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How to cope better with unpleasant emotions?

Introduction
The aim of this article is to provide you with an easy way of improving your skills to cope with your emotions. It is based on RBT (Rational Behavioral Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It burns down to two steps: identifying your beliefs and testing them. The following sections contain the details.
I hear from my clients that they experience different kinds of negative emotions1 very often. It might sound obvious, but people are more likely to focus on feelings rather than thoughts. The most common unpleasant emotions are anxiety and sorrow. It is not possible to overcome these symptoms immediately because they are often a result of more complex issues. However, it is possible to learn how to deal with them. The purpose of counselling is to understand oneself better. This in turn eases one's ability to affect the way they feel. According to CBT, our emotions are linked to our beliefs. What people think about themselves and the surrounding world strongly influences their emotions. An example of that dependency is low self-esteem. It is often incorrectly identified as the cause of poor frame of mind, but in fact is a result of a “negative self-talk”.

Identifying negative beliefs
“ABC table” is a very useful tool in analyzing one's thoughts and emotions in an easy way. The idea is to break down the analysis into three aspects:

  • an activating event (A) – the situation that triggers feeling unwell,
  • beliefs (B) – what kind of thoughts appear in your mind,
  • consequences (C) – usually emotions but also physical symptoms which accompany the above mentioned.
Especially at the beginning, it may be challenging to name the beliefs and emotions – it just requires practice

How to cope with the negative beliefs?
Along with RBT it is very helpful to ask oneself “Five Rational Questions”:

  1. Is my thinking based on obvious fact?
  2. Will my thinking best help me protect my life and health?
  3. Will my thinking best help me achieve my short and long-term goals?
  4. Will my thinking best help me prevent unwanted conflicts with others?
  5. Will my thinking help me feel the emotions I want to feel without using alcohol or drugs?
If three of five answers are “no”, it is worth considering if a certain belief is a healthy one.

Summary
Human beings are not that simple and one will not resolve significant issues by only using tools like these. However, they may be very useful in daily life. It may be a kind of an anchor that keeps grounded in tough situations. It is worth taking into consideration a quote of an unknown author:

“When we are rational we recognize that intuition and emotion are most valuable when combined with thoughtful analysis.”

To those willing to go deeper, I would recommend reading “Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think” by D. Greenberger and C. Padesky. This book does not require professional knowledge.

Author: Agnieszka Kulczycka-Dopiera

Perspektywy. Ośrodek Relacji i Zdrowia Psychicznego.
Pomagamy budować dobre relacje i dbamy o Twoje zdrowie psychiczne