Saturday, March 21, 2015

Emotion Myths

This last Wednesday, in group, we discussed some emotion myths that tend to derail us. Just to name a few:

I should be able to control my emotions.
Negative feelings are bad and destructive.
Emotions can just happen for no reason.

Should I be able to control my emotions? Are negative feelings bad and destructive? And finally, can emotions happen for no reason?

The key point is, that if we believe in these myths, then we rob ourselves of valuable skills that assist us in coping in distressing situations. For example, if we believe that "I should be able to control my emotions" - then we succumb to the "should/should not" thinking, and honestly that dangles us dangerously close to judgments. How would we know what we should or should not be able to do if we have not at some point along the line judged either good or bad what we are currently capable of doing? Judgments hinder growth. That is a reality that you can rely on.

Again, with the second myth, if we deem that negative feelings are bad and destructive, then we have already signed, sealed and delivered our outcome when we experience them. We have judged ourselves and our situation and the result is already written. Whereas, if we think more broadly, and realize that negative feelings can be destructive and that these negative feelings we have, have been perfectly caused, well then... see what we did? We validated ourselves, we opened the way for us to make a choice and we have began to weigh our possibilities.

Which leads us to the third myth, "Emotions can just happen for no reason." Can they? Well, most of us, given the opportunity to seriously think that through would admit, that no, emotions do not just happen for no reason. Things do not appear out of a vacuum. They are caused. Think of every experience you have as a result of the experiences that came before them. Our thinking, our perspective, our understanding of the moment we are in, has all been shaped by the experiences we have had in moments past. Those experiences are not all perfect or positive, valuable experiences. In fact some of those experiences may be quite dark and harsh. Perhaps some of those experiences were at the hands of others and they have injured us in ways that we cannot put our finger on. The point is, while the actual experience may not be perfect, the moment that we are in, at any given time, is perfectly caused. It makes absolute sense that a person with Borderline Personality Disorder would feel abandoned if their mate were to walk away from them in a crowded store during a conflict. It makes absolute sense that a person with a depressive disorder would feel unloved if no one were to call after they sent out a sad message to their loved ones. It makes sense that a person that has made the decision to terminate toxic relationships would feel unnerved and a bit dependent on others for a period of time afterwards. Without judgment, without labels, it makes sense and it is perfectly caused. How much freedom do you feel when you think about that? That is the freedom of validation. Once you can free yourself of the debilitating chains of judgment, then you can see clearer and make your choice as to what your next step is, from wise mind. Not stuck in emotion mind still reeling from your judgments.

So the next logical transitions is, "If I have let go of judgments, I am experiencing a distressing emotion and while I am not judging it, I need to tolerate it, until it passes...what do I do?"

Well, our group discussed a lot of great ideas working with the Distress Tolerance skills set of 5 Senses Self-Soothing. Like, taking a bath, a walk along the beach, listening to music, chewing gum, pretty much anything that would engage, safely, any of the 5 senses. When you think about certain things you can do that engage your senses to distract you from the distressful emotion you are having, you will notice, some of those activities are things you can do in the moment you are in and some are activities that will take some set-up time. This concept is Green Light, Yellow Light and Red Light Skills.

Green Light: The things we do for ourselves to maintain a balanced Wise mind. These are our maintenance skills. Like being sure to take a walk daily, making time to meditate or pray.

Yellow Light: These skills are used when we notice that we are elevated or off of base line, it isn't quite crisis, but we know ourselves well enough that if we do not implement something at this point, we will see crisis mode momentarily. These activities would be taking a bubble bath, watching a movie, etc. The activity may take a bit of set up time, but nothing like planning a trip to the beach to walk along it.

Red Light: These skills are emergency skills that need to be done ASAP. They will not include activities that take any set-up time because you simply do not have the time. It is crisis mode and you need relief pronto. Depending on a person's needs, this may be chewing gum, lighting candles, snapping rubber bands on your wrist, or listening music. Activities that are immediately engaging to your senses.

For our homework, we have been tasked with finding 3 activities that we would enjoy for Yellow Light Skills and 3 for Red Light Skills. Have fun and feel free to share what you come up with!


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