There are dozens of emotions that are a part of everyday life and can guide us in our personal growth. We tend to make a positive (happiness, love) or negative (grief, anger) association toward our emotions but when we realize that each of us react differently then we can see that our emotions are personal or even subjective. This page focuses on more on dealing with negative emotions and addresses them in a general way.
- I can identify the emotions that I feel.
- I can respond to the emotions I feel with productive behaviors.
Key Learning Points:
- Emotions are a normal and needed in our lives but we need to embrace them by seeking productive responses.
- As we become more self-aware we can identify triggers of our emotions (and therefore avoid emotional traps).
- Our beliefs (about ourselves and the world) shape our emotions. If we can understand our beliefs then we can have the hope of reshaping negative beliefs into positive ones.
- “Emotions are truly a gift from God. When rightly experienced they bring vibrant color to our life of worship, work, and play. When out of sync they can tyrannically wreak havoc in our lives, enslaving us and causing collateral damage to relationships. They are great servants, but horrible masters.” Source: The Gift of Emotions, link removed.
- Identify and link your feelings with the words that describe them. Note the subtle differences between them, e.g. sadness vs. “feeling down” vs. depression. Click here or here for a starter list.
- Monitor your emotions for a day or longer. See if you have some dominant or recurring negative feelings. This may cause you to focus on the details.
- Identify coping strategies with a targeted emotion.
- Seek to understand your negative beliefs then reshape them with positive beliefs. Refer to the Mind-Made Prison
- Emotional Triggers. “Triggers are products of some past event. Remember that the situation is not happening now, it already occurred and you need to remain focused on the present. Take three deep breaths. Breathing deeply and fully signals your parasympathetic system to respond by generating as sense of relaxation.” Source: How to Deal with Emotional Triggers, link removed.
- Expressing our Emotion. Holding our emotions quietly within us may be appropriate for the specific moment but it is usually not good in the long run. We need to find a way to share our feelings with a loved one or friend.
- Respond (not react). Reacting is instinctual but if your behavior is unproductive then it is better to “think, then respond”.
- Coping Strategies. Learn assertive behavior (e.g. constructive criticism rather than aggressiveness), deep breathing, exercise and aromatherapy are examples. With practice and feedback you will learn what works best for you in given situations.
- Change Your Beliefs. First, we must become aware of our thoughts. This requires us to be “present” or “in the moment”. Awareness then enables inquiry or analysis of our thoughts and beliefs. With analysis comes understanding (of the possible reasons for our reactions) and finally the opportunity to change our beliefs. Imagine sitting in an unexpected traffic jam. At first, stress may be the emotion because you are running late. A potential positive belief might be that this is a great time to enjoy some music and quiet personal time.
- Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Source: Wikipedia
- Professional help. If emotions result in destructive or unproductive behavior, seek professional advice.
Exercises for Older Teens and Adults:
- Complete the Dealing with Our Emotions Worksheet (link below).
- Personal Growth Exercises on EQ Institute
- The Work by Katie Byron. The Work is a simple yet powerful process of self-directed inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause suffering. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity. Extensive videos and worksheets are available for free.
Exercises for Younger Teens (13-16):
- See Personal Growth Exercises above.
Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking:
- If life was devoid of emotion, what would it be like?
- Why do you assign “positive” or negative” when you talk about your emotions? Can a negative emotion be positive?
- Can you identify experiences from earlier in your life, even childhood, that are causing you to feel as you do?
- What beliefs do you have that cause this emotion? Can you think of a positive belief to replace a negative one?
Tools and Templates:
- Dealing with Our Emotions Worksheet. Source: Newlife-Counseling.com
- My Fears, How I Feel and other various worksheets on TherapistAid.com
- Emotion. A heightened feeling: a strong feeling about somebody or something.
- Trigger. A stimulus for something: a stimulus that sets off an action, process, or series of events.
- Belief. Acceptance of truth of something: acceptance by the mind that something is true or real, often underpinned by an emotional or spiritual sense of certainty.
Web Articles/Short Stories/Essays:
- Start Dealing with Emotions More Effectively By Checking The Emotion List on The-Emotions.com
- Dealing With Negative Emotions on SelfImprovementMentor.com
- Managing Emotions on BatonRougeCounseling.net
- Dealing with Emotional Triggers by Carrie Kitze
- Dealing with Difficult Emotions by ZenLifeCoach (audio only)
- How to deal with emotions by Christine Hassler
- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV
- “The patient are better than warriors, and those who rule their temper, better than the conqueror of a city.” Proverbs 16:32
- “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” – Helen Keller
Summary 2-page Lesson Examples:
- None are currently available.