How to handle distressful emotions

POINTS TO REMEMBER WHILE OBSERVING YOUR EMOTIONS:

* Emotions are useful and push us to change course as we face new problems or new circumstances. It is important to first remember emotions are in place to help us survive. In that way they are on our side.

* Emotions, no matter how intense or upsetting, will have a natural life span.

* Every emotion will end or morph into something else. Learning to watch this process is a key skill of Emotional Intelligence.

* What we resist persists. Feelings we attempt to suppress simply go on longer, and often turn into chronic emotional disorders.

Examples of emotional out comes

Anxiety pushes us to avoid dangerous
situations.

Anger drives us to fight back against threats, damage or hurts.

Sadness encourages us to slow down and withdraw, to seek quiet time for processing loss.

Shame demands we hide in what might result in disapproval.

* Emotional problems are often blamed on stress, trauma, poor parenting, interpersonal conflicts, hormones and genetics. Research shows that our lack of coping strategies are most responsible for our emotional anguishes.

There are seven maladaptive coping strategies we use as
humans to avoid emotional pain:

#1 Experiential avoidance — withdrawing socially and drinking in private to deal with loss or disappointment

#2 Rumination – using obsessive thoughts to blunt the fear of uncertainty and using judgments in the hope of doing or becoming better (themselves/others)

#3 Emotional masking — making sure no one ever sees your pain, never appearing vulnerable at all costs

#4 Short term focus — focusing on what can give immediate relief such as drugs/alcohol/food

#5 Response persistence — returning to the same way of coping with problems and growing more inflexible

#6 Hostility or aggression — anger is a big lid that covers a lot of pain and keeps it out of your awareness

#7 Negative appraisal — expecting things to go wrong and to focus on things that are wrong, thinking this coping strategy will prepare you for failure or bad outcomes.

The term used to transcend these maladaptive copying strategies is called exposure.

Exposure requires that you stop avoiding painful feelings and face your fear, guilt, shame and/or anger.

There are three benefits to exposure:

1. You will recognize that although painful feelings are inevitable they don’t last and they often morph into other feelings that help you view your situation.

2. Successfully facing difficult feelings gives you a sense of empowerment and a boost in self esteem.

3. Third and most importantly is you know you are showing up and participating in your life according to your values and not to your fears and doubts.

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