Why Feelings Can Be A Force To Be Reckoned With
Have you ever wondered why it seems some people react quicker than other people? Maybe you recognize that this is a problem for you. Or have you ever noticed it seems to take longer to calm back down than you have seen others do? Have you struggled with anger, or even rage? Are you more fearful than others around you or do you feel sad much of the time? Have you used unhealthy methods of coping with your feelings, such as substance abuse, self-harm (like cutting or burning) or other addictive behavior? Have you thought, “I just want to be normal?” Do you just want to enjoy life again?
Get Me Off This Ride!
Well, that is exactly the way I used to think. My emotions seemed to go up and down like a roller coaster, and whoever seemed to be at the controls (because I certainly didn’t think it was me!) didn’t seem to care what I wanted to feel like. Thankfully, I figured out where the handbrake was located and started using it (Hint: It was in my brain). In this four-part series, I’ll talk about what makes those of us with feelings that seem “over the top” feel and act the way we do. In this first post, let’s talk a little bit about the brain.
What Does My Brain Have To Do With Anything?
Some individuals are born with highly reactive emotional brains. Because of genetics or something that happens in the womb during pregnancy, we may be born as highly sensitive children.
I was one of those kids. Shy, fearful…I wouldn’t even venture out to play with my classmates. I hung on my kindergarten teacher’s skirts as if my life depended on it. For some reason, my brain was always telling me that I was in a dangerous situation. I didn’t seem to have a whole lot of resiliency.
Once that fear response was activated in my brain, it took a long time to calm down again. Someone else may calm as soon as they see there is no danger but I walked around in a state of high arousal for much of the time. Saber-toothed tigers lurked around every corner.
Due to neglect and traumatic events in my own life, my emotional responses quickly spiraled out of control. What has happened in your life? Genetics? A difficult childhood? Both? If so, can we do anything to change the way we react to our own emotions? Can we build a life worth living?
So Can We Reckon With Our Own Brains?
Yes! Science now tells us that the brain can be changed. Through something called neuroplasticity, we can actually cooperate with our brain to increase resiliency and stop playing second fiddle to our own emotions. According to authors Richard J. Davidson and Sharon Begley, using meditation or mindfulness, and cognitive behavior therapy can improve positive emotions and build greater resiliency. Dialectical Behavior Therapy, with its focus on mindfulness and becoming more aware of connections between thoughts and emotions, may be just the ticket to help bring about a greater control of out of control feelings. We can build skills and feel better.
This site is dedicated to providing you with information and tools to help you do just that. Stay tuned as I turn our attention to the areas in our lives that out of control emotions can affect, and how DBT can target each area.
To read the complete article by Davidson and Begley in Newsweek Magazine, go to The Daily Beast online at (Click here).