Our clients often ask us if we can help them get rid of emotions. The short answer is "unfortunately, we can't". Why? Because we need emotions, and because we're human. If we became void of emotion we would lose the very essence of what it is to be human, to be alive and to have experiences. We need emotions because they tell us that something is important to us. We therefore can't get rid of emotions, but what we can do is learn to respond to our emotions in helpful ways.
As clinicians, we put our best efforts into helping people learn ways to reduce the intensity of their emotions, but we definitely can't get rid of them. This process of learning how to reduce the intensity of emotions is largely known as emotion regulation. Knowing how to regulate emotions is something that we all need to learn to do. It is not something that comes naturally. The skill of regulating emotions takes time, consistent practice, and most of all effort. Consistent practice is important because without it we cannot learn as quickly or as easily. The more consistently we practice something the more quickly our brain registers the changes. This is the same for any skill we try to learn.
Research has shown that one of the most effective tools to help regulate emotions are tools based on mindfulness principles. Mindfulness based tools are helpful in regulating emotions because they teach us to take a helpful step back and observe the experience as opposed to getting caught up in the experience. This healthy and helpful step back can be an extremely powerful tool since it enables you to maintain perspective, as opposed to running away with your mind. If you find that you have become caught up with your emotions, you might notice that you try to regulate them but in unhelpful ways (e.g., engaging in avoidance behaviours like "keeping busy", cleaning, procrastinating, taking drugs, drinking, gambling, etc.). This type of emotion regulation seemingly covers up emotions in the short term, however they create long term pain because the emotions are still there and are more intense. If we brave the emotions, and learn ways in which to regulate them in helpful ways, we find that we experience intense discomfort to begin with, but over time, this dissipates and reduces in intensity. This process is by no means easy. It takes a lot of guidance, persistence, and therefore effort, but it helps create longer lasting changes.
If emotion regulation is something you or a loved one needs help with, then don't hesitate to give our team a call to arrange an appointment on (03) 9882-8874.
Until next time ~ Dr Celin Gelgec and the team at Melbourne Wellbeing Group.