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 Post subject: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 3:12 am 
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I think sometimes we experience emotions as something almost independent of ourselves or our actions, and then use those emotions to beat ourselves up instead of understanding and accepting them as...emotions. They are real, they are valid, but they are not fact and they are not judgments. They just are. And that's ok.

What's not ok is not to allow yourself emotions, because cramming them away somewhere means that something will leak out in other ways, often through using maladaptive mechanisms to cope with difficult or even normal, everyday-life challenges.

Quote:
The Function of Emotions

What good are emotions? Why do we have emotions? Until we begin to understand the functions of emotions, why we have them, what their effect is on others, we cannot expect ourselves to change them.

DBT looks at three major functions of emotions:
1. Emotions Communicate to and Influence Others.
2. Emotions Organize and Motivate Action
3. Emotions Can be Self-Validating

Part 1: Emotions Communicate to and Influence Others

We communicate our emotions to other with verbal and non-verbal (facial expressions, body gestures or postures) language. Some expressions of emotion have an automatic effect on others. When there is a difference in what a person communicates non-verbally vesus verbally, the other person will usually respond to the non-verbal expression.

For many years I showed little or no expression on my face while feeling very intense feelings, and I got little response from others. Other people have talked about showing very strong emotions on their face, while expressing less strong emotions with their voice. People responded to the facial expressions.

DBT teaches that one of the main problems experienced by people with Borderline Personality Disorder is that their non-verbal emotional expressions do not match their inside feelings. So we are often misread. People misunderstand what we are feeling.

Exercises

* Can you give some examples of situations where your expressions of emotion were misread?

* Can you also think of some times when you misread the emotions of someone else? Maybe their face looked one way, while they meant to express something else.

* Give some examples of how your emotions have influenced others.

* Give some examples of how others' emotions have influenced you.

I will give an example of my own. When I walked into my class after hearing that my father was critically ill, I felt very sad and my face looked sad. People asked me what was wrong, and when I told them, they offered sympathy and comfort.

One of the people I teach with is often very depressed, and it shows in her body posture and facial expression. I try to reassure her and encourage her.

Sometimes this strategy has backfired, and my expression of emotions gave me something I didn't want. A friend suggested an outing, and I got very excited and kept telling her how happy I was to go. In the end, she did not go. I was very disappointed. After thinking for awhile, I realize it was not my fault that she decided not to go. I can't make things like that happen. I can only be responsible for myself.

What does expression of these emotions do for you? How do they influence
others? What do they communicate?

* fear
* anger
* sadness
* disappointment
* joy
* guilt and shame
* surprise
* love

Part 2: Emotions Organize and Motivate Action

Emotions prepare for and motivate action. There is an action urge connected to specific emotions that is hard-wired. (See the diagram on Emotion Regulation Handout 3) "Hard-wired" means it is an automatic, built-in part of our behavior. For example, if you see your two-year old child in the middle of the street and a car coming, you will feel an emotion, fear, and this emotion will prompt you to run to save your child. You don't stop to think about it. You just do it. Your emotion has motivated your behavior without you having to take the time to think.

Emotions can also help us overcome obstacles in our environment. An example given in the book is the anxiety someone feels when they are about to take a test. This anxiety, though it's uncomfortable, helps to motivate you to study so you will do well on the test.

Anger may motivate and help people who are protesting injustices. The anger may override the fear they might feel in a demonstration or protest.

Guilt may keep someone who is dieting stick to her diet. (This is not saying that you should feel guilty, just that it is the emotion that prompts some people to carry through with a diet or some other difficult project.)

Exercises

* See if you can come up with a couple of examples where your emotion prompted you to take action before you thought about it.

* See if you can come up with a situation where an emotion helps you overcome an obstacle in your environment (in the community, at home, at school), where it makes it easier for you to get something done, for example. It may not be a pleasant emotion (we have mentioned here guilt, anger, fear), but it does help you get the job done.

* During the week, notice when your emotions motivate your action, save you time, or help you get something done.

Part 3: Emotions can be self-validating

Emotions can give us information about a situation or event. They can signal to us that something is going on.

