The myth of emotions
“Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are remarkably potent biologically, almost as powerful as those to our very survival.” - Daniel Goleman
I noticed in the media this week reference to the “…thinking Australian” and found myself reflecting on how this reference was designed to create doubt about any emotional response we might have about what is unfolding in our world. I then found myself reflecting on the self-doubt experienced by many of my clients when their emotions have been denied by significant others through their development. Also, the cultural landscape that shapes how emotions are perceived.
Yet, emotions are fundamentally important to our lives. Emotions are the interface between body and mind, influencing the way we think, feel and behave as well as our physical and physiological functioning. Emotions are our primary signalling system, preceding thought and language.
Emotions help us navigate our world, influencing how we feel about our environment. Not all emotions are the same though. Some are helpful or adaptive; they have value to our survival or well-being. These primary adaptive emotions are linked to our emotional intelligence, provide information and prepare us for action.
“Behind the mask of indifference is bottomless misery and behind apparent callousness, despair” – John Bowlby
Emotions can also be maladaptive or unhelpful though. When we suppress or minimise our emotions, or have experienced trauma or neglect, we might not regulate our emotions as well as we would like. When emotions become reactive, interfere with our functioning or ability to cope, they are no longer ‘healthy’ and affect our ability to self-regulate. This influences our own well-being and undermines our ability to positively engage with others.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) helps transform our emotional experience and elicit effective lasting change. The aim is identify, explore and integrate our experiences from an emotional perspective. The ability to emotionally regulate and experience a range of emotions in a socially and personally constructive way then emerges.