The persecutor and the fugitive – relationship games

Our relationships are very important in a point of view of health, like mentally, emotionally and physically being healthy. The quality of our relationships influences us very strongly, like a very good relationship can be therapeutically effective, where we can trust and rely on somebody and can get an objective feedback, like a mirror. In a good relationship we are able to change. However often happens that the relationship what we have doesn’t provide too much happiness, joy or security.

The emotional availability and response is surpassingly important in a relationship. If our search for closeness is not satisfied properly, desperation, anger and negative behaviour spiral can appear which can cause endless arguments.

The established emotional bonding in early childhood affects how we react to emotional insecurity. The adult emotional bonding can become hyperactive when we look for contact exaggeratedly, becoming clingy, questioning our partner or becoming aggressive and over-controlling. The emotional bonding can become deactivated as well. In this case we run away, stepping out from those situations when our partner would recall our needs and we try to push away our own needs. Often this two occurrences is visible on two people who are together as a couple. One of them is persecuting and the other is running away.

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Unsolved conflicts (swept under the carpet) can freeze the relationship.

If we look behind this dynamic we can see how lonely these two people are and they experience the same insufficiencies but they cope with it on a different way. When a problem or insecurity appears in a relationship, fear and insecurity feeling are switched on which can freeze the relationship completely. These buttons can get activated by a real negative experience or by a real or fictive danger which is threatening our relationship. The persecutor can afraid of becoming abandoned and the fugitive can afraid of becoming refused. Behind the arguments and misunderstandings there are untold questions like – Can I trust you? Do you stand by me? Am I important to you? Do you accept and respect me?

In this persecutor-fugitive relationship the best what we can do (if we don’t ask professional help) is to call deeper emotional levels because just in this way we can see our partner on a more empathic way and can recognize our own and our partner’s emotional needs. Often not enough to improve our communication skills to dissolve these type of games (child-parent game; persecutor