#Askingforafriend: Act opposite to the emotion

By Mike Wallace
GCU Office of Student Care
#Askingforafriend

We all have been there.

There are times when we do not feel like doing something or there is intense dread to move forward because of a fear or negative experience.

Other times, it is hard to get motivated when we feel like doing something else or we are anxious about not knowing how things will turn out.

Maybe you want to lash out because of an injustice or feel slighted in some way (i.e., road rage). Past shame can stay with you to the point where it is hard to confront a situation that even slightly resembles a traumatic experience.  

Writing a term paper, doing a difficult chore, confronting a friend who hurt you, speaking in front of your peers, asking out that cute girl you just met at GCBC, having to go through the whole day with a coffee stain on your shirt when you are not able to change … I could go on, but I think you get my drift.

What all these scenarios have in common is they elicit emotions that can keep us paralyzed. These emotions/temperaments, such as fear (anxiety), anger, guilt and shame, are good because they serve a purpose. But when they become toxic or unproductive, we get into trouble. 

The good news here is that there is an effective coping tool: "Act opposite to the emotion." It is an element of dialectical behavioral therapy and is effective once you realize your ineffective emotions or temperaments.

Marsha Linehan, a founder of this approach, said that when a person’s emotions become unproductive and/or toxic, an action opposite to the energy is needed to obtain mental balance.

People realize when their emotions/temperaments are not working for them when they see patterns in their lives that are unproductive and are debilitating toward growth.

Act opposite examples:

When anger tells you to lash out, yell, hit or break something in the moment, act opposite: Take a deep breath, go for a walk or count to 10, but slow down to let your executive mind catch your emotion and temper that anger.

When shame is unjustified (distorted) and tells you to run or hide, act opposite and keep doing the behavior over and over and or stay in the situation until your negative thoughts abate. In other words, keep your stained shirt on – do not run from an embarrassing moment. Actors are told to just keep going if they miss a line or cue. Work through the shame; do not avoid it.

When fear is irrational and tells you to avoid the situation, act opposite and face the situation anyway – get on the plane, give the speech, ask her out …

When it is a temperament issue and your inner lazy man is calling, act opposite and take that first step toward the goal (start that paper, clean that first box in the attic, etc.).

The beauty of this skill is that once you take that first step, it gets easier as natural momentum kicks in. You feel better and stronger afterward.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/