Sometimes signals about a situation will be picked up unconsciously, and then we may have an emotional reaction, but not be sure what set off the reaction. Feeling "something doesn't feel right about this" or "I had a feeling something was going to happen and it did" are some of the signals we might get.

Think of some times when your feel for a situation turned out to be right. Is there some time when you felt anxiety or apprehension that turned out to be justified? Or that you had a good feeling about someone that turned out to be right?

When dealing with our feelings this way is carried to extremes, though, we may think of the emotion as fact. "I love him, so he's a good person." "If I feel stupid, I am stupid." While our emotions are always valid, it doesn't necessarily make them facts.

This is difficult for people with Borderline Personality Disorder and others, because one of our biggest issues is that we have been in invalidating environments -- so much that we don't trust our emotions.

If our emotions are minimized or invalidated, it's hard to get our needs taken seriously. So we may increase the intensity of our emotions in order to get our needs met. And then if we decrease the intensity of our emotions, we may find again that we are not taken seriously.

Think of some times when emotions are self-validating. For example: I am going to a party, but I feel uneasy about it, as if something is going to happen. At the party, a friend and I have an argument and I leave. My feeling about something happening is right.

I am at work, and there seems to be a lot of tension. I sense that something is up. At lunch, my co-workers hold a surprise birthday party for me. Again my emotion is validated.

I am home alone and feeling very lonely. I am getting more and more anxious and angry. I call friends and try to get someone to come and stay with me. No one will come. So this intense negative emotion also validates my feeling that I am lonely and no one cares.

Think of some examples of your own. Remember that we are not evaluating or judging anyone's feelings or behavior. We are just trying to look at how emotions function.

Exercise: Emotion Diary

Fill out an emotion diary for several days. For each day choose your strongest emotion, or the one that lasted the longest, or was the most difficult or painful. Describe the prompting event, the event that caused or triggered the emotion. And describe the emotion's function:

* to communicate to others
* to motivate action
* to communicate to yourself

And remember, DO NOT JUDGE YOURSELF!!

DBT Self-Help

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:40 am 
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This is excellent and very timely. Thanks Spender.

One of the most useful facets of DBT is its focus on emotion regulation.

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:39 am 
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So, I think maybe we are not always clear exactly what emotions are, except (if you're at all like me) that they are dirtynastyuglyawfulshameful things that you shouldn't have but it's ok for other people to have them. Maybe because they know what emotions are. Or they deserve to be emotional and we don't. I'm not really clear on that one, so I'm betting there are a few more people who share my confusion. So, here's one take on what emotions are:

Quote:
Discover what are emotions!

Everyone knows of emotions, but what are emotions? The common description is that it is the feelings you have at a certain moment in time. Given how much effect and influence emotions have on human beings, surely we know that emotions are more than just fleeting feelings.

Emotions can be so strong and intense that it drives people to do crazy things, be it good or bad. Things like arguments, fights, hurting others, even killing and suicide. People are driven by emotions to do all these things. So I would assume that most people feel that they should understand more about what are emotions.

I highlighted what I saw as some of the key messages about emotions (and extensively proofed it - couldn't help myself).

What are emotions?

There are so many definitions of emotions out there. To put it simply, emotions are what make us alive. It gives us our human nature. It is not just fleeting feelings, but rather state changes which affect our whole being. Emotions are pretty complex and it links thoughts, feelings and actions together. Emotions lead to changes in our mental and physiological states such as heart beat, breathing etc. It affects your biological states and electro-chemical reactions.

Emotions can be very powerful. An example is panic attacks, which are very intense negative emotions that can result in uncontrollable body reactions such as sweating, breathlessness and uncontrollable shaking.

What are emotions for?

The changes in consciousness and physiology brought about by emotions are to act as a survival mechanism. When you sense danger, there is an increase in your heartbeat rate, breathing, blood flow and adrenaline rush to make you more alert and better prepared to face the danger. Thus emotions are actually very useful.

When things are going great, when you’'re enjoying life, your emotion will let you know that things are fine and you’re on the right track. You will feel happy, relaxed, calm, excited etc when that happens.

When we feel negative emotions, it is a signal that things are not going well. That emotion is telling you that you need to make some changes to your current situation. This is where most people miss the message. Instead of heeding the message and having a hard look at what they could possibly do better, a lot of people try to get rid of that emotion by venting it out or through various other means. By doing that, rather than using the emotion as a signal, they are allowing the emotion to be a negative force that controls them.

How do emotions originate?

Perhaps not surprisingly...from both internally and externally. Emotions arise in response to external happenings but the manner of the response is driven internally. Take lightning for example. When there is a thunderstorm happening, one person may be afraid of the lightning, while another may feel in awe of it’s power and energy. Both emotions originated in response to the lightning, but the type of emotions they felt came from within.

So the bottom line is, no matter what’'s going on externally, you are still the source of the emotion you feel.

Self-Improvement Mentor


So, if you're like me, the only part of the article you really focus on is the last sentence:

Quote:
So the bottom line is, no matter what'’s going on externally, you are still the source of the emotion you feel.


"It's all my fault, eh? I knew it all along!"

Well, no, actually. Read back to the beginning: emotions serve a function. They are a survival mechanism. They tell us when there is danger, when things are not going well, and when things are going well.

The emotions you experience may arise from a well-trod path through your history and biology, but if you allow yourself to radically accept your emotions without judgment, you can start to forgive yourself for how you feel and start to allow for the possibility of alternate explanations for the situation you are reacting to.

Can you try that?

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:50 am 
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Ok, so, if you're still with me, if you've spent a long time using an eating disorder to numb out your emotions, you may well not actually have much of an emotional "vocabulary". My repertoire for many years was pretty much limited to anger, shame, guilt, sadness and happiness. I now learn that there are many more emotions, and also layers within emotions, so sometimes it helps me to look at lists of emotions and try to identify what I am feel or was feeling about a specific event or situation.

So bear with me, because I have a few pix for you to look at here:

Attachment:
chart-feel-CH-FE-DL-1.jpg
chart-feel-CH-FE-DL-1.jpg [ 83.93 KiB | Viewed 27252 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:52 am 
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I just liked this one because it so aptly described the mess I find when I start to try to sort out my emotions:

Attachment:
The Piano Wordle.jpg
The Piano Wordle.jpg [ 66.88 KiB | Viewed 27252 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:54 am 
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Attachment:
feelings.jpg
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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:56 am 
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I liked the intensity rating in this chart; it helped me sort of spatially chart out some emotions.

Attachment:
Feelings1.JPG
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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:58 am 
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Depending on your cognitive style, you may find a graphic more useful, as below, than the chart in the previous post. They both place emotions on the intensity continuum, one in words, and the other in pictures.

Attachment:
different-emotions-list-i9.jpg
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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 5:01 am 
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When you start looking at this, the potential depth of human emotion is astonishing, no? Recovery means some level of feeling your emotions, rather than controlling them through your eating disorder.

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 5:04 am 
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Last one: another emotion/intensity chart.

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vocabulary-for-writers.jpg
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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 5:05 am 
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So, if you've stuck with me so far, what are your immediate thoughts after going through this? Really, I'm interested in whether or how this affected you or made you think.

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:45 am 
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It made me think that I'll be the judge of the intensity of my emotions. I can be mildly hurt or extremely anxious.

Most of these read more like a dictionary and thesaurus to me, but I think that is also helpful. Sometimes it's difficult to put a word to an emotion.

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:02 am 
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I have been reading through this in sections throughout the day. I was just reading the lists of emotions and trying to understand the graphs with emotions broken down by their intensity. I'm not sure if its because emotions confuse me so much or because I feel rather detached but I struggle to understand my emotions as having different intensities. I feel rather stuck in a limited list of emotions for myself. Like, happy, sad, anxious, depressed, upset.. Is numb really an emotion? Because it is definitely something I feel and if it is, then is it as real and valid as the rest?


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:54 pm 
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Quote:
I'm not sure if its because emotions confuse me so much or because I feel rather detached but I struggle to understand my emotions as having different intensities. I feel rather stuck in a limited list of emotions for myself. Like, happy, sad, anxious, depressed, upset.. Is numb really an emotion? Because it is definitely something I feel and if it is, then is it as real and valid as the rest?

I can really relate to this, Katemaree...it's also my experience a lot of the time. In response to your question, I'm not sure whether numbness is actually an emotion (or, rather, the consequence of a 'blockage' of emotion) but I think it is certainly real and valid. It is a 'survival mechanism' of its own - self-protection from being overwhelmed? - and, even if it's not always a helpful or healthy one, needs to be acknowledged as such....

I often seem to experience two extremes - total numbness or intense anxiety or extreme anger - with no real emotional scaling in between. Worse, I find it very disconcerting as the extreme emotions themselves are usually completely disproportionate to the superficial cause; being rationally conscious of this fact is terrifying. And the superficial cause is almost invariably related to food, exercise or my schedule. Sometimes I can hear dreadful stories from our clients at work, hear about horrific injustice and suffering on the news, experience family death - and although everyone around me is deeply moved, experience absolutely nothing emotionally. But something as trivial as a friend casually asking to meet for coffee unexpectedly leaves me irrationally shaking with rage because they're dared to to upset my routine. Today, I managed to pack up my entire room to move house and close a big section of my life without feeling absolutely anything at all. Then, I couldn't concentrate on my fiance's really profound, loving sweet statements about how excited he was about having my things in his house ready for our married life together because I was too busy anxiously obsessing about what he was putting on my plate. I've beaten myself up about this type of imbalance for a long long time; what kind of inhuman selfish monster cares more about meaningless immediate food concerns than life's pivotal moments?

I know this wasn't exactly how you intended it to be understood, but I found reading this very helpful:
Quote:
I think sometimes we experience emotions as something almost independent of ourselves or our actions, and then use those emotions to beat ourselves up instead of understanding and accepting them as...emotions. They are real, they are valid, but they are not fact and they are not judgments. They just are. And that's ok.

Even distorted emotions need to be acknowledged without rational judgment to some extent....not because they are directly informative or purposeful as survival mechanisms in the way described here, but because they are merely (maladaptive) survival mechanisms, which have formed over time. They are the mere product of habitual processes - not indicative expressions of who I innately am as a person, and cannot be used as a moral gauge. These processes take time to relearn. In the mean time, experiencing these disproportionate emotions is not in itself shameful - and it certainly does not mean I have to act on them.

Less judgment and more patience with self.
Thank you so much for sharing :heart:


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:31 am 
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Quote:
I can really relate to this, Katemaree...it's also my experience a lot of the time. In response to your question, I'm not sure whether numbness is actually an emotion (or, rather, the consequence of a 'blockage' of emotion) but I think it is certainly real and valid. It is a 'survival mechanism' of its own - self-protection from being overwhelmed? - and, even if it's not always a helpful or healthy one, needs to be acknowledged as such....


Kate, Moonshine said exactly what I would have said in reply to your thoughts. I think numbness is the absense of emotion, and it is the place we can achieve through starvation. The body shuts down unnecessary processes when it is trying to survive famine, and emotions use energy. Seriously - think about intense emotions: anger, fear, even happiness. The heart rate speeds up, the body enters a state of readiness; these are all extraneous activities when you starve.

I think when we experience trauma, especially as children, we lose the emotional "vocabulary". Moonshine, you talked about extremes of emotions, but I wonder what other emotions you experience on a day to day basis. I have only a handful, and my experience of learning and naming sorrow was so intense that I would start crying just by entering my therapist's office. But when I look at those lists, particularly the ones that rate intensity, I also live in extremes, and mostly at the "low" intensity, that "numb" place. That said, I do experience anger with intensity and I'm not sure why anger is different, why anger can be intense but others cannot. Perhaps because most of my anger is self-directed and is really a front for shame?

Delenda, I get what you mean that these are just lists. I find them helpful because I really do not know the full range of human emotional experience, I cannot often put a name to emotions, and I don't know how many of them are supposed to feel. So when I am emotionally uncertain, I can go to a list (I'm a word person, not a picture person) and explore the words, try them on for size, maybe even look them up in some of my bookmarked dictionaries (how do you define "geek"?).

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