Summary - Module 2 - Therapy: Understanding Your Emotions

Understanding Your Emotions

This is a summary of the module Understanding Your Emotions for your reference.

Part 1

This module of the Goodpath UP therapy program is called Understanding Your Emotions. It has two parts:

  • Part 1: What is an emotion?

  • Part 2: “How do emotional experiences progress?

After Part 2, you’ll learn how you can cope with difficult emotions.

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First a homework check-in. Did you complete your Emotion Assessments and Progress Record this past week? Did you add to your Treatment Goals and Decisional Balance forms?

You’ll have two new forms to complete for this module’s homework - the 3-Component Model in Part 1 and Following Your ARC in Part 2. More about your next homework assignment later.

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Understanding your emotions is represented by the first floor of our “emotion house.” It makes sense that learning about your emotions is on the first floor - you must have a firm grasp of something before successfully addressing it. 

Of course, it sits atop a foundation of setting goals and finding ways to stay motivated - you need a finish line (goal) and the means to get there (motivation). 

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With emotional disorders, your emotions can interfere with your day-to-day activities.

It’s also likely that you view your emotions in a negative way. For example, “It’s bad to feel this anxiety.”

You may have decided to sign-up for this Goodpath program in order to “rid yourself” of emotions that cause discomfort (e.g. anxiety, fear, sadness, guilt, etc).

However, pushing away emotions doesn't work so well.

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Through this program, we want you to learn to respond to your emotions in a different way - that is, to listen to them. They’ll help you understand situations and the world around you.

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Emotions are helpful - they communicate information and help you take action. 

Notice your emotions and what they mean. Use this to practice: “I feel [emotion] and it makes sense I feel this way because [information]. 

For example, ““I feel sad and it makes sense that I feel this way because I lost someone close to me.” 

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However, emotions can go from helpful to overwhelming. Breaking down your emotions into parts can help them feel less overwhelming and lead to more productive behaviors. Let’s explore this idea by first learning about the three parts of an emotion.

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What is an emotional experience?

There are three parts to an emotional experience:

  1. What you think (cognitive)

  2. What you feel in your body (physiological sensations)

  3. What you do (behavioral)

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What You Think

Thoughts are mental events that may or may not be accurate. When we have a difficult emotion, thoughts tend to be negative and less accurate. For example, if we fail an exam we might think, “I am a failure” rather than “that exam was really tough.”

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Write about the types of thoughts you have when upset. For example, does your mind go blank or does it become overwhelmed with thoughts? Are these thoughts about the past or the future? Are they helpful?

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What You Feel In Your Body

Although you may not always realize it, your body changes when you experience an emotion. 

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Write about what you feel in your body when you’re excited, anxious, angry, or embarrassed. 

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What you do

You act when you experience an emotion. Sometimes your actions are helpful (e.g. slamming on your breaks to avoid a car accident), but sometimes they’re not (e.g. staying home on the sofa because you’re sad or leaving a get-together because you’re overwhelmed by anxiety). 

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What do you do (or want to do) when you feel afraid, sad, angry or anxious?

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The Three-Component Model helps you break down your emotions into thoughts, body sensations, and behaviors. 

  • The components don’t occur in any particular order.  

  • They are all interrelated and affect each other

For example, with anxiety you may feel sweaty right before a presentation, then think “I’ll never be able to do this.” Or you may think “I’ll never be able to do this,” then make an excuse to skip the presentation.

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You may find it easier to recognize one part over the others. You should try to identify all three to better understand your emotions.

Completing the Three-Component Model form is part of your homework. Practice using it as often as possible when you have an intense emotion. 

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Here’s an example to walk you through the three-component model.

You receive a message from your boss - she cancels a meeting with you that’s supposed to start in 20 minutes. You think, “I knew this would happen. She doesn’t think much of my opinion.” 

You start to feel tired and heavy in your legs. You decide to stay in your office, instead of going to lunch with your coworkers. 

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Time for a knowledge check. Which of the following are true?

1. It’s best to listen to your emotions instead of pushing them away.

2. Anxiety isn’t useful.

3. Positive emotions communicate what’s important to you.

4.  Emotional experiences have three parts: what you think, what you feel, and what you do.

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Quiz Answers

  1. True. Listen and learn from your emotions. Pushing them away isn’t helpful.

  2. False. Anxiety serves as a warning system.

  3. True. When you experience a positive emotion, e.g. happiness, it signals that the activity associated with the feeling is something you value.

