Emotions: Thermometer or thermostat?

Posted on: June 8, 2007

Emotions: Thermometer or thermostat?


In a previous article, George Anderson discussed emotional intelligence as a critical factor in anger management interventions. I want to suggest that true anger management cannot take place without emotional intelligence. Anger is a secondary emotion and is therefore driven by other emotions. Understanding the emotions that drive our anger is critical in their management.

True anger management demands that we recognize our emotions and consciously decide our actions. Emotions are fascinating because they are a way of communicating with the world. They give us clues about what we love, cherish and the things that we less regard for. Wrapped up in literally thousands of emotions is an emotional language that connects with the world in meaningful ways. Who wants to be like the character Data on Star Trek–an emotionless being who lives only in the realm of logic? I certainly don’t.

It is emotions that bring the world to life, like the thermometer gauge, they give us information in the form of an emotion about how we feel about events or occurrences. Emotions have their own intelligence and are fascinating at perceiving the world around us but it would be unwise to make decisions on perceptions alone. These perceptions need to be analyzed first before making our decisions. In the same way that one may feel warm and may check the thermometer to confirm the temperature; it is important to note that our emotions are informational but we are in charge and responsible for our actions no matter how we may feel.


This brings me to the thermostat. In the indoor environment, if an individual perceives that the temperate is to hot or too cold the thermostat is a wonderful device that can be used to regulate the temperature to the appropriate level. This device gives us the control to determine if what we perceive physically is comfortable or uncomfortable for us. It is the same in the management of our anger. When we perceive the primary emotions like disappointment, embarrassment, jealousy or frustration it is everyone’s responsibility to first be aware of those emotions then take steps to manage them in a way that does not violate the rights of others or cause us self harm. Strategies may include: learning stress management techniques, communication skills and building emotional intelligence.


In the same way that being able to make the decision to change the position of the thermostat demands full awareness of the temperature I encourage my clients to become more aware of their own emotions by developing emotional literacy so that they can know how specifically how they feel and be in full control of their actions. This literacy is a first step to emotional intelligence and true anger management. The opposite of this is an individual who acts on their feelings without any considerations that these emotions are signals and not commands. In future blog entries I will continue to build on the concept of emotional literacy as it relates to anger management. Visit my blog frequently at Finally, I ask the question again; in the management of your emotions are you a thermostat or a thermometer?


Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF

President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers

Carlos Todd is the owner of Todd’s Anger Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

June 2007
« May   Jul »

Blog Stats

  • 225,507 hits
%d bloggers like this: