Emotion Myths

Here are some emotion myths from DBT:
1. Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a weakness. Challenge: Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a healthy form of communication.
2. Negative feelings are bad and destructive. Challenge: Negative feelings are natural responses. They help me to create a better understanding of the situation.
3. Some emotions are stupid. Challenge: Every emotion indicates how I am feeling in a situation. All emotions are useful to help me better understand what I am experiencing.
4. Extreme emotions get you a lot farther than regulating emotions. Challenge: Extreme emotions can often cause trouble for me and for other people. If an emotion is not effective, emotion regulation is a good idea.
5. It is inauthentic to try to change my emotions. Challenge: Change is itself authentic. It’s part of life.
6. My emotions are who I am. Challenge: Emotions are partly but not completely who I am.

I like these challenges to the myths. I think they illustrate how to look at an emotion and determine if it is working for or against you.

When we are stuck in emotion it’s good to analyze what the emotion is doing for (to) us. An emotion may create urges such as withdrawing from people when we’re grieving or arguing with someone when we’re feeling irritated. When an emotion causes us to take action that makes the situation worse is the best time to analyze and understand the emotion.

It is through doing this that I was able to see my grief as a normal passage in life. A person has to grieve and although grief takes different forms in different people, it is still the path that I am on. I used to judge my grief, but like the myths above I found that I needed to challenge that thought.

Others didn’t think less of me for grieving, but I felt like they wanted me to be done with it earlier than I was ready. That got me to start judging myself in the same manner. What was my sadness doing to me? It was making me withdraw from others, embarrassed that I was still so sad after the loss of my child. What was my sadness doing for me? Healing me. Grief is a natural progression and as long as I was progressing, it seemed that I could get a grip on my own timetable and continue healing.

Do you tend to judge yourself because of how you are feeling? Or act out without positive intention making things worse? The DBT process of figuring out your emotions is a little like self-analysis. What is this emotion and what is it motivating me to do? In my case withdrawing from people.

What is my emotion communicating to others? That I don’t care about them or that I need tender loving care. Since these two things are opposite, I may need to clarify what I am communicating with my emotion. “I care about you, but I don’t want to be around people right now.” Or “Yes, I’ll come over because I need to be with people but just please have patience with me.”

What was my emotion saying to me? I am so sad. I am alone. No one understands. But when I check the facts, and when I reached out, I found that people do care, they just sometimes don’t know how to act around me.

These questions can be valuable when trying to change or regulate your emotions. Good communication is key if you want or expect something from others. We all just want to be understood. When we’re able to observe and describe our emotions we can better determine what we want to communicate to others. We can also see better how acting on impulse may not be the best idea.

When we are emotional our face and bodies show others something. Is it what you want them to know, or is your body saying something different? You can make that determination and express in words and action what you wish to convey.

Think about the myths and understand that emotions are not bad. They provide a function to alert us to what’s happening. The more we increase our communication, identify our feelings and choose to act or not act effectively, the more level we will feel.

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