Stress Mastery: Emotional Chain Reactions

by Doc Orman, M.D.

To round out this week’s theme about human emotions, I’d like to draw your attention to emotional chain reactions.  But first, in case you missed the previous two posts in this series, here are the links:

Jealousy And Envy—Distinguishing The Two And Sorting Out All The Specific Emotions Involved

Anger, Fear, Sadness—The Three Primary Human Emotions

Emotional Chain Reactions

Sometimes, our emotions occur in rapid fire sequences.  This can happen so quickly that we might not be aware of all the specific emotions involved. All we might be aware of is that a swirl of emotions has hit us and now we’re feeling very “upset.”  Problem is…we can’t easily deal with “being upset.”  In order to deal with emotional stress masterfully, we need to start by identifying the specific  emotions we are experiencing.

For example, here’s a common emotional chain reaction:


Let’s say you get very frustrated one day.  Right in the middle of this feeling, somebody close to you says the wrong thing and you react with an outburst of anger.  As soon as you see their shocked reaction, you immediately feel guilty about reacting in a less than loving way.  You then look back on the whole event and feel ashamed of your behavior.

Thus, in a matter of seconds, you experienced four strong negative emotions in a rapid fire sequence.  When you are in the middle of this type of event, it can be very hard to notice each emotion in the chain.  But if you want to rapidly dissolve any lingering emotional upset, you’ll need to be able to sort out each emotion and then pick one to focus in on.

Here’s another example:


You get scared in a social situation and it’s apparent to everyone around you. You immediately begin to feel embarrassed and then this quickly morphs into shame—all in a matter of seconds.

In order to deal with this event powerfully, you can start with any one of these three emotions.  Then, tease out the underlying thought patterns and action patterns for that one emotion and consider the reality of each one.

Sometimes, just dealing with one emotion in a chain will break the hold that the entire chain may have had on you.  But if it doesn’t, you can always pick the next emotion and go to work on it as well.

NOTE: For more information about my unique approach to eliminating stress, please visit


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