We investigate a polarization- and frequency-selective feedback scheme to control the emission properties of multimode vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers. A joint experimental and theoretical approach is used to study the modal and polarization dynamics of the system, with an emphasis on the role of anisotropies. Both experiments and theory reveal that selective feedback of a single transverse mode results in a drastic increase of the selected mode's intensity. Furthermore, the influence of feeding back a single mode on the other transverse modes is discussed. Experimental measurements and numerical simulations also reveal that the emission and polarization dynamics can be considerably stabilized when this type of feedback is applied. © 2009 The American Physical Society.