Emotional Regulation 2: Feelings =/= facts

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Consider the following: Difficulty regulating emotions can be caused by a combinations of being born emotionally sensitive (biological cause) and in invalidating environment (environmental cause).

Emotions are not necessarily prompted by one single event but by the interpretation of the event. We have a lifetime full of assumptions, values, beliefs and learned experience that are hard-wired in our brains and our emotions follow the path of least resistance when we’re met with painful stimuli.


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Just because you are feeling a certain way following a prompting event doesn’t mean that this is the truth about the event. Our brain lies to us all the time about what is real and it’s our job to organize the real from the feel.

Here’s what happens in our brains when we feel emotions:

Image result for model for describing emotions image

Start at ‘Prompting Event 1’ and the brain immediately starts to change. The brain send the interpretation of the event to our face and body as we react to the event. We express our emotions with words and body language and here we can more easily put a name to the emotion we are feeling.

Then there are aftereffects, a second prompting event and the cycle continues. Sometimes we can go through several cycles without even knowing what the initial prompting event was.

But putting labels on our emotions and tracking our expression of emotions and prompting events we can better understand our rhythms and patterns and then we can work on adjusting them to be healthier.

There are two types of Emotional experience that can send us into this pattern; external stimuli, and internal stimuli.

So the prompting event can come externally, that is a reaction to your envoronment, or it can come internally, that is, from your own mind, thoughts, feelings, and actions.

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Turn left when you come to the source of your emotions

Emotions don’t come from nowhere, there is always a source even if we can’t tell where the source is. The challenge here is to try to retrace our path to the prompting event and then figure out how to adjust our reactions and behaviour so that we don’t end up in a place of pain.

The brain is a complicated place, and though this is hard work, running through this exercise can re-train your brain into handling highly emotional responses with maturity and wisdom.

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