Did you know that you can talk and listen to your emotions and actually understand why they are truly happening? No, it’s not any kind of literary personification or theatrical experiment. It’s a technique that is rooted in well-researched and effective therapies today such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Rational Emotive Therapy (2014, 2016).
If you have ever talked to a child who was in any state (playful, sad, frustrated, scared, etc.), you may remember that you changed your tone and maybe you purposely simplified your language. If the child was relentlessly whining, you may have used a great amount of patience to try to talk to them. As a former teacher and caregiver of children, I’ve experienced such conversations with children. Through these experiences I have learned that patience and being direct are so important for both the adult and the child in the child’s emotional experience. Apply this to treating your emotions as children who need guidance and who need attention. Emotions need to be heard and attended to just like this. It is common to push them aside or quiet them with some easy distraction for temporary relief.
However, when you allow the emotions to be there and ask them why, it opens up space for understanding which eventually leads to relief and less time spent with these emotions.
What if you give it try? This can be done out loud in a comfortable private space or quietly in your head. Set aside at least 10 minutes in a place where there are the least amount of distractions as possible. If you decide to try this, it may feel awkward or silly at first. That’s fine. Many new things can seem that way when first tried.
Below is an example of what someone’s conversation with their current emotion could look like:
*** feels sad ***
Person: Why are you here, sadness?
*** give time to think ***
Sadness: (maybe no response, maybe “I don’t know”)
Person: (If no response, ask again. Remember be patient like it is a child. Try again.“Why are you here?”)
Sadness: It’s been a rough day. Nothing went right.
Person: You’re right; it has been a rough day. But are you sure absolutely nothing went right? (continue with patience; it’s your sadness and no one else owns it).
Sadness: That’s what it feels like. Everything sucked today.
Person: Okay. I can see why you’re here. If it feels like everything sucked then you can be here for right now. Anything else you want to tell me, sadness?
The above is a loose example and surprisingly requires little to no imagination. As mentioned earlier, it is not personification of an emotion. It is simply giving the emotion a voice and by doing so, bringing buried thoughts up to the surface. In the example above, it may have been painful or shameful for the person to admit that their day was difficult. We sometimes don’t why we are experiencing certain negative emotions and this technique is a great way to find out why. Even in just acknowledging that a negative emotion is present can be enough to lessen its strength so that you can gain the power over it.
In summary it is 3 steps:
- Give the emotion a voice.
- Use your patience like you would for a child.
- Listen and wait.
You may be surprised what listening to your own emotions and having patience with them can yield: maybe less nervousness, anxiety, fear, etc. over time. For more information or to explore emotional health options, check out texasemotionalhealth.com
2014. Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. albertellis.org/rebt-cbt-therapy
16 May, 2016. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt-htm/
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Author: Violet Anderson
Editor: Lav Chintapalli
Violet is an emotional health coach for the nonprofit organization, Texas Emotional Health Guidance. In the beginning of her career paths, she started out as a special education teacher, acquiring a B.A. in Child and Family Studies and an M.A. in Special Education before her second round of M.A. coursework in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling.
Violet’s experience is most prominent with children but also has worked with clients of all ages. As of current she works with clients suffering from anxiety, depression, or specifically family members and spouses of someone suffering from a physical or mental illness. She loves writing poetry and composing and learning new music on piano, ukulele, and guitar.