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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Part 6: Emotions

by jussiecatwriter (follow)
Emotions (85)      Thoughts (69)      Feelings (62)      Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) (2)      Responses (1)      Reactions (1)      Sensations (1)     

cartoon businessman crying
Emotions can be difficult to navigate when they are painful. Image courtesy of Emily 9 at freedigitalphotos.net

Imagine you are in the top part of the boat. Below you in the deck are a bunch of monsters. They represent your emotions, thoughts and urges.
Suppose that when you drift without purpose in your boat they stay tucked below deck. However, when you come closer to land, they climb onto the deck and overpower you!

This incites you to make a deal with the emotions, thoughts and urges. You tell them you will keep sailing aimlessly if they agree to stay below deck.
Floating without purpose turns out to not be very enjoyable, and boredom and loneliness, for example, are common. On top of this, you can look out and see other ships with captains who seem satisfied and pleased because they have landed. You wish you could land, too. However, the fear that the demonic feelings, thoughts and urges will resurface.

However, you have noticed in broad daylight that although these thoughts, feelings and urges are ugly they are absolutely and completely harmless. They don’t have any capacity to hurt you whatsoever!

Many people believe that their emotions are the ‘scariest’.
Scientifically speaking, EMOTIONS
- Have their origins in the midbrain and
- Involve complex changes in the body
- They prepare our bodies for action so they have a propensity to react a certain way.

For example people who are anxious have a tendency to breathe in a rapid, shallow way and an activity tendency to talk quickly.

Emotions are made up of words and images in our head and sensations and feelings in our body – page 81 “The Happiness Trap Pocketbook” by Russ Harris & Bev Aisbett

However, our emotions do NOT control our behaviour.

For example you can feel angry, have a tendency to yell, but choose not to. We always have our emotions and they are always changing, and we choose how we react to them.

This was a revelation to me when I first read about it, and initially hard to believe. However, as Russ explained how emotions are created, it made a lot of sense.

Here are the 3 phases in the creation of an emotion. Page 84 “The Happiness Trap Pocketbook” by Russ Harris & Bev Aisbett

1. A significant event occurs either internally (such as a thought – “the kids are late home. I hope they are all right”, or externally (you just find out you passed a difficult exam) and a message gets sent to your brain that this is important.

2. The brain evaluates the event as either being ‘good’ or desirable, or bad (undesirable). It also prepares you for appropriate action (fight or flight).

3. The mind then tells a story about the experience. For example” this is provoking” (a lady is unnecessarily rude to you in the grocery line) “This is scary” (you are in a situation where you have to walk home in the dark”)

Other people may or may not share your emotional reaction.

If you register the event as ‘good’ then pleasant “positive” feelings are evoked. Page 85 “The Happiness Trap Pocketbook” by Russ Harris & Bev Aisbett.

**%%However, “Negative” and “Positive” are just LABELS FOR WHAT ARE SIMPLY FEELINGS. (Page 85 “The Happiness Trap Pocketbook by Russ Harris and Bev Aisbett.

Naturally, we like the positive ones better. However, buying into the thought that this preference needs to be absolute creates problems because the fact is we’re just not going to be happy all of the time. That’s not realistic.

However, the good news is is that there is a way that you may not have heard of before (I hadn’t!) to deal with upsetting feelings. See Part 7!


# Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
# Feelings
# Emotions
# Responses
# Reactions
# Thoughts
# Sensations
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