Emotional Differentiation is the ability to effectively manage multiple emotions at the same time in an attempt to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Many human emotions conflict with each other and managing them can sometimes be referred to as mindfulness. In our society we label everything just think of the milk aisle in your local supermarket. We label the full fat milk from the soy substitutes to satiate specific dietary restrictions. So, ask yourself why don’t we do this with our emotions?
Using this strategy to manage our emotions can dramatically reduce the formation of negative thought processes which drag us down. If we compartmentalize our emotions we are able to deal with each in an isolated fashion to be able to assess whether they are linked to our current climate or some deeper emotion linked to prior or future concerns. Identifying that the only way we can experience emotion and its full impact on our present feelings and reactions is to address the present emotion. There is little that can be resolved for past emotions except to label them and recognize we have the power in the presence to alter their impact in the present moment or to learn from the situations which caused these emotions. As for future emotions we can manage them by identifying how the landscape outside of our inner self can dramatically drive the outcomes. So, there is little validity in assessing the outcome beyond identification of the emotion and looking at both positive and negative outcomes.
In order to assess emotions, we like to use emotional journaling to compartmentalize the emotions into categories past, present and future. This allows us to observe their impact on our present thoughts and feelings through a more focused lens giving us the ability to deal with the most critical aspects of our emotions. This approach empowers us with the ability to address present concerns enabling us to cope and function on a daily basis.
We may be experiencing an emotion that has no link to our current circumstances such as loneliness. Maybe we had a hard time fitting in during those formative years, so a co-worker not including us in a meeting allows those feelings to bubble to the surface. There is no way your co-worker could have known how this would affect you or any facts that confirm them intentionally leaving you out. Therefore, this isn’t based on fact it is based on old programing of your emotions. We cannot change the past but recognizing the link to our past allows us to move past the emotion and not hold others accountable for our current feelings. It also empowers us with answers to why we may react to certain situations differently than others allowing us to self-validate our own feelings.
Here is another example say you are feeling emptiness and cannot seem to link it to your past but you’ve recently lost a loved one or ended a relationship. When we look at that emptiness due to loss we can address it as it is currently active in our scope. So, we can recall positive memories about this individual to lessen the pain of that loss. Flip through photos and select one to place in a spot in our home alongside a candle in memory of them. This would allow us to repeatedly experience that emotion but place a more positive scope upon the feeling of emptiness through their presence in a memorial.
The emotions linked to our future can be explored to better understand our ability to pivot if things don’t work out as planned. In this we need to realistically manage what we have the ability to influence. There is a certain level of expectations which we need to address to ensure we are not setting ourselves up for disappointment. Let’s say you’ve set a goal to save enough money to celebrate a milestone birthday abroad. Recognizing the number of emotional reactions to the attainment or non-attainment of this goal is an important step. The what if’s that keep many anxiety sufferers awake at night. Accessing the positive and negative outcomes that are possible in that goal will afford us the resiliency to overcome disappointment or celebrate our gratitude for the work put into making our plan a reality. This approach also allows us the ability to effectively manage the areas we can choose to allow outside sources to influence our emotional landscape. Some things are simply outside our scope of influence and it is important that we don’t take ownership of those factors.
Emotional differentiation can be a difficult process for individuals who struggle with some specific mental illnesses ongoing research is being done in this area to further understand these obstacles. Accessing the words, you use to describe your feelings is a great start to beginning to explore your emotions. We encourage you to begin to navigate your own emotional scope via journaling and self-reflection. If you require guidance on this process feel free to schedule a remote self-discovery session at SuburbZen.com so we can get you started on this journey.