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When I was younger, I will admit I did not have the greatest emotional control. The smallest things could get me wound up and I would stew for ages over them.

It was not only damaging to myself, it was damaging to my relationships. Let’s admit it: nobody really likes to ride unpredictable emotional roller coasters. But many people don’t realize it is a CHOICE to do so, or not. I know I didn’t for a long time.

Then I read a quote from Don Ruiz in the Book The Four Agreements that put it in perspective. To paraphrase: Does your mind race in many different directions, like a pack of jittery wild horses? If so you need to put a lead and a bridle on your thoughts, so you are controlling them rather than letting them control you.

I instantly recognized the truth in what he was saying, and realized that I was mostly  living in reaction to my thoughts rather than harnessing my emotional state to work for me rather than against me.

It has taken time, and mindfulness, but since then I have learned to recognize when I am having repetitive, circular, nonproductive, emotionally draining thoughts. I have nicknamed it, “spinning” as a way to describe how I feel when I slip into that emotional space. It goes around and around but gets me nowhere – except emotionally and physically drained.

I have known a few male spinners, but from what I have seen I think the female brain is more prone to ruminate. Add to that hormonal fluctuation, and the spin can really get going just as Ruiz describes, like a pack of wild horses running in all directions but not knowing why, what to do, or where to head for safety.

If any of this sounds familiar, start to keep tabs on your inner thought patterns and see if you can start to recognize when you are going into a spin. One tip off can be the thoughts are either ruminating on a past one can’t change, or a future that has not arrived yet.

The solution is to come back to the now, to even touch a solid piece of furniture or do something to ground yourself in the present. Are the things you are spinning about happening right now? By all means if so, engage in fight or flight mode.

But if not, allowing your body to react as if you are in flight or flight when really there is no currant danger nor anything you can do about the situation won’t help. Get out the lead and the bridle and rein in your wild horses. Choose NOT to spin.

In time you will learn what works for you: perhaps a brisk walk, some time listening to music, mindful meditation, a change of scene, making a to-do or solution list, doing something physical and productive like cleaning house or gardening, writing in a journal, etc.

I still spin occasionally (and to be fair, I come by it honestly – most of the women in my family are near-professional league spinners) but I don’t do it nearly to the degree I once did. The spins happen less frequently and when they do I can get them under control much faster than I once did.

Speaking of other spinners, be especially aware of others in your life who may exasperate the cycle rather than help you break out of it. I learned some people are spinners and want others to spin along with them. I could be in a perfectly good mood and then get around certain people or groups and soon we’d all be spinning, going around and around about something but getting nowhere but upset.

Worse, there are even people who will use your spins against you, purposely getting you all worked up as a way to feel better or more in control themselves. These people are toxic, and should be eliminated from life when possible or their impact minimized when not.

Learning to control my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to control me has led to a much happier and healthier life, both for myself and those around me. It’s a journey rather than a destination, so don’t expect to turn around well set patterns overnight. But with time and practice you will improve until you find yourself rarely spinning rather than frequently spinning. Maybe someday I will reach a spin-free state, but for now I see any progress toward that as a step in the right direction.

I am trying to help my daughters learn to control the spins early. Whenever one of us starts to twirl, we’ll call each other out on being “special snowflakes” and then all purposely act out a melodramatic toddler-level fit until we are all laughing at the ridiculousness.

What about you? Can you relate? What have you found works for you? If you are not a spinner yourself, have you ever known one? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Let those who have ears hear!