9 months ago · Galya · 0 comments
Emotions are part of what makes us human. In many ways, our emotions give us the biggest insight into who we are, what we believe in, and our core values. But in some cases, our emotions are not very helpful and affect our wellbeing and cause daring life consequences.
No matter how hard we try, we will never be in full control of our emotions and feelings. But understanding the process can give us the upper hand in handling negative outcomes.
Emotions appear suddenly, out of nowhere. We process emotions over time, and they slowly emerge via multiple steps. This process makes it possible to take some level of control over our emotions. It starts with us experience a particular situation, followed by how we assess this specific situation. Our previous experiences, the learned behavior, and socio-cultural environment influence this process and unravel with what we call emotions.
So what’s better?
Shall we let our emotions run their course or try to take control over them? Well, that’s a very personal decision…
On some level, we all know if a particular emotion is beneficial or destructive. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one fit’s all” solution. By definition, emotion is something specified by the context of the situation and extremely individual.
So how we decide on what to do?
The simplest way is actually to think about how expressing or acting on this emotion will affect our lives. What long- and short-term consequences may occur from it. In a way, just run a basic “risk assessment” on the possible outcomes. Because when emotions start to obstruct our ability to manage daily tasks when they hamper our relationships and wellbeing in general, then it’s time for a major shift and reevaluation of our cognitive-behavioral mind mapping.
We have to remember that despite being a complex process, an emotion erupts in seconds. Each time of remembering a particular emotion, we reactivated that emotion in our minds. What we may see as prolog sadness or anger is our brain discharging one emotion after another.
According to the Process Model by Prof. James Gross (2015), emotions are generated over four different stages:
- Situation: a person is faced with a situation (real or fictional) that has some emotional significance to them
- Attention: person attend to the situation
- Appraisal: person assess the situation based on their personality and their objectives
- Response: a person generates a response based on their experience, behavior, and psychology in line with how they have apprised the situation.
But there is a piece of good news, based on the Process Model; there are few ways to regulate our emotions. McRae and Gross developed these helpful strategies.Avoidance, aka situation selection – by not engaging in emotionally relevant situations (example: deciding not to interact with a person who has hurt you in the past)
- Direct request, aka situation modification – by influencing the situation directly (example: asking a person to refrain from using specific phrases or exhibiting particular behavior, which affects you)
- Distraction, aka attention deployment – by directing the attention towards less emotional aspects of the situation (example: starting to feel anxiety during a social gathering, you can look/ read something on your phone for few minutes till the emotion passes)
- Cognitive reappraisal, aka cognitive change – by reevaluating the situation (example: a person you have texted not responding, not because they don’t like you, but because they may be busy).
- Acceptance, another type of cognitive change – by accepting the situation, but not judging prematurely to the outcome (example: my partner breaks up with me, but that doesn’t mean I will spend my life alone).
- Expressive suppression, aka response modulation by suppressing your reaction to a certain emotion (example: you feel anxiety, but control your facial expressions so that no one will notice).
- Psychological interventions, another type of response modification by doing or thinking something which carries positive charger in our minds (example: when feeling anxiety raises, take a few deep breaths to calm down).
There isn’t one best way to take control and regulate our emotions. Different situations and different personalities call for different solutions. Once we start paying attention to our emotions, we can build a mental “database” on how to regulate them.
As Jane Elliott says, anything that is learned can be unlearned and vice versa, so with practice, self-awareness, and of course a will to change, we can, if not control, at least manage our emotions in a way, which will let us have a happier life. Our emotions shape who we are and how the world and other people feel around us.
So, who do you want to be?
Gross, J. J. (2015). The extended process model of emotion regulation: Elaborations, applications, and future directions. Psychological Inquiry
McRae, K., & Gross, J. J. (2020). Emotion regulation.