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What is emotional mastery?

Learning emotional mastery puts you in control of your life

What is emotional mastery? We’ve all had situations where our emotions got the best of us. Often it’s because we didn’t realize what was happening until we were too far down the “emotional train” to change it. The best time to handle an emotion is when you first begin to feel and experience it fully. That way it won’t keep popping up time and time again. By following these six straightforward steps, you’ll learn how to master your emotions and take control of your life.

What is emotional mastery? Psychology’s answer

As reported by Psychology Today, psychology’s answer to the question of “What is emotional mastery?” has evolved over the last century. Early American psychology embraced the “James-Lange Theory,” which held that emotions are strictly the product of physiology (a neurological response to some external stimuli). This view evolved when the “Cannon-Bard Theory” asserted that the brain’s thalamus mediates between external stimuli and subjective emotional experience.

The concept of emotional mastery wasn’t introduced until the 1960s with the Schachter-Singer experiment, where researchers gave participants a dose of a placebo “vitamin.” Participants then watched colleagues complete a set of questionnaires. When the colleagues responded angrily to the questionnaires, the participants felt angry in turn. But when the colleagues responded happily, the participants also felt happy. The study’s results implied a connection between peer influence and the felt experience of emotion.

The idea that emotions are influenced by outer as well as inner stimuli was furthered by psychiatrist Allen Beck, who demonstrated that thoughts, peer influence and circumstance shape emotions. Beck’s research formed the foundation of modern-day cognitive-behavioral therapy, the gold standard of emotional mastery as it’s understood today.

The role of emotional mastery in life and society

Feelings and emotional mastery play a role in our subjective experience and interpersonal relationships.

  • Emotions unify us across cultural lines. There are six basic emotions that are universal in all cultures: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. We all experience these feelings, although there are cultural differences regarding what’s an appropriate display of emotion.


  • Emotions govern our sense of well-being. Since emotions are a product of our experiences and how we perceive those experiences, we can cultivate positive emotions by focusing on them. There are 10 “power emotions” that cultivate emotional mastery by creating a base of positive affect. When we incorporate even small doses of gratitude, passion, love, hunger, curiosity, confidence, flexibility, cheerfulness, vitality and a sense of contribution, we set the stage for feeling good about ourselves.


  • Emotional mastery supports healthy relationships. When you’re able to demonstrate emotions that are appropriate to the situation, you’re able to nurture your relationships. When you don’t know how to master your emotions, the opposite occurs: You might fly off the handle at minor annoyances or react with anger when sadness is a more appropriate response. Your emotional response affects those around you, which shapes your relationships for better or worse. 

How to master your emotions in six steps

Learning how to master your emotions is a skill anyone can build in six straightforward steps. 

1. Identify what you’re really feeling

The first step in learning how to master your emotions is identifying what your feelings are. To take that step toward emotional mastery, ask yourself:

  • What am I really feeling right now?
  • Am I really feeling…?
  • Is it something else?

2. Acknowledge and appreciate your emotions, knowing they support you

Emotional mastery does not mean shutting down or denying your feelings. Instead, learning how to master your emotions means appreciating them as part of yourself.

  • You never want to make your emotions wrong.
  • The idea that anything you feel is “wrong” is a great way to destroy honest communication with yourself as well as with others.

3. Get curious about the message this emotion is offering you

Emotional mastery means approaching your feelings with a sense of curiosity. Your feelings will teach you a lot about yourself if you let them. Getting curious helps you:

  • Interrupt your current emotional pattern.
  • Solve the challenge.
  • Prevent the same problem from occurring in the future.

4. Get confident

The quickest and most powerful route to emotional mastery over any feeling is to remember a time when you felt a similar emotion and handled it successfully. Since you managed the emotion in the past, surely you can handle it today.

5. Get certain you can handle this not only today, but in the future as well

To master your emotions, build confidence by rehearsing handling situations where this emotion might come up in the future. See, hear and feel yourself handling the situation. This is the equivalent of lifting emotional weights, so you’ll build the “muscle” you need to handle your feelings successfully. 

6. Get excited and take action

Now that you’ve learned how to master your emotions, it’s time to get excited about the fact that you can:

  • Easily handle this emotion.
  • Take some action right away. 
  • Prove that you’ve handled it.

Learning emotional mastery is one of the most powerful steps you can take to create a life that’s authentic and fulfilling. Get the support you need to take control of your feelings with Tony Robbins’ Ultimate Edge, your resource for building your best life.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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