Dr. Jenny Schaafsma, PhD
Let’s Talk About Emotions
We all have them. Our emotions can be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
Emotions serve a function in our lives. For example, fear alerts us to threats to our life and wellbeing, guilt alerts us to actions that threaten our values, and love organizes responses for survival, reproduction and attachment. At times emotions can feel incredibly overwhelming and difficult to manage.
Emotion regulation is a practice of managing ones’ emotional experience.
There are several factors that can make it hard to regulate emotions, such as biological factors, lack of skill, reinforcement of emotional behavior, moodiness, emotional overload and emotional myths.
Here are a few myths about emotions:
There is a right way to feel in every situation
There’s not! You are entitled to feel how you feel in response to a situation
Letting others know that I am feeling a negative emotion is a sign of weakness
Weakness? This is a sign of courage and strength. It takes courage and vulnerability to share with someone else how you are feeling.
Negative (unpleasant) feelings are bad
Yeah they don’t feel great, but our feelings serve a function and are trying to tell us something and organize our response to a situation.
I prefer to look at emotions that are generally considered negative as unpleasant. They are unpleasant to feel, but that does not necessarily mean they are negative.
I will always feel this way
You’ll likely experience a spike in your emotional response, however, eventually it will come down (usually after a few minutes). Our emotions have a shelf life.
Emotions should always be trusted
At times are responses may be based on our emotions and not on factual evidence. It’s not uncommon to misread your emotions. For example, I may be in a public speaking situation about mental health and my stomach rumbles. Now it’s possible I could interpret that as I am hungry and excited to present or I may interpret it as if I’m nervous and feel sick to my stomach.
These myths can negatively impact our experience of emotions and ability to regulate our emotions.
Emotion regulation strategies can be healthy and unhealthy. For example, walking or meditating are healthy emotion regulation strategies, whereas, self-harm and abusing substances are considered unhealthy strategies.
Stay tuned for future blog post on emotion regulation strategies.
Reference: DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha Linehan