Table of contents:
- Don't deny or minimize your feelings, even if they are painful and contradictory. Understanding and accepting your own emotions will help you deal with trauma and stress more quickly. Let's talk about the types of emotions
- Types of emotions
- Suppressing emotions won't help
- Maria and emotional suppression
- The life cycle of emotions
Video: How Emotions Work. Types Of Emotions - Self-development
Don't deny or minimize your feelings, even if they are painful and contradictory. Understanding and accepting your own emotions will help you deal with trauma and stress more quickly. Let's talk about the types of emotions
Types of emotions
In Emotion in Psychotherapy, Leslie S. Greenberg and Jeremy D. Safran divide emotions into primary and secondary. Understanding the difference between the two will help you figure out why you and your children feel this way and not otherwise.
Primary emotions include happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. These are natural sources of information about the world around you. Such emotions arise in response to external events, for example, when someone cuts you off on the road, you get angry. And that makes sense: you have been put in a dangerous situation. The evolutionary basis of anger is to draw a person's attention to the violation of his rights and mobilize to defend them. Sadness speaks of experiencing loss. Fear is a signal of danger and mobilization of the fight-or-flight response.
Primary emotions do not last long, only a few minutes or hours. The exception is sadness, which can last for more than a day, as reported by Aaron Ben-Zeev in The Subtlety of Emotions. An example of a short life of emotion is fear when a car skids, which lasts a couple of seconds. But if primary emotions pass quickly, then why do people often feel sad or angry for much longer than a few hours? This is where secondary emotions come into play.
Primary emotions are a natural response to the environment, while secondary emotions are negative thoughts about yourself. If you are cut off, the primary emotion will be anger at a violation of your rights. But you may feel ashamed - something in your behavior on the road allowed others to behave that way. You feel guilty about your own anger, which will persist and lower your self-esteem.
When we are taught in childhood that emotions are "bad", then we begin to be afraid and ashamed of them. This creates secondary emotions that haunt us throughout our lives. For example, if you are worried about social interaction, then you begin to suffer because of your own character. Openly expressing primary emotions and realizing that they are normal will help break the vicious circle of regret and guilt.
Compassion and self-acceptance are very important in letting go of the shame of your natural emotions. You should treat yourself with the same compassion as you treat your loved ones, such as your children. When something bad happens to you, give yourself a break. Treat yourself with love and understanding.
Accept your own emotions and tell them that they are natural. Don't berate yourself for weakness, vulnerability, or other embarrassing qualities. Then the primary emotions will quickly dissipate and will not develop into secondary ones.
Suppressing emotions won't help
Let's do an experiment. Whatever you do, don't think about the polar bear! What do you think about? Surely about a polar bear. Surprisingly, trying to make the mind not think about it focuses you on this image. The same thing happens with negative emotions. Tell the person: “Don't be sad,” and he will temporarily supplant this feeling, but it will immediately surface in another place. The sadness will manifest itself in nightmares, irritability, or depression. Better tell him that he has a right to feel sadness, anger, or anxiety. Many of our problems are associated with judging our own feelings and finding flaws in ourselves. The best strategy for dealing with negative emotions is acceptance.
Maria and emotional suppression
Maria is 44 years old, she recently divorced due to her husband's infidelity. After the divorce, she was left with three children, the oldest of whom was not even twelve. Maria is proud that she was able to handle this situation. Her mother is also a single mother. Maria was the eldest daughter in the family, and her mother turned to her for comfort and friendship. Even as a child, the girl realized that any negative emotions upset adults. Maria's mother told Maria that anger is "bad" and good girls never get angry.
Now Maria does not allow herself to express negative emotions, even alone with herself, although she feels betrayed, angry and offended. When her friends ask her if she is angry with her situation, she replies, “I'm fine. What's the point of being angry when it's all over and forgotten? " As Mary continues to suppress anger, she keeps it in her own soul. Natural emotion does not get the opportunity to live the full cycle: rise, peak and decline.
Anger continues to manifest itself in behavior - she eats a lot, breaks down on children, cannot concentrate on work. Mary should not vent her anger at children. This emotion can be expressed openly with friends, family, or a therapist. This approach will help you cope with feelings and move forward. Even openly expressing anger in private or discussing it in thought will be helpful.
The life cycle of emotions
Primary emotions don't last long. Their intensity can be depicted as sliding on a bell: first a peak and then a decrease. Some fear that painful emotions will grow indefinitely if they are not stopped, others that they will forever retain their strength. Such thoughts stem from a simple fact: when people experience sharply negative feelings, they try to escape or suppress them. They only experience a build-up of emotions. The only way to overcome negative feelings is to allow yourself to experience them to the fullest and wait for a recession.
Suppose you are afraid to speak in public and your boss asks for a presentation. It seems to you that the fear is unbearable and you will not cope. You look for excuses, shy away from the assignment, tell yourself “I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid” and crumple the presentation under soothing or not understanding what you are saying.
These traditional mechanisms prevent you from feeling that fear will peak and begin to subside after a few minutes. You will even feel relieved and proud of yourself, and your brain will be able to associate public speaking with positive emotions. Having mastered yourself, you will do a great job. And if you shy away from anxiety, suppress it, or run away from it, then the thoughts will be different: "I will never enjoy public speaking and will not succeed." With this approach, anxiety will not disappear, even if you give a presentation very quickly. You will suppress it by not allowing yourself to experience the peak of the emotion and the decline. Next time, you will be afraid of public speaking in the same way.
Read more: Rodman, Samantha. How to talk to children about divorce: building healthy relationships in a changed family. - M.: Eksmo, 2020.