By: Dr. Andrea Seldomridge
I like to think about the ways we think about emotions. Emotions are often labeled as good or bad, positive or negative. Instead of seeing emotions as this good and bad dichotomy, I like to refer to them as pleasant or unpleasant. This helps remove the idea that there are certain emotions that should be avoided, but rather, some just aren’t our favorite to feel. There is so much value to these unpleasant emotions too! They serve a variety of purposes and are so necessary to being a human. Dr. Marsha Linehan is a clinical psychologist who has done a significant amount of research on the functions and myths about emotions. There are several emotion myths (such as emotions being bad), but before I share those, I think it is important to understand the functions of emotions.
They motivate us for action. Emotions push us to do things. For example, anxiety might help push a student to finish their assignment. Anxiety itself here isn’t “bad”, rather it just helps the student get things done. If we feel happy while doing something, such as feeling happy when exercising, it encourages us to engage in the activity more.
They communicate something to others. Emotions result in facial expressions which can communicate a lot to someone in a very short amount of time, such as giving a smile or furrowing a brow.
They communicate something to ourselves. For example, fear can clue us in that the situation we are in is not safe.
Emotions are so important! They are constantly motivating us to action and communicating things to ourselves and others throughout the day. As I mentioned above, there are various myths about emotions that tend to cloud their importance. Below are some of the most common myths of emotions Dr. Linehan has written on.
Instead of viewing emotions as things that should be suppressed, I would encourage you to embrace them and be curious about them. I hope you are able to see the importance of emotions and ways they are part of what makes us human. To learn more about Dr. Linehan’s work, you can check out her DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets manual. You can also learn more about Dr. Linehan’s story and her development of Dialectical Behavior Therapy in her memoir Building a Life Worth Living.
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