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Many of us have been in a situation where our emotions prevent us from responding appropriately and seeing the big picture. For example, in cases where we feel extreme anger, stress, anxiety, and sadness.
The best way to handle these emotionally charged situations is to step away to create psychological distance between you and the situation.
Executive functioning is the set of abilities and behaviors that is controlled by the frontal lobe, including:
Executive functioning helps you to regulate your emotions better, which gives rise to psychological distancing.
The executive functioning also allows us to perform the following processes important for psychological distancing.
The act of psychological distancing is mostly atheoretical, meaning very little research describes how psychological distancing as a tool develops and functions in humans.
In an emotionally charged situation, for example, an argument, take a break for 15 minutes or physically leave the space, such as taking a walk.
By stepping out of the situation, you can disrupt the immediate intention and reframe the situation.
In an emotionally charged situation, try to imagine watching yourself from a distance. Ask yourself, "what you would think of someone else's behavior is you saw them in the same situation?"
By changing the focus to a third-person view, you can stop some of the immediate reactions and reconsider your behavior.
When you find yourself in an emotionally charged situation or that your behavior is not helpful, such as procrastinating, imagine yourself in the future looking back and observing your current behavior.
This allows you to look at the current event and its consequences in a broader context. If you procrastinate now, you'll have more work later. By making a snide remark now, you may have a weakened relationship later. By spending your money now, you are unable to save it for a long-term goal.
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Research shows that small shifts in perspective can help people in controlling their emotions.
In an experiment, when people viewed themselves as "distanced" from a situation, they were less anxious than the group that viewed themselves as in the middle of the situation.
Self-distancing enables people to focus on the bigger picture rather than concentrating on immediate feelings. It improves the sense of emotional regulation, self-control, and general poise.
In a study, participants were asked to practice self-distancing when faced with various kinds of food - for example, fruit instead of candy. When participants asked, "What does David want?" instead of "What do I want?" they were more likely to choose the healthier option.