.

Have you instead “Navigated through such Emotions” by intentionally modifying your thoughts and taking healthy actions?

Intense Unpleasant EmotionsI know of many examples where people who experienced intense grief, terror, or felt furious and navigated through those emotions, found a purpose that transcended self and felt exhilarated and even healed.

One such person is “Brad Rubini,” a Rotarian from Toledo, OH. I don’t know Brad, I read about him in a Rotarian magazine. According to the article, Brad “channeled his grief of losing his daughter,” by founding the largest book festival. He matched his daughter’s passion for reading with the purpose of encouraging others to read more.

Another example comes to my mind is the founder of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,) Candy Lightner. She lost her daughter in an accident caused by a drunk driver. She used her grief and anger to promote tough legislation to keep people under the influence off the road; so others don’t have to go through a similar experience.

Yet another one is about Eric Adams and his brother, two African American teens. They got arrested and got beaten so badly by the police that their urine had blood for seven days. Eric joined the police force in order to introduce reforms so this doesn’t happen to another soul and experience healing himself. His brother spent his life hating the police and even severed ties with Eric and perceived him as a “sell out.” Eric was on the force for 22 years and continues to serve the public as Brooklyn’s borough president.

How did these and numerous other people deal with such tragic situation and make a significant difference in the world?

Can anybody learn to achieve similar results despite facing serious tragedy? Here is a process that may help people in such tragic situation.

Navigating Emotions

Navigating Emotions (NE) is one of the eight Emotional Intelligence (EI) competencies ©6seconds.org. It can be learned and measured using SEI (Six Seconds EI) assessment tool.

The NE process is based on the following principles:

  • Emotions are part of our biology as real as blood flowing through our body. They carry important messages.
  • There are no right or wrong emotions; some emotions may be pleasant or unpleasant.
  • We experience emotions every second of our life; we may not be aware of them or able to describe them.
  • According to David Eagleman, author of “The Brain,” human’s decision-making ability is driven by emotions. If part of the brain relevant to emotions is disconnected from the part involved in making decision, we would literally lose our ability to make any decision.

We can learn the process to intentionally harness emotions we experience to drive our decision; rather than suppress or control these emotions.

Let us refer to the diagram shown to understand the process.

Navigating Emotions

Navigating Emotions

There are four quadrants and our emotions may be placed in any one of the quadrants based on the intensity and pleasantness.

  • The top-left quadrant (red) represents any intense unpleasant emotion (e.g. terror, anguish, etc.)
  • The bottom-left represents less intense unpleasant emotions (e.g. gloom, annoyance, etc.)
  • The bottom right represents less intense pleasant emotions (cheerful, peaceful, etc.)
  • The top-right (blue) represents very intense pleasant emotions (elation, passion, etc.)

How can people Navigate Emotions and transition from the intense unpleasant emotions to intense pleasant emotions?

Reduction of Intensity

Some of the ways to reduce the intensity of unpleasant emotions are to acknowledge and accept the emotions you are feeling and even label these emotions, engage in physical exercise, or take some deep breath.

Understand the validity and normality of what you are feeling. Ask if any average person in your place would feel the similar emotions?

This and many other practices can help reduce the intensity of the unpleasant emotions before reacting in an unhealthy, destructive manner.

Transition from Unpleasant to Pleasant Emotions

The first step in this part of the process is to be curious and explore the cause and the options or steps available to move forward. Next step is to start taking actions, however small they may be.

As you move forward, more options will be noticeable.

Increase the Intensity of the Pleasant Emotions

As you get rewards of the actions, you will feel more and more exhilarated.

This is not a linear process and it doesn’t mean you will never feel the intense unpleasant emotions again. As long as you repeat the process, you will continue to harness your emotions to make a difference to yourself and the world outside you. The thoughts, actions, and feelings feed on each other.

I believe people in each of the examples went through this process to Navigate Emotions (NE) intentionally or unintentionally and anybody can use this process to transcend any tragic situations and thrive.

This NE process allows people to reduce the intensity of their unpleasant emotions (top-left to bottom-left); transition from unpleasant to pleasant emotions (bottom-left to bottom-right); and increase the intensity of the pleasant emotions (bottom right to top-right.)

I would love to hear any thoughts, your own story, or questions at shabbir@shabbirlatif.com.