therapy, self-help groups, or with friends, is usually healthy (as
long as you share your emotions and don't just stick to the
objective facts, and as long as the listeners are supportive).
You may use your feelings as a barometer of your
relationships with others and your self-acceptance. Negative,
unwanted feelings are a sign that something needs to be
changed, that self-help is needed.
Now we will look at ways to take control of your emotions.
Methods for Changing Your Emotions
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.
First, don't forget that methods focusing on the behavior or
changing the environment (chapter 11) can also reduce an unpleasant
emotion, e.g. reduce your fear by putting better locks on the doors or
by avoiding someone you are mad at. Fears can also be reduced by
modeling someone who is less afraid than you are (see method #2 in
chapter 11). You can develop other behaviors that will counteract the
unwanted emotions, e.g. activity counteracts depression, assertion
counteracts anger, facing the fear counteracts it, relaxation
counteracts the hyperactivity of the workaholic, etc. Contrary to the
notion that "time heals," there is evidence, as discussed in chapter 5,
that fears, grief, memory of a trauma, etc. don't just fade away. These
feeling do decline if we repeatedly expose ourselves to the upsetting
situation or memory over and over again while relaxed or under less
stressful conditions (yet, becoming very distraught while talking to
friends about the "awful" situation doesn't usually help). However,
changing the consequences of a behavior can alter emotions also, e.g.
ask your friends to praise your healthy assertiveness and challenge
your mousy conformity.
Second, don't forget that our thoughts strongly influence our
emotions. And, since we can sometimes change our thoughts and
since psychology is in a "cognitive" era, there is great emphasis on
cognitive methods at this time. See chapter 14.
The methods here deal with basic raw emotions: anxiety or fears,
anger, and sadness. Of course, these same methods can be used on
the emotional part (level II) of any other problem. Passive-dependent
problems tend to be handled with cognitive-behavioral methods and