AltanaESP Glossary

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Approved 09 October, 2022 @ 10:26am by Jan Viljoen (version: 6)

Emotions, Moods & Feelings as Sources of Information

We all feel like we’re being held hostage by our emotions every now and then. While emotions can be overwhelming at times, they can also be powerful carriers (i.e. sources) of information about our current state of mind, our traits, strengths, weaknesses, our mental health and general well-being.

Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult and a tremendous challenge to really understand our emotions from a detached distance when they begin to overpower us. However, we can combat this vulnerability, regain our foothold in life and reaffirm our emotional agility and resilience to sustain our emotional maturity.

This is all well and good, but the question is how and in what way can we use our emotions, moods and feelings as a handy source of information to obtain a better grip on life or to understand the circumstances within which we find ourselves? The interpretation of and making sense of our emotions is something that will vary from person to person depending on his/her experience statisticsdatabase”. For this reason, there is no universally valid interpretation of emotions, they are and remain unique/specific to each individual, but there are some basic principles that can be deployed for a more valid or realistic contextual interpretation of our emotions and which can be indicated as follows:

1. Balance subjectivity with objectivity

To illustrate this principle, let's use a possible interpretation of the 'rejection emotion' as an illustrative example.

When we experience rejection, it might be because we were either…

  • criticized,
  • betrayed,
  • actively dissociated (e.g. a romantic breakup),
  • passively dissociated (e.g. being excluded from a party or event),
  • not appreciated or
  • teased and bullied.

Resulting from any or a combination of the above indicated events we might experience the unconsciousrejection emotion”, which tends to set a subconscious mood of “disconnectedness, cautiousness and defiance for not being as good as others”. This, in turn, results in conscious feelings such as uncared for, detached from, unimportant, unlovable, deserted, rejected, lonely, disapproved of and/or isolated.

We don’t need to be actually rejected to have the subjective experience of rejection - for instance - even though we know that our spouse or romantic partner accepts and loves us, they could (unintentionally) make us feel rejected and hurt our feelings in certain situations or circumstances.

To productively deal with our rejection emotion, we need to understand why it is important for us to feel accepted. Simply stated, we feel accepted when we think that we have a high “relational value” or worth, for another person or group of people. Therefore, if you are experiencing the rejection emotion, distance yourself as best you could, explore the emotional experience and make sure that you do not underestimate your relational value because of ambiguous social cues or misinterpreting neutral feedback or criticism from others as negative. This is necessary because many people go through life feeling more rejected than they actually are. Viewed in this manner, the first step to addressing one’s concerns with rejection - or any emotion for that matter - is to…

  1. evoke the power of now,
  2. redirect or refocus your conscious spotlight,
  3. examine the “evidence” as objectively as possible and
  4. make a real effort and try not to read too much negativity into the “evidence”.

2. Watch for emotion dysregulation

Emotion dysregulation is best understood as intrusive recurring emotional patterns and/or derailing sabotage programs. Emotional dysregulation can be elusive, as it could result from multiple causes, where instances of this phenomenon, often coalesce around the following…

  • Brain activation
  • Physiology
  • Cognition
  • Behaviour
  • Individual experience

For example, in the case of fear, our amygdala gets activated (brainplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigOur Intriguing Brain!

In the 30+ odd years that I have practised as a psychologist, career- and life coach, there is one particular aspect of human behaviour that I found quite mystifying. People does dumb things (myself included), but - rather naivelyphenomenonawesomeidiotic
), and we become aware of a lot of changes in our body, such as our heart rate increasing or shallow breathing (physiology), we might notice thoughts related to danger (cognition), we might have an urge to run away (behaviour), and we also might have different ways of describing this experience (experiential).

Thus - depending on the context - an emotion can be activated when it is not helpful or needed. Or, an emotion can fail to activate when it is needed. It is not uncommon for the intensity of emotion to be either too high or too low than what is helpful at that particular moment. Or, emotions can last longer or shorter than we need them to.

When you are someone who struggles with emotional dysregulation, address this hindrance as follows…

  • make time for the emotion, preferably in a comfortable setting and when you can dedicate a couple of minutes to it, without being interrupted.
  • take note - precisely - of what the emotion feels like in your body.
  • try to name the emotion, the subsequent mood and the corresponding feeling(s).
  • reflect on whether the emotion was justified by the situation or whether it came from somewhere else.
  • if the emotion is justified, question yourself what the emotion is telling you, you need at that moment. Is it finding social support? Is it figuring out a way to get out of a dangerous situation? Is it apologizing to someone? Or, is it something else?
  • if the emotion isn’t justified, ask yourself whether there is another way to think of and/or perceive the situation.

3. Cognition Threshold

Emotions are similar to waves… they have a beginning, middle and end. Something (e.g. a situation and/or thought about the past) triggers an emotion within us and like waves, emotions rise up, peak and eventually come back down.

The cognition threshold is a level of emotional intensity (i.e. the peak of the wave) above which thinking and objectivity become impaired and thinking is driven more by emotion than by objective logic. When we reach this point, it is inadvisable to use strategies like cognitive reappraisal that require you to think logically as a means to regulate your emotions. Beyond the thinking threshold, complex cognition is significantly impaired and reasoning is dictated and steered by what we think we see (i.e. subjectivity) and not what the context of reality is at that particular moment (i.e. objectivity). Therefore, behavioural or sensory strategies such as splashing your face with cold water, going for a walk, deep and rhythmic breathing or getting a hug, are more effective when above the cognitive threshold,

When we find ourselves beyond the cognitive threshold, we should make an intentional effort to keep the following in mind…

  • Emotions (the good, the bad and the ugly) shouldn't be suppressed, they need to be felt and experienced. It - sometimes - is OK to just ride the emotional wave out because the emotion will not last forever, it will come down since that’s what emotions do. And by suppressing emotions, we lose a valuable opportunity to collect crucial information regarding our current mental health and general well-being.
  • In some cases, cognitive appraisal as a coping strategy to deal with an emotional wave, might not be a wise choice. For example, cognitive reappraisal could lead to rationalising and justifying an abuser’s actions in a predatory or abusive relationship.
  • When you have made it past the emotional peak, make a deliberate effort to use cognitive strategies and logical reasoning to either limit or avoid such emotional surges in future. Thus, when you can think clearly again, try to engage in some perspective-taking, troubleshooting, problem-solving or reflection on the experience.

Emotions are a huge controlling factor in our lives, regardless of whether we would like to admit it or not. However, with a little bit of understanding, perspective, planning and objectivity, emotions can be transformed from being destructive to becoming an assuring guiding force.

popupinfo/emotions-info.txt · Last modified: 09 October, 2022 @ 10:26am by Jan Viljoen