How to quickly control and create emotions with self-programming

Serene picture of Golden Gate bridge

A thought burst to life: “What if I could capture this emotion of elation and trigger it whenever I wanted?” What if anyone could trigger any emotion they wanted at any time? How would that affect their life?

I had just got off the phone with a prospective client and it had gone well, really well. For the first time in a sales call I had been confident, relaxed, and engaged. But now there was a problem. I had nowhere to utilize the positive energy and it was dissipating – fast.

That’s when the idea struck me.

I’d trained my dog using Pavlovian training, but could I do it on myself and could it be used on emotions?

So I struck a pose, one that seemed “powerful”. Then repeated it, visualizing recent success and tuning into the feelings of power and success that were still burning from the call. Then kept repeating it another 4 or 5 times.

Now, weeks later, I can trigger a similar feeling of elation, power, and strength through that same pose. Imagine being able to “switch on” an emotion at any time you please. Wouldn’t that be great?

Triggers – the key to how to control your emotions

So how can you utilize this technique for yourself?

  1. Get emotional
    Ideally, tell yourself that the next time you get in a strong positive state that you’ll trigger this training. Repeat it to yourself 3-5 times and your subconscious will trigger the thought at the right moment. Alternately, if there’s a picture, song, comedian, etc. that puts you into am emotional state you want to replicate then use those to get emotional.
  2. Pick a pose
    After getting into a strong emotional state – pick a pose you’ll associate with that emotion and make sure it’s congruent to prior training / beliefs. Eg. it’ll be hard to trigger a powerful feeling with a cowering pose because you already associate a cowering pose with being afraid.
  3. Visualization is key
    Close your eyes and strongly visualize this emotion. Really try to visualize exactly what part of your brain is causing the emotion, if possible. For example, when I’d be in “flow” – or a state of extreme concentration – for long periods of time I can “feel it” at a spot just above and in-between my eyes. To program focus for on-demand use you’d visualize yourself being focused and turn your attention to the “spot” in your brain that is reacting. You’re almost looking for a brief meditative or trance-like state here focused on your emotion.
  4. Install the association
    Now that you’ve pinpointed the emotion, associate it to the physical motion or pose you’ve chosen by repeating that pose 3-10 times, each time visualizing and experiencing your emotion.

That’s all there is to it. Now continue to condition yourself when naturally in the same emotional state, otherwise the “programming” might begin to fade.

Alternate triggers

Besides certain poses, you can also use:
  • Music
  • Smells or scents
  • Visual references, eg. pictures
Just about anything that you can create a strong association between it and the feeling that you’d like to have will work. For me poses are highly portable and simplistic but utilize what works for you.

Not just limited to power poses

So far I’ve successfully programmed triggers to two other emotions:

I’ve been struggling with focus, could I do the same as with my power pose? Lately I’ve been utilizing the app Focus at Will – a neuroscience based music app that helps to immediately launch you into a state of flow. New pose, more repetition, visualization.

Last year I’d achieved a major goal: travel to Chile on someone else’s dime. How is for another blog post, but the second the plane landed I felt a feeling of intense success. I’ve sense re-visualized that moment to install that feeling to push though rough times.

Where to go from here

While you can use this however you want, here’s some suggestions to start.

  1. Start with happiness. In a happy state humans are generally more level headed, creative, and enjoyable to be around.
  2. Visualize a time when you were really happy. Imagine it as if it were yesterday. What were the circumstances, the sights, the sounds, the energy, and how you felt.
  3. Follow the steps. Continue down the checklist above.
  4. Continue with power. Combining an ability to be happy and feel powerful whenever you want is a potent combination.
  5. Pick more emotions. Thrilled. Motivated. Understanding. Focused. Energetic. What do you wish you could be more often?
  6. Continue to condition yourself. Just like working out without some consistent training humans atrophy. All life is growing or dying and this training is the same – continue conditioning so the triggers don’t fade.

Remember, your emotions are triggered in your brain by your association of events to a set of rules and guidelines you’ve set up in your life. Therefore why let your emotions control you when you could control them?

Have an emotion you’d like to program into yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

Be driven.


PS. If you liked this post and feel there’s quality content, please like or tweet about it so that your friends can benefit as well. If you didn’t I’d be thrilled to learn why not, just drop me a line at ignitethedrive [at] garrettdunham (dot) com.

About Garrett Dunham

Garrett Dunham is a Silicon Valley born-and-raised entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and startup advisor. His companies have been featured on the New York Times, NBC, TechCrunch, Fast Company, and Venture Beat, among others. He spends his days mentoring startups at Start-up Chile and Singularity University, building products, and blogging about entrepreneurial success and self optimization.

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