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Understanding Emotions

Emotions are a natural process in humans which have deep evolutionary origins, with their primary purpose being to help us survive and thrive. Our feelings alert us to what is important to us, and they propel us to take action to meet our needs.

ANGER

Anger tells a person that something or someone has crossed their physical or personal boundaries or is threatening something they value. When angry, a person feels a surge of energy to rectify a situation by asserting a boundary or overcoming a threat.

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Anger tells a person that something or someone has crossed their personal boundaries or is threatening something they value. When angry, a person feels a surge of energy to rectify a situation by asserting a boundary or overcoming a threat.

SADNESS

Sadness arises when a person has experienced the loss of something or someone important to them. In response, they may wish or endeavor to be reunited, or receive care and consolation. 

Anger tells a person that something or someone has crossed their personal boundaries or is threatening something they value. When angry, a person feels a surge of energy to rectify a situation by asserting a boundary or overcoming a threat.

DISGUST

Disgust alerts us that something is noxious and must therefore be expelled, like rotten food or a dangerous person.

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Anger tells a person that something or someone has crossed their personal boundaries or is threatening something they value. When angry, a person feels a surge of energy to rectify a situation by asserting a boundary or overcoming a threat.

JOY

When our needs or aspirations, or those of somebody we care about, are met, we feel joy. The positive feeling propels us to seek it more and is an important messenger of what we value, care about or desire.

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They way we relate with or express emotions can be adaptive or maladaptive (helpful or unhelpful to us).

Bill Plotkin refers to chronic, maladaptive emotional tendencies as "loyal soldiers". An example of this would be a child who would become angry and demanding to get care and attention from their otherwise unresponsive caregivers, who now as an adult has the tendency to try to force others to meet their needs through anger - In childhood it was helpful for getting their caregivers attention, however now it pushes people away.

 

Psychotherapy is designed to help recover from emotional wounds, to develop self-awareness and self-regulation. With time and careful attention, you and your therapist can identify these old patterns of emotional expression or regulation and establish new ways of responding.

 

It’s all about balance.

Ideally, caregivers help their child to notice, name, regulate, express and enact their emotions. Without adequate support, the child can grow up with difficulties in tolerating and regulating emotions, leading to alexithymia (an inability to identify and feel emotions), emotional dysregulation, a sense of internal chaos or numbness. Issues in the development of emotional regulation contributes to the emergence of diagnoses including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and borderline personality disorder.

If you find yourself often experiencing too much emotion (feeling overwhelmed or flooded), a therapist can help you with the down-regulation of these emotions and bring them into a more tolerable range. We call this range, the “window of tolerance”. If on the other hand you are chronically experiencing too-little emotion (numbness, emptiness), your psychotherapist will work with you to up-regulate your emotions at a comfortable pace so you can feel in-touch with what’s important to you and take effective action in your life.

 

 

The content of this page was written by Dash Russell.

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