We allow ourselves to be controlled by our emotions when interacting with others, often to our detriment. I don't mean we shouldn't feel things, I mean we need to understand whether the emotions we experience are appropriate.
I often have clients say, "that's just me", when describing an aggressive response to being challenged. What they are saying in effect is that this is how they have learned to respond when they 'feel' under attack.
So rather than responding to what someone says or does based on the content or context, the response is based on the emotions that have been generated and that are historical in nature.
Here is an excerpt from, Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goldman, which so clearly describes this dynamic.
"An old Japanese tale; a belligerent samurai once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. But the monk replied with scorn, “You're nothing but a lout - I can't waste my time with the likes of you!”
His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled, “I could kill you for your impertinence.”
“That,” the monk calmly replied, “is hell.”
Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.
“And that,” said the monk, “is heaven.”
The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own agitated state illustrated the crucial difference between being caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are being swept away by it. Socrates’, injunction “Know thyself” speaks to this keystone of emotional intelligence: awareness of one’s own feelings as they occur."
We can learn to be aware, it takes commitment and being generous of others.