Changing your Emotional Response
Many people approach DBT seeking to control their emotions, but the fact is that emotions are not always controllable. This is why we learn to observe, describe and name our emotions, so we can change the way we react to them rather than trying to control the emotions.
Reappraisal is where we reframe the event or situation, to help us weaken the power of our emotional responses. For example, imagine you failed an exam.
Your first thought may be
“I failed this test. I’ll never get a good job without this qualification. I am worthless.”
Reappraisal means we can look at this differently. Instead, we can think:
“It’s only one test. Lots of people fail and retake tests. I can study more and retake the exam. I can get some help from the tutor.”
As with most skills, it takes time and practice to make this a habit but it’s a good skill to take forward, and will help you to reappraise and reframe difficult situations in the future.
This approach involves us creating the opposite emotion, counteracting the original negative one. When we are angry, we may lash out with negative comments to the other party – you are a terrible friend, you always treat me badly, you have no respect for me.
If we pause a moment to acknowledge these emotions, we can then take the opposite action and tell the other person – you’ve always been there for me, I love you, thank you for being there when I need you the most.
We all know that the emotions we feel influence the actions we take, but we also need to realise that the actions we take influence the emotions we feel. Let’s say for example we go for a walk on a rainy day and then go for a walk on a sunny day. Our emotions are likely to be different on each walk, and the action we took (which day we chose to walk), influenced how we felt on that walk.
That’s the goal of opposite action, to flip the emotion on its head and change the emotion by changing the action.