Matt opens the fridge for a beer after a long day. He has an overwhelming desire for the good feeling that the first sip brings him. It’s an urge that doesn’t assist Matt down the road, as it is harmful to his well-being and the relationships that mean the most to him. 

Cassie yells at her children, insulting them and calling them lazy. She works a full-time job; she comes home exhausted and looking for assistance.  Due to her overwhelming exhaustion, she is extremely angry when her kids ignore her.  Anger triggers Cassie to flip out. Her kids not listening to her makes her feel belittled, offended, and alone.  When she calls her children names, it does nothing but harm their wellbeing and the relationships she has with each of them, which is the last thing Cassie wants. 

Riley embraces everyone. Identifying as a non-binary person, who uses the plural pronoun they/them/theirs, Riley is innately loving and outgoing. They don’t question their actions and assumes that everyone adores hugs. Yet many of us know after Joe Biden’s notorious hug that a lot of individuals don’t enjoy actually being touched by strangers whatsoever. Riley should consider this impulse, so they don’t get rejected or create awkward situations for others.

The word emotion originates from the Latin word “emovere” meaning to “move out, remove, agitate.” From sprinting out of a burning building (fear), to slapping someone who insults us (anger, shame), to jumping into a teammate’s arms after making the game winning shot (joy, excitement, pride, bonding), impulses compel us to act without thought, consciousness, or awareness. In other words, they are knee-jerk reactions.

Considering that impulses propel us to act in ways that undermine our connections (rifts), our values (stealing), ourselves (self-destructive compulsions), and our very existence (think war), we should learn more about them. Facts concerning impulses:

  • Impulses result from mental and physical responses triggered by emotions. 
  • Impulses occur even if you aren’t emotionally aware.
  • Learning how to assess impulses can help aid numerous issues you may experience in life. 
  • Impulses can be observed and condensed exclusive of undermining them.
  • In order to eliminate tension, impulses can be readdressed.
  • Being hard on yourself due to the absence of self-control, does not lessen impulses.
  • Thing such as self-love and educating yourself on emotions do help lessen impulses.

Before you can learn to regulate impulses, you must become familiar with them.  This requires feeling them and not necessarily acting on them. Take a stab at this:

  1. Think of your favorite food, use that food for this experiment.  Food is something that produces impulses. If for some reason food doesn’t strike a chord in you, think of when you have an itch, maybe from an insect bite. Read this experiment fully and then take a stab at it.
  2. Imagine, or if you’re feeling like splurging, buy or make your favorite food and set it before you. Personally, I place sugar cookies in front of me for this experiment. Oh man, they’re good!
  3. The moment you realize you want to eat whatever it is, or scratch your itch, DON’T DO IT!! This experiment is fast, so understand that the distress won’t last forever.
  4. For the next 30 seconds (look at a clock or set a timer), don’t act on the impulse you’re feeling. Take slow, deep breaths in and out of your stomach and understand the way the impulse makes you feel. Think of and even journal the way the sensations feel. For example, if you feel pain, notice where in your body the pain is located, and say to yourself, “I feel pain under my ribs.” Personally, I feel a literal tugging sensation from my heart to the cookie. An itch feels like a sting to me. Observe everything you feel. Attempt to impartially recognize the discomfort, desire, tugging, stinging, etc. Attempt to jerk back from it. Envision it as something separate from you.
  5. Tell yourself, “How interesting it is for me to sit with this impulse! It pulls for me to grab the cookie or scratch the itch. But I don’t have to eat it or scratch it. I can stay with the impulse a little longer noticing what it feels like.”
  6. To go a little further, wait an additional 30 seconds allowing yourself to notice the sensations and in what ways they change as time goes on. See if the impulse strengthens or weakens with more time. What happens?
  7. Now, if you still want or need to, eat or scratch your itch. Ahhhhh…
  8. Congratulate yourself for creating space between your impulse and your action.
  9. Continue to pay mind to your impulses everyday by thinking about what you want to say and do BEFORE you do it.

Once we are able to securely identify our impulses and reflect on them, it can be extremely beneficial. Rather than pushing them down or bursting them out, we become masterful, in control, and relaxed. We begin to feel more confident. Educating ourselves on our emotions and impulses, helps us gain power and to stop undermining our relationships, our goals, and our values. We have choice and influence.

Keep working. Don’t give up; you’ll appreciate it in the long run. A+ for trying!