What we feel as emotions can also be described as our mood – what mood are we in? what ever label you give it, it’s important to get into the habit of being able to take notice of your own mood at any given moment so that you can take appropriate action.
So, for example, if you’re feeling really happy, note that you are feeling in a happy mood and take notice of what it was that caused you to feel happy in the first place. Feeling happy? good – what made you happy? oh really – awesome – do more of that.
Feeling sad? worthless? lonely? #insertnegativeemotionhere what made you feel this way? what thoughts or actions have you taken recently to make you feel that way? Oh you scrolled your Facebook news-feed mindlessly for 20mins and now you’re annoyed with yourself? yeah… maybe don’t do that so much.
It sounds so simple. because it is. so why aren’t we doing it?
Learning to control your emotions and thoughts yourself is something you actually have to work at, a habit you need to build, so that in future you can choose the best ways to respond to certain moods.
Let’s start by understanding our emotions. If we can understand them, then we’ll know for future that a breathing exercise can work wonders for feelings of fear or anxiety or overwhelm… but won’t really help us with depression or sadness so much.
Now, if you’re like me, 9 times out of 10 if I stopped myself to ask “what am I feeling?” my answer is either going to be ‘meh’ (with a shoulder shrug for good measure), or ‘i’m fine’ – like our default response every time anyone asks us “Hey, how are you?” ……’fine’ is what we’re programmed to say (I seriously wonder what would happen if one day we all suddenly started expressing how we actually feel when asked this question).
If our current mood is strong, and we feel it quite intensely, this usually indicates to us that there is something important happening. Like that beautiful bliss you feel after an orgasm, or that horrible emptiness you feel after finding out some awful news. The more important the event or situation, the more strongly our emotions will be felt.
Though we often attribute a one worded label to most of our emotions, it is possible for us to feel more than one emotion at once. Every chubby Taurus will know the pleasure-happy-bliss emotions can go hand in hand with the guilt-regret-sad emotions when we follow our self indulgent sides a little too much (Hey… I’m a f*ckin hippy who likes horoscopes and used to have an eating disorder… so sue me). So yeah, you can be both happy and sad at the same time, and that conflict is really difficult to manage.
It can be easy to see our emotions as being the problem; like when you’re anxious and you feel frightened, sad, hopeless, guilty, etc, however, our emotions actually play a really important role in responding to situations. Fear, for example is necessary when we’re being attacked or as a response to an aggressive person. It let’s us know we should either fight back or run away.
When emotions become a problem; is when they do not serve us, and they last for elongated periods of time, causing us pain and suffering. When dealing with difficult emotions, it can really help you to first label the emotion, and give it an intensity rating out of 10. For example, I’m feeling anxious, and right now its a 10, because I’m having a panic attack…
When labelling and rating an emotion it can help to look at what triggered the emotion in the first place; what situation or event made you feel that way – let’s look at the example I spoke of earlier about scrolling facebook… and see that as the situation. We’ll look at it using the thoughts, feelings and behaviours cycle I spoke about in a previous post; [click here to re-visit];
We can get into some of the other parts of this TFB Cycle in later posts, but if we just take the situation that was the trigger, we can see that from this; a lot of thoughts are generated, and the feelings that happen as a result of this trigger have been labelled and given an intensity. It’s also interesting to notice, that one of the main thoughts that caused the negative emotions – “I don’t feel like doing anything anymore” and the emotion of being demotivated, causes the behaviour of ‘wasting the evening’…. so the one thing we didn’t want to do in this example; the one thing we were afraid of – ‘wasting time’ – becomes the one reaction to the perceived fear of the time that was originally wasted. We waste our time.
Another thing to note; is that time is only wasted if you perceive it to be wasted. Because you could just as easily label the TV watching time as ‘self care’ or ‘taking a break’ or ‘me time’. To see it as wasting time is to apply a shameful negative filter on it.
Next time you find yourself in a negative situation, feel free to use this picture of a blank TFB Cycle to plot out the trigger or situation, and label how you feel, what emotions came up and how intensely you felt these emotions. It can help you with your future CBT work, to look back on these cycles and see what progress you have made and what patterns you see. For example, sometimes a facebook scroll can leave you feeling happy and connected… although, if like me, it is more often than not a negative feeling, then you can take steps to distance yourself from that particular social media platform, or at least look at setting up boundaries / different ways to use it (like I’ve removed it from my phone and refuse to use messenger where possible).
Take care little kits, feel free to subscribe to this blog so that you can work through your own anxiety issues along with my blog posts over the next few weeks.
I hope you can find peace and joy today.