  4. True. The Three-Component Model includes the cognitive, physiological, and behavioral parts of emotional experiences.

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Homework Reminder

Remember - make time for your homework! For this module, you’ll need to complete the Three-Component Model form in your UP therapy workbook. Aim for once a day over the next week, but practice it as often as possible.

As with all weekly homework, you should also complete your Emotions Assessment and Progress Record.

Part 2

In the last module, we answered the question: “What is an emotion?”

In this module, we answer: “How do emotional experiences progress?"  

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First, a homework check-in. Did you complete your Emotion Assessments and Progress Record this past week? Did you complete the first part of the Three-Component Model Form?

This week, you'll complete the second part of this form 'Following Your ARC.' More about your homework assignment later.

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Let's refer back to our house. Understanding your emotions is represented by the first floor of the house. This sits on the first floor because you need a firm grasp of something before successfully addressing it. 

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The ARC of Emotions

In this module, we will use the ARC (antecedent, response, consequences) model to help you identify the causes and consequences of your emotional experiences. 

This, in turn, will help you prepare for such experiences and make your emotions feel more manageable. 

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You’ve already learned about the parts of your emotional responses - your thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors - represented by the R in the ARC of Emotions.

Now we'll learn about the and C.

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A for Antecedent

This is what comes before your emotions. Every emotion is triggered by something - an event, situation, etc. 

Identifying antecedents helps you understand that something really happened to cause an emotion. Knowing the antecedent helps you better understand the emotion overall. This lessens any thoughts of “I shouldn’t feel this way.” 

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Antecedents may:

  • Occur just before, hours or days before an emotion

  • Be internal (how you feel physically, e.g. feeling heavy from lack of sleep or a memory) or external (e.g. an argument with a partner or close friend)

  • Be things that make it more likely that you’ll experience strong emotions (e.g. poor sleep, increased stress at work, hunger, etc.)

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Now that you know about antecedents, what are some things that have triggered your emotions?

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Here are some antecedent examples that are common with certain emotions. Do any of these sound familiar?

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Think about a time when you had an intense emotional experience. What was the antecedent (what triggered it)?

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C for Consequences

Strong emotional experiences “stay with you.” They affect the way you respond to similar situations in the future.

Imagine you decide to learn to golf. You take lessons and practice for weeks and decide you’re ready to play with friends. 

It’s your turn to tee off and you completely miss the ball. Everyone laughs and you’re intensely embarrassed. You decide not to finish the round.

In the short term, you don’t have to worry about being embarrassed again. But long-term, you're afraid to try new things. 

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It’s common for short-term consequences i.e. feeling intense emotions, to reinforce future behavior. You worry about situations that could lead to similar emotions. 

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But when you avoid something because you have an intense emotion (e.g. feeling embarrassed, afraid, sad, or angry), the next time you are triggered, you’re likely to have even more intense emotions. This creates an unhelpful cycle. 

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Following Your ARC

Continue to build on the Three-Component Model form in your Goodpath UP Therapy Workbook. You’ll still record your thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors. You’ll also track and record emotional antecedents (or triggers), and short- and long-term consequences.

The ARC of emotion may progress in different ways. But, you’ll find that when you respond by pushing emotions away, it only helps in the short term. 

When you avoid your emotions long-term, it increases the likelihood that they will recur and be more intense.

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Time for a knowledge check. Which of the following are true?

1. It’s best to listen to your emotions instead of pushing them away.

2. Your emotional responses include thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors.

3. Emotional disorders usually have similar triggers.

4. Avoiding emotions helps in the long term.

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Quiz Answers

  1. True. Your emotions, both positive and negative, provide important information.

  2. True. The R of the ARC model = Response. The 3 parts are thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors. 

  3. False. Triggers may overlap but each person has unique antecedents or triggers.

  4. False. Avoiding emotions may provide short-term relief. Long-term it often makes them more intense.

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Homework

Remember - Make time for homework! The more you practice, the better. For this module, you’ll complete the Following Your ARC form. Use it when you experience an intense emotion or at least once a day in the upcoming week. 

As with all weekly homework, complete your Emotions forms and Progress Record