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Emotional Cousins

Emotional Cousins

Often, I tell my clients about the five emotions that act like cousins as they come in groups:

  1. Fear – Often this emotion is difficult to identify or to acknowledge. There is an old expression that states, “Big boys don’t cry”.   Those with a military background are hesitant to show weakness and despite the traumatic experiences they have had, usually don’t even want to talk about how afraid they were. 

Some people are afraid that they won’t be liked or loved.   They let fear walk them into horrible circumstances where their needs are sacrificed.   Others are afraid to start something new in case they fail or look foolish.

  1. Control – Unfortunately, control is deceptive especially when we think that we can control things or people to ensure a desired outcome. Wrong!   There are some things that we can control but these are limited to our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
  1. Perfectionism – It is acceptable to make mistakes! That is part of being human.  Those who strive to be perfect are often trapped in a set of standards that they have created for themselves.   They think that certain things have to be done in a certain timeframe and lose the ability to show forgiveness and grace to themselves and others. 
  1. Worry – Years ago I had a client who said, “Worry is praying to the devil”. That surprised me but, at the same time I could see how it made sense to her.   Those who are chronic worriers often suffer physical problems such as ulcers, heart problems and migraines.   They tend to focus on difficulties or troubles over which they have no power, and their worry is therefore ineffective but draining.
  1. Anxiety – This is a natural response to stress which can be rational or irrational. For example, stress associated with going to a job interview, giving a speech or meeting someone new is rational.   On the other hand, when you find yourself frequently saying “What if…….?”  You might find that your anxiety is totally irrational. 

There are several things that you can do to deal with these five cousins:

  1. Limit substances such as alcohol, caffeine and drugs.
  2. Have a regular bedtime routine and get enough rest.  You might find that a weighted blanket helps.
  3. Ensure that you regularly intake nutritious foods and water every day.
  4. Exercise to get your natural endorphins activated (pain reducers and mood stabilizers)
  5. Take a time out and practice your self-talk (say what you want).
  6. Take deep breaths to slow down your mind and body.
  7. Count slowly to 10 (or 100) before responding to difficult situations or thoughts.
  8. Treat yourself as kindly as you would a good friend.

Just like in any family, each of these cousins has unique traits and ways of showing in our lives.   The good news is that you have the ability to deal with each of them.   Become good at being aware of their presence and implementing positive strategies and soon they will know that you are in charge – not them!

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About the Author

Dr. Hancock has written a regular weekly column entitled “All Psyched Up” for newspapers in two Canadian provinces for more than a dozen years...