In my online DBT class, we talked about a few purposes of emotions and one of them was that emotions are our body’s way of communicating with us. In order to hear what our emotions are saying though we need to be open to listening and that is something I have only recently started doing and I didn’t even know it. If I want to skillfully regulate my emotions I need to know what they are and why they’re there. This tells me what to do next.
When I first started taking DBT we were learning the interpersonal effectiveness module. During this module, I challenged myself to wait a bit before I spoke when I became upset with someone or about something. By waiting a bit, I was able to think about what I wanted to say (DEAR MAN, GIVE, FAST) instead of immediately blurting out the first anger filled words to pop into my head. I have become better at this but until this past class I found myself just sitting with the feeling and wait until I calmed down to speak instead of looking at what feelings were making me feel like I wanted to say or do something nasty in the first place.
A few days ago I utilized this skill to investigate what emotions were behind some urges I was feeling. I uncovered that I wasn’t really angry (primary emotion) but that I was afraid, sad and felt hopeless (secondary emotions). Listening to these secondary emotions helped decrease the anger, allowed me formulate a better method of communication and gave me an opportunity for self-compassion (which I really need to work at).
I do suggest using a feeling wheel (which I have written about in the past) because sometimes, especially in the moment, we do not have the words to describe what we are feeling. By using this feeling wheel, I have found out that my anger is actually fear, sadness, resentment and frustration (depending on the situation) which changes my course of action when dealing with a situation.