Understanding your emotions--behavior, feelings, physiology, and
thoughts--will help you plan ways to change them. Use the steps in
chapter 2. If an unwanted emotion is your main concern, read the
appropriate chapter (5 to 8) and then refer back to this chapter for
basic methods to change the emotional parts of the problem.
The above index lists the emotion-control methods described
below. Read the first section, the general idea, for each method and
select 2 or 3 methods to try with your emotions.
The nature of emotions
Our feelings or emotions are a major part of our inner lives. Our
emotions are sometimes rapid primitive reflexes independent of our
thoughts, but at other times, our feelings reflect our cognitive
assessment of our current situation. Our feelings involve both our
emotions and our urges to act certain ways. Thus, emotions determine
if we are happy or unhappy, if we want to approach something or run
away from it, if we are exuberant or frozen, etc.
Emotions are frequently unrealistic and irrational, i.e.
unreasonable, unthinking automatic physiological reactions or based
on faulty ideas distorted by our past experiences, misperceptions,
exaggerated fears or hopes or needs. Examples: Reason usually
doesn't over-ride subjective experience, i.e. telling a person afraid of
spiders that this specific spider right here is completely harmless,
doesn't completely reduce his/her fear. The intensity of an emotion is
not so much determined by the current situation as it is by the
amount of actual or expected change (Frijda, 1988). Thus, a small
spider seen 15 feet away (a small change) is not as scary as a large
one suddenly only 6 inches away. Likewise, if economic conditions in
the 1990's changed radically and returned to 1935 standards, our
national feelings of crisis would be much greater than they were during
the middle of the Great Depression. Where the change is greatest, the