How we react to our emotions messes us up

One thing that I see very clearly in my practice is how our emotional reactivity really causes us the most distress.

Emotional reactivity is how we react to emotional states that we don't like in order to make them stop. When we are emotionally reactive, we act solely out of extinguishing uncomfortable states, without any real thought or intention to be healthy. Usually these states are jealous, anger, sadness, fear, guilt or shame.

What are the ways you react to these emotions? Are they patterns that you have developed to avoid uncomfortable feelings rather than an exploration of what is generating the emotions and whether it is a voice you should listen to?

All of us as humans are wired to seek pleasure and reduce pain to survive! Often when making decisions about our lives, it is this same, very ancient mechanism that has helped us survive that  now trips us up.

When we have emotions such as anger, jealousy, guilt and fear, they come from our thoughts and beliefs. They aren't accurate representatives of reality, but our own perception based on what we are thinking. Our thoughts are unreliable and are based on beleifs we have learned about ourselves which are very often false!

If for example, you feel guilt, it isn't necessarily because you have done something wrong. This feeling is conditioned in childhood by our parents and society.

Parents can teach their children to feel guilt for virtually anything.  You may have parents that taught you to feel guilty, for example, because you had an opinion and disagreed with them. Some parents lead their children to believe that if they are angry or sad it is the child's fault. As a female it may be that you were taught to always put others needs first.

Yet these beleifs are unhealthy, and will lead you as an adult to be unhealthy and unhappy.

All of these are examples of mistaken assumptions upon which your feeling reactions are built.

In order to get healthy, then, often, we need to learn not to respond the the feelings provoked in us because they are unreliable. Not responding to your feelings requires a willingness to just be with the emotional state and question where it is coming from. More often, especially with a feeling like guilt, we will react to make the emotion go away.

We may lash out, or even accommodate the person by doing whatever they wish, solely to avoid the guilt.

Unforutnately, in the long run this leads to the reinforcement of patterns of habitual behavior that isn't good for us.

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