Let’s talk about emotions

Do emotions rule your life? Do you find it hard to commit to plans because you don’t know how you’ll feel on the day? Maybe people have described you as “over sensitive”. Or maybe you spend periods of time not knowing how you feel at all, with nothing but a strange disconnect instead of a feeling. Have people described you as emotionally unavailable or “shut down”? Regulating our emotions is a skill to be learned – not a given. What are emotions and the point of them anyway, it seems they have the potential to and can cause havoc at times after all?!

A vital part of our survival kit
The word “emotion” is derived from the Latin “emovere” which means out-move. Essentially, emotions are part of our survival kit designed to illicit an action (hence the reference to move in the word). There are about 8 basic emotions that each have a specific function. Depending on how emotions have been modelled for us growing up we may not be benefiting from all of them. Some emotions may be very familiar to us like anxiety or anger and others like hurt or contentment, less so.

Our Compass for Life
Emotions are a physiological experience as well as a psychological one. When we don’t understand our emotions, the purpose of them, or recognise when we are experiencing them, we are trying to navigate our way through life and all that entails without the necessary information. Essentially, emotions are a fast way of giving us information about our environment and our needs. Being in tune with our emotions can help us understand ourselves and make better decisions to improve our lives – if we know how to manage them! If we have not been taught the skill of emotion regulation we can be under or over reactive in response to our emotions.

Interpretation is key
As emotions are basically there to give us information how we understand their messages is key. When experiencing emotions much is dependent on our interpretation of them. An emotional response can happen in an instant. Our environment, a memory or a thought can illicit an emotion. In addition to that physical and emotional response, we also experience a behavioural urge. Our emotions make us feel like doing something. This behavioural urge is an automatic response designed to fulfil the unmet need or to alleviate the emotional distress. So why can reacting according to our behavioural urges be detrimental to us?

A skill that can be improved at any age
Whilst emotions are an integral part of being human, how we understand them and manage them is largely learned. There are many reasons as to why many of us find managing our emotions challenging. The good news is, that because emotion regulation is a learned skill we can improve our emotional resilience, understanding, behavioural urges and problem solving skills at any age!

Specialist therapy for those wanting to improve emotion regulation
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a specialist therapy that is effective for people wanting to improve their emotion regulation skills. The modules of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness together can improve our ability to cope with the demands of daily living as well as maintain healthy relationships.