Compartmentalizing emotions in intense environments


I was listening Jocko Willink (former Navy seal; current business owner/leadership consultant) talk about the need to compartmentalize emotions in intense environments. Whether that is the boardroom, a cop, paramedic, or even an intense experience as a parent.

I’m really curious about this. I’ve done it before when I was in competitive debate. I couldn’t allow anger or fear to dominate my emotions if I wanted to win, but instead focused on letting my rational mind take over. It’s definitely a skill set.

But I also know from my experience that denying the emotion, like Brooke talks about, can only last so long. I’m wondering if there’s a difference between the two? Maybe something along the lines of the original Nike motto, “Feel the fear, and do it anyways.”

Here’s a model

C – Experience intense emotion in high stress environment
T- I’ll feel this later
F- calm or focus
A- do the work
R-less emotional reactivity in the moment

My emotions hijack me, but because of my experience competing in and teaching debate, I do tend to have more emotional control and less emotional reactivity in interpersonal conflict than I would have without the debate training.

Here’s another model

C- get into an intense conflict
T- I need to keep my cool
F- focus
A- take deep breaths, calm my nervous system
R- I’m more careful with my words

Maybe later I Journal about the experience or call a friend to vent, and in my own way process the adrenaline, hurt, or anger. Or maybe i just never feel the need to process the emotion. Calming my nervous system was enough.

I’m very curious about this.