What do emotions do anyways?
- They punctuate, imprint or embed perception and experience in physiology (implicit memory). They make a "lasting impression" - much like a hot branding iron sears initials into its recipient.
- They can exaggerate or amplify details; distort memory or twist facts.
- They communicate to/from others and to ourselves . They act as signals to send and receive useful information quickly without the use of words. Different expressions are hard-wired and act fast! This also means that they can be hard to change and they may influence others whether we intend them to or not. When the communication of our emotion is for ourself, our mind may be telling us something useful, or something that may need our attention. It could also act as a warning or an alarm.
- They motivate or energize our behavior and prepare us for action. They can help to overcome obstacles, and maybe even help us to save time; in that some do not require thought.
- They validate or corroborate and support certain assumptions, interpretations or conclusions.
Understanding what emotions are capable of doing we are better equipped to weed through the ones that are worthy of our attention, ones that we will want to fine tune a bit more and others that we will need to totally revamp altogether. Getting a hold on what emotions do for us and comparing that with what we want out of any given experience, will help us when we are interacting with our world around us and more importantly, with the people around us. Mental illness usually takes a large bite out of our social and family/loved ones lives. The latter more often than the former. If you are experiencing an emotion and you are in touch with your desired outcome, you will then be able to ask yourself if your emotion is helping or hindering your progress, are you getting what you want out of the experience? Are the emotions doing what you want them to do? If not, you'll need to refocus and see if you can't elicit another, more appropriate emotion for your experience. Understanding where our 'mind' (or self) is can help us decide whether our emotion is working for us, or against us.
We all, our loved ones included, have two selves. No, I am not trying to sell you split personality here, rather, we each have a Big Self and a Little Self. Some traits of our Big Self are:
- Capable of managing reactivity
- Capable of Letting Go*
- Takes the "High Road"
Our Little Self:
- Takes things personally
- Needs to be "right"
- Holds grudges
- Takes the "Low Road"
Utilizing the concept of these two selves when you express feelings can be an effective communication tool because it affords partners the opportunity to process things that in other circumstances might push buttons and fuel conflict.
This is how a part of me (not all of me) really feels at this particular moment.
Notice that this expression, if done sensitively, is totally legitimate. It doesn't need to be judged as right or wrong, true or false. It is simply a statement of one person's subjective experience and thus, there is less need for defensiveness.
The self we most identify with fluctuates based on the influence of various factors (fatigue, hunger, stress, physical discomfort, etc.) One of the biggest factors that effects which aspect of your partner's personality you will most identify with at a given moment is how they perceive they are being treated; do they feel like they are being listened to and heard, understood, validated or dismissed, ignored, condescended to or attacked?
If both partners are coming from their "little" selves there will be conflict, standoffs and stalemates. If they are coming from their "big" selves there will be open and productive communication. One the best ways to access your partner's bigger self is to fully validate their little self. This takes an enormous amount of trust because to do so can feel quite vulnerable and counterintuitive to your own little self.
Take some time this week and really dissect this concept of our Big & Little selves. Break it down to what each of those selves look like for you individually. Then break it down to what you notice they would look like for your partner, so that you know what you are looking for and can identify quickly when your partner's emotions are from his/her "little" self, and remember the best way to motivate them to proceed to their "bigger" self is by validation. We love that word in DBT, don't we? Validation... it goes a long way. :)
GROUP, Monday August 16th, 2010 @ 2p.m. PDT:
Your mind creates your stress... that is a loaded statement, wouldn't you agree? Logically we know that how we think about our experience directly impacts how we feel about it, but does it really go as deep as our mind creating our stress? Let's find out.
Changing your mind about your world through self-talk. Which do you hear more often? Let's take an in-depth look at what we are telling ourselves and see what we can do to increase positive self-talk. We'll explore some of the ineffective contributions towards self-talk and make plans together for over-coming them. Hope to see you there!
*Letting Go - look for more on this during the coming weeks tweets!
MJ ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
*Click here to discuss this weeks post with the group*
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