Part One: Soothing & Problem-solving without an emphasis on emotions.
- Emotions are good things. Being able to correctly name what you are feeling is a sign of positive mental health. Just don’t overdo it.
- To soothe yourself or another, accept the emotion calmly and with curiosity. It is the beginning of regulation.
- Keep a check on that inner barometer that veers towards measuring feelings every hour.
- Go slow on the use of “I”, You should not be the main object of your own interest. (Is a sure way of losing friends as well)
- Make a plan that can redress the underlying imbalance. The more ingenious the plan, the more power and joy you will reap.
Talking about emotions is one certain way of feeling better. Of lightening up. This depends, of course, on the reaction of the listener. An accepting ear is required.
We all have experience of the discomfort when you share something personal and the other person responds by A) disagreeing/dismissing or criticising (“I feel as if my whole life has been a waste.” “Oh, that’s not true”, “Don’t be ridiculous” B) giving a lecture and solving your problem cheaply C) retorting with their own worse version and D) misinterpreting what you are saying.
Are we placing too much emphasis on emotions? Lets first talk about emotions:
I used to say about my own mother (she has long passed, bless her), that if I had problem, I could not share it with her, because then two of us would have a problem (which adds e) to above….Becoming highly upset themselves).
From my practice it is clear that a frequent problem in depression is the not talking about things that really matter. This is a habit that can run in families, from generation to generation, and through villages and cultures.
Not being able to identify our own emotions as well as those of others, is a significant social handicap. So, I am all for emotions – after all my profession depends on the ability to listen closely, on being attuned to a myriad of possibilities within a conversation.
The role of Emotions
- Not being able to name emotions or to acknowledge them, is probably thé hallmark of ineffective emotion regulation. If I were to write an essay on “how not to be able to soothe yourself or others”, I will probably write, “ignore emotions” as no1.
- The current emphasis on Mindfulness, is exactly the practice of experiencing an emotion and not running away from it, nor being overwhelmed by it. (We run away because we fear that we will be overwhelmed by it). Developing mindfulness is the building of the capacity to stay with an emotion and to remain calm at the same time.
- It is about not being judgmental about what you or others are experiencing (a big one this).
- Not being judgmental about your own emotions, is one capacity that we all need to build, critically so when you have experienced trauma or have a tendency to overreact.
- It is not for nothing that mindfulness is trending currently: In the times of great turbulence and uncertainty that we are living in, it is a logical and healthy response to threatening universal stress.
Yes, it is important to be able to name an emotion appropriately. After all, this is what therapists do. Sensitive parents and partners do it naturally. The deeper the distress, the greater the significance. In my previous blog on Emotion Regulation, I describe this development in greater details.
Being able to air an emotion is good, and occasionally all that is required. However, it is a first step, and certainly not a necessary condition for feeling better. It is insufficient when you have to solve a real problem.
As a matter of fact, an over-emphasis on emotions is one of the “symptoms” of a neurotic person. As is an overuse of the word “I”. (More about this in Part Two of this blog).
To find out more, check out: https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/
Examples of how mindfulness helps us to remain calm, even when we are dealing with our own emotions: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201707/research-suggests-cure-neuroticism