Emotion Regulation Review

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As you work through this module of DBT, try to answer the questions. Notice what things about your own handling of your emotions might have changed or improved in the last few months.


In a Nutshell, the lessons of Emotion Regulation follow:

Our emotions come from:

1. REACTIONS to things and people in our ENVIRONMENT
What examples can you think of? (Losing a baseball game, seeing a friend you like, failing a test, getting a good grade, being
 criticized. What else?)

2. REACTIONS to things going on INSIDE OURSELVES
Examples of what happens to you. Feeling shame or guilt about not doing well at something. Feeling afraid about something you are thinking about. Give some examples of your own.

We have PRIMARY and SECONDARY emotions.

The PRIMARY emotion is the one we feel first -
like anger at being stood up by a friend, grief at someone we love who is dying

The SECONDARY emotion comes after the first.
First I feel anger at being stood up by a friend. Then I feel ashamed for feeling so angry. In this case, shame is the SECONDARY emotion.

It is important to know which feeling is the PRIMARY feeling and which is SECONDARY. The PRIMARY emotion is usually the one we need to work on. When you have an emotion, look to see whether there was another emotion that came first. Sometimes the switch from one to the other happens pretty fast.

How to Describe Emotions:

1. Describe the PROMPTING EVENT for the emotion. 
What happened that set off your emotion? A friend stood you up? You feel you got an unfair grade on a test? Your beloved dog died?

2. INTERPRETATION of an event - what you think about it.
For Example, EVENT = The cashier closes the  line just as I get to it.               INTERPRETATION = He doesn't want to bother waiting on me
FEELING = Anger and Hurt
Here the feeling comes after an interpretation is made.

Can you think of other possible interpretations? What feelings do those other interpretations give you?

3. BODY CHANGES
Do you feel changes in heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature or moisture, your facial expressions, your hands (clenched?)? Does your face get red? Notice these changes.

4. ACTION URGES
Does the emotion prompt you to take action or to feel like taking action?
Fighting, crying, yelling, running away, hugging, throwing something? What else?

5. EXPRESSION AND COMMUNICATION
A very important function of emotions is to communicate. We need to express our emotions to communicate.
We express with our words, our facial expressions, and our actions.
A PROBLEM WITH EXPRESSING OUR EMOTION THROUGH BEHAVIOR IS THAT DIFFERENT PEOPLE INTERPRET BEHAVIOR DIFFERENTLY.
Can you think of a time when the emotion you expressed by your behavior was misunderstood?

It is often difficult to express our feelings in words, but we can practice, a little at a time. The more clear and direct we can be with the other person about our emotions, the better chance we have of being understood.

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