Master Your Emotions by Thibaut Meurisse is a practical book that deals with a very crucial subject, that of managing your emotions. The aim of this book is to help us use our emotions to make better decisions and not to let emotions control us. According to the author:
“Emotions are among the trickiest things to deal with and, unfortunately too often you and I will fall prey to their mystical power. We find ourselves unable to break their spell. Because they affect every aspect of our lives and determine the quality of it, our inability to understand how emotions work can prevent us from designing our ideal life and from fulfilling potential.
By the end of this book, you will know how emotions work and, more importantly, you will be better equipped to deal with them.”
In a nutshell, that is the author’s goal for the book.
Specifically, the author outlines what you will learn from reading the book as:
- Understand what emotions are and how they impact your life
- Identify negative emotions that control your life and learn to overcome them.
- Change your story to take better control over your life and create a more compelling future
- Reprogram your mind to experience more positive emotions
The book is divided into four parts:
- In part 1, we are introduced to what emotions are, why we focus on negativity and how to counter that behaviour. We are also exposed to how beliefs affect emotions and how negative emotions work.
- Part 2 focuses more on things that directly affect our emotions and looks at how our body, thoughts and sleep affect us, and how they can be used to influence our emotions.
- Part 3 is about learning how emotions are formed and what we can do to condition our mind to change them.
- Part 4 discusses how we can use our emotions as a tool for personal growth.
Following is a top level review of each part of the book.
PART 1 – WHAT EMOTIONS ARE
The information here will be known by most of us. It’s about why our brains are wired the way they are to help us survive and it discusses the whole ‘fight or flight’ survival mechanism. More or less old psychology really but good introduction for what will be discussed later in the book.
Here we are also introduced to why our brain is wired for negativity. We are also introduced to what ego is. Thibaut defines it as the self-identify we’ve constructed throughout our lives. He says that, ‘Put simply, the ego was created through your thoughts and, as a mind-created identify, has no concrete reality.’ From this perspective we can see how our ego will influence our emotions.
A lot of time is spent on ego describing areas such as, being aware or our ego, ego’s need for identity, ego’s need to feel superior and ego’s main characteristics. But the aspect of ego that drew my attention is how it affects our emotions.
Since the author explains that our ego is created by the personal story we create about ourselves, these stories will affect our emotions and consequently how we respond to life experiences. A good piece of advice here is that, “as you replace your current story with a more empowering one – while at the same time, letting go of your excessive attachment to things, people or ideas (what ego does to us) – you will be able to experience more emotions. A key lesson in this part of the book is the importance of self-awareness. Being self-aware of our ego is important so that we can manage it more positively.
The latter part of part focuses a lot on the nature of emotions, aspects of emotions discussed are:
- The transient nature of emotions
- The fact that emotions are neutral, they are neither good, bad or useless
- The positive role of emotions
- The fleeting nature of emotions
- The trickiness of emotions
- The filtering power of emotions
- The magnetic power of emotions
- Emotions and mental suffering
PART 2 – WHAT IMPACTS YOUR EMOTIONS
This is one of my favourite parts of the book as it discusses some practical aspects of what affects our emotions. Here you will learn about the impact of sleep on your emotions and how to improve your sleep. How you can use your body to influence your emotions is also discussed. The thinking here is about using our body language and posture to influence how we feel, which is why exercise is so important. A quote by Amy Cuddy summarily explains it:
“Our bodies follow our minds, our minds change our behaviour, and our behaviour changes our outcomes.”
There is also information on how to use our thoughts and our words to influence our emotions. Other aspects discussed are how our breathing, environment and music affects our emotions.
PART 3 – HOW TO CHANGE YOUR EMOTIONS
In this section of the book Thibaut aims to teach us how to:
- Let go of our emotions (or negative emotions)
- Change our story and create a more empowering one
- Condition our minds
- Use our behaviours to change our emotions
- Modify our environments to reduce negative emotions
The one thing I will definitely take away from the book is discussed in this chapter and that is a formula that breaks down how emotions are formed. I like it because it’s non-scientific, simple to understand and it also holds the key not only to understanding our emotions but managing them also.
The formula is:
Interpretation + Identification + Repetition = Strong Emotion.
Here’s a brief description of the formula:
- Interpretation: is when you interpret an event, or a thought based on your personal story.
- Identification: is when you identify with a specific thought as it arises.
- Repetition: is having the same thoughts over and over again.
- Strong Emotion: is when you experience an emotion so many times it has become part of your identify. You then experience that emotion whenever a related thought or event triggers it.
Later we are shown how to use this formula to experience more positive emotions. The key is the first step, how we interpret events or situations. If we interpret events negatively, there is a likelihood that negative emotions will follow. A good practice for generating positive emotions is to interpret events and situations positively. Some practical ways to think positively are suggested and I really like the one about practising gratitude.
Using your behaviour to change your emotions simply involves doing something different that will change how you feel, while changing your environment to change your emotions gives us some practical tips to physically change our environment such as:
- Not watching too much TV.
- Not spending too much time on social media.
- Not hanging out with negative people.
- Not complaining and focusing on the negative.
- Finishing what we start.
This section ends with some advice on short- and long-term strategies for dealing with negative emotions.
PART 4 – HOW TO USE EMOTIONS TO GROW
This is the last section in the book, and it is a large one with lots of information. Some of the insights you will gain from reading this part of the book are:
- Learning how to use emotions to guide ourselves. This will involve developing our self-awareness.
- Recording our emotions to become more aware of our feelings.
- How to overcome the feeling of ‘not good enough’.
- How to deal with being defensive.
- Dealing with stress and worry.
- Not letting what people think of us inhibit us.
- Dealing with resentment.
- Dealing with jealousy.
- Dealing with procrastination.
- Dealing with lack of motivation.
There is more to learn in this part of the book that just the lessons listed above.
This is a book with lots of good information. In fact, the book has too much information, so don’t expect to take in all of it. But I believe there is something in this book that we can all apply to our lives even if it is just one thing. For me as I wrote earlier, it’s the formula on how emotions are formed, and I have already started to use it to manage how I interpret situations and therefore change how I feel about them.
Another useful aspect of this book is that almost every chapter has an action step that links to an activity on the author’s website. I didn’t try any of the activities, but other people may find them useful.
In conclusion, my verdict is, this is a book worth reading for it’s practical advice and tips. I don’t believe you need to read the whole book. Go through the table of contents, identify topics that appeal to you and read them but be sure to apply whatever you read to your life.