What to do with our emotions?
”Everything is going well, I’m playing well, I’m focused, but when the emotions come I don’t know how to handle them.”
This conversation has happened countless times when I talk with a player. Technical knowledge is not hard to acquire and world-class coaches and systems are more or less available to most of us. But if we can’t use the knowledge we acquired at the tables because we are focused on not blowing up, that knowledge won’t be worth much.
Some people use stress balls or relieve their tensions through sports. Other curse or hit punching bags. But what happens when none of these are available? We don’t get the chance to stand up and run a lap around the block every time we get stressed while playing, or even during everyday activities such as driving. This leads to broken mice and cracked monitors, totaled cars or even worse…
How great it would be to play poker without any emotions! People have been called ”robots” for their ability to not get upset by bad beats and continuing to make good decisions. A lot of people strive for this emotional state (including me in the past). Being angry is not good, poker has swings and we have to accept that sometimes it doesn’t go as we planned it. It’s also not good to enjoy a lucky hand or a big score because we focus on luck instead of playing good and thus give ourselves false feedback.
This is a road headed straight in the direction of an emotionless, lonely life.
The reason for this is the fact that our brain works based on habits and makes no difference between various situations. If you learn to disregard your emotions while playing poker, you won’t experience them in other situations either. There will be no anger or tension. Happiness will be just a moment of pride felt in the very clearly defined moments you consider as triumphs. Trust virtually doesn’t exist and unconditional personal relationship is just a meaningless phrase to you.
My fiancé phrased this mindset well, she said ”Even when you are with me, you are alone”. Trust me, you don’t want to get to this point.
Feel great all the time! When anger or tension comes, we quickly say no to them. We fight the bad feelings and our fears and explain to ourselves that we have to feel good right now. That’s when we make the best decisions and that’s when our life is good.
We invest a lot of energy to transform fear into courage, suffering into happiness, frustration to excitement. This energy should be used to pay attention to our duty and make the best decisions. This leads to habits like only sitting down to play when we feel we are in a ”perfect” mood, when we feel good and excited. This state of mind can only be kept up for a very short time and we end up wasting all our energy on getting into it, which hinders our progress.
What would happen if we just let them happen?
Emotions are unconscious reactions. Our brain creates them to react on a current situation based on previous experience. Often they are completely unrelated to reality, because as we talked about earlier our brain makes no difference between situations, between good and bad, it just reacts in its usual way. But the usual is based on everything we have experienced during our lives and often even things that we inherited from previous generations.
These are (possibly hundreds of years old) forces that we battle when we want to ”deal” with our emotions.
The bad news is that our chances in this fight are slim.
The good news is that we don’t even have to fight this battle. We are humans, so we had, have and will have emotions. This is completely fine.
What we forgot is to try is to live with these emotions. When we allow ourselves to feel good, bad or whatever way, while still doing our duty. We coexist. I know, because this is how I live. I can be unmotivated or in a bad mood, but I don’t have to pay attention it. I can do what I want while experiencing both my good and bad feelings. In peace.