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Grand Master Level Emotion Regulation

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

I can almost guarantee that there is a better way for you to handle the difficult emotions happening in you right now.

Jet Li, in the epic climax of Kiss of the Dragon, walks into a police headquarter's dojo filled with 30+ stick-brandishing, black-belted enemies. In his eyes you immediately recognize stillness rising in synchrony to his soaring adrenaline. Preparing to combat the entire room alone and empty handed, you see him walk slowly, shoulders relaxed, breathing undisturbed, eyes steady as he surveys the layout of his enemies.

He then plants his feet in the best place to begin the battle and gently pulls up his sleeves. Then like a spark he lets fly his impossibly fast, deadly precise strikes and blocks. In minutes, every foe is writhing on the floor. He is breathing harder now but you see his inner racing mirrored by inner stillness as he smoothly glides out of the room.

Just a movie? Perhaps. But I find a powerful wisdom in this scene. Wisdom that applies to all of us in our daily lives.

It's fair to guess that most of us do not encounter such profoundly stressful situations day to day. But we do experience stress, don't we? And my question for you is, how do you handle your stress?

Do you run? Do you go berserk? Do you lay down and play dead? Do you dope up and numb out? Or do you match your pounding adrenaline and cortisol with stillness and soothing breath?

If you run, you will never have a chance to succeed. If you go berserk, you will cause more damage than good. If you play dead or numb out, you will not experience life and you might as well be dead.

The only way I see is to learn how to handle stress effectively. Jet Li's example is Grand Master level emotional regulation in the context of martial battle.

But how about emotional regulation in other contexts when your boss fires you? When your partner cheats on you? When your friend says something hurtful? When you can't seem to gain traction in your business? When an unexpected illness knocks you flat? When you lose your beloved?

You can feel any emotion without being swept away and lost to the sea. At worst, you will be swept away for a while, such as when a wave of grief consumes you. Ride out to that wave, let it lift you and dump you under. I've not seen a wave of emotion yet that has been too much for myself or my clients to face. Find your power to allow your natural healing processes to move through and carry you.

Masterful emotion regulation is not emotion strangulation.

The point I’d like to draw from that topic now is that to succeed at handling any difficult emotion or stress, your “resource” (source of strength, centeredness, clarity) must meet or exceed the stress. In Jet Li’s case, for example, he matched and exceeded his level of fear with an inner resource of strength and serenity.

Practice shaking hands with your emotions and making space for your stress and pain. It will build your power to match intensity with stillness. You too can be your own hero martially subduing a throng of enemies. In the midst of overwhelming emotion, turn to your power.


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