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Mastering Emotional Intelligence to Cope with Anger, Defensiveness, and Strong Emotions ‍

by | Oct 4, 2023

Emotional intelligence allows us to navigate the complexities of our emotions and effectively manage our reactions. It helps us recognize, understand, and regulate our emotions, as well as the capacity to empathize with others. When we lack emotional intelligence, we often find ourselves struggling with anger, defensiveness, and strong emotions. By developing emotional intelligence, we can gain control over these intense emotions and enhance our overall health and well-being.

Increasing our emotional intelligence is a process that takes time. It’s working on an emotional muscle and getting stronger with practice.

Here are some steps to get started:

1) Identify your triggers.

    What triggers a strong emotional reaction for you? Common triggers include criticism, rejection, failure, and feeling misunderstood or unappreciated. When we encounter these triggers, our emotions can quickly escalate. By identifying our triggers, we can begin to develop strategies to manage our emotions effectively and prevent them from spiraling out of control.

    2) Acknowledge your emotions and reactions.

    Anger may feel like intense frustration, accompanied by physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat and body tension. Defensiveness often arises when we feel attacked or criticized, leading us to become guarded, argumentative, or dismissive. Strong emotions, such as sadness, fear, or anxiety, may cause us to feel overwhelmed. By acknowledging these emotions, we can take the first step towards effectively managing them.

    3) Be aware of your defenses and default coping patterns.

    If you are human, you are wired to some extent to get defensive. We have all sorts of coping patterns that are not always helpful. It’s easy to focus on others or strike back when we feel wronged. But these patterns can prevent us from taking responsibility for our own emotional well-being. Try to acknowledge and accept your emotions without judgment or blame, be curious and compassionate.

    4) Work on learning strategies that promote self-awareness and emotional regulation.

    One helpful tool is deep breathing, which helps to calm the nervous system. Taking a step back and giving ourselves time to cool down before responding can prevent us from saying or doing something we may regret. When emotionally flooded, we need at least 20 minutes of calm to allow stress chemicals to dissipate. Additionally, practicing empathy and striving to understand the other person’s point of view can diffuse tension and foster a more constructive conversation.

    Techniques for Dealing with Strong Emotions

    A very helpful technique is mindfulness, which involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. By observing our emotions without getting caught up in them (and the negative stories we connect to them), we can develop a greater understanding of their underlying causes and avoid getting overwhelmed.   Engaging in physical activity can also provide an outlet for pent-up emotions and release tension from the body. It is also important to seek support from trusted friends, family members, or therapists to help us process and cope with our feelings.

    Other helpful strategies include meditation, focusing on strengths, changing negative thinking patterns and self-defeating beliefs, increasing self-care and cultivating empathy and compassion. Ongoing self-reflection is important in this journey.

    Seeking Professional Help

    In some cases, we may require professional help and extra support. If you need help, please reach out to find counseling and other helpful resources.

    Additional Resources

    Why Am I So Angry? Mental Health Experts Weigh-In

    This Is How To Overcome Anger: 5 Powerful Secrets From Research – Barking Up The Wrong Tree (

    A Primary Defense is Denial

    Denial: How it hurts, how it helps, and how to cope – Harvard Health

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    Do you have more issues with mood, outlook and energy in the fall and winter?  You may have symptoms of SAD. For many, taking steps like increasing Vitamin D and using a light box can make a difference.

    Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Symptoms & causes – Mayo Clinic

    9 Best SAD Lamps 2023 | The Strategist (

    Crisis Resources

    National Suicide Prevention Week runs Sept. 10-16, 2023

    The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 

    Get free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by dialing or texting 988.

    The Veterans Crisis Line

    To access the crisis line dial 988 and then press 1 or Text 838255.

    Quotes & Inspiration

    Ways to Enjoy Fall

    “Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
    — Wallace Stegner

    Fall in Kansas City: A guide to the best festivals and autumn activities around the metro | KCUR – Kansas City news and NPR

    65 Fun Fall Activities – What to Do in Autumn 2022 (

    Linda Stiles

    LSCSW, LCSW, CFSW, Certified Imago Therapist

    I am dedicated to creating an environment where clients feel safe to share and be both supported and challenged in their journey toward self-healing and growth. I specialize in helping people find peace, joy and balance in their relationship with themselves and with others.

    Learn more about me