Lee A Edwards, PhD

Psychologist, Austin Texas

Emotions -- an Overview

Check out the articles on specific emotions as well. They're listed below.

We're often uncomfortable with our emotions, but they're what gives life its color and its energy. Without 'em we'd be flat and robotic. Even movies and TV shows about robots, androids etc. almost always end with the robots' showing emotion...because that's what makes life interesting. And difficult.

In America we tend to emphasize how to control emotions. I think that, on the one hand, if we try to control emotions rigidly, they're going to rebel and end up kicking our butts anyway. For example, anger or hurt come out as snippy comments after you've told yourself, "Okay, don't be angry."

Dealing with Difficult Emotions
On the other hand, we can't just let anger follow its natural, wild path, which is often aggression; you can't just scream at your boss every time you're angry at her/him. So, what can you do?
1) Recognize it. It's really hard to work with emotions you aren't noticing! The articles on specific emotions get more into this.
2) Choose--consciously--how to deal with it rather than letting it just run wild. Here are some options:
* Express it directly. Not always possible, but great when possible. For example, "I'm really hurt about your doing X." Or simply crying when sad.
* Express it, but partially and carefully. When your boss, who's mean and controlling, does something extremely annoying, saying, "I'm mad as hell about what you did" might get your fired. So, try the careful, consciously chosen route. It might look like "I've got some concerns about X" or "I'm not completely comfortable with X."
* Soothe yourself. Sometimes you can't fix the situation, so you just have to cope. There are lots of options for how to soothe yourself:
* Do something physically soothing--a walk, a bath, etc.
* Vent to someone supportive (not to someone who won't care). Let them know you're just looking to vent, so you can skip the hassle of their trying to fix the problem while you just want to vent.
Vent to yourself. Write it out. Or go for a drive and scream.
* Do something you like. Good movie, good meal, whatever.
* Another option that's not about soothing is to do some problem-solving. It's sometimes easier to deal with difficult emotions when you know you're working on solutions to the cause because that gives you hope. If you're doing problem-solving alone, consider writing it out. Writing pushes us to be linear and logical. (Remember, problem-solving isn't necessarily about the emotion; it's about fixing the cause.) If you're doing problem-solving with someone else, tell them you want problem-solving help; listeners often don't know whether you just want emotional support or problem-solving, so tell 'em.
* Don't try to forbid yourself from feeling any particular emotions. They'll just go underground, like the Resistance in World War II.
* Do try to recognize your emotions, and do try to make conscious choices about how to deal with them. You'll get a lot better at both parts as you practice, and your mental health and your relationships will also get a lot better.

So, what are the basic emotions? I think there are five, with lots of variations on each one. For example, anger ranges from mild (irritation) to severe (rage); fear from worried to terrified.
* Joy -- the energetic level of happiness
* Peace -- the foundational level of happiness
* Fear
* Anger
* Sadness

I've also written articles on:
* Hurt, a combination of sadness and anger
* Guilt, which tends to be a funky logjam of several emotions and some...
* Shame, which is a way of viewing yourself...not really an emotion, but it usually comes with emotions such as sadness and anxiety.

Licensed psychologist, Austin

(512) 694-1322

4403 Menchaca Rd, Suite A, South Austin, TX 78745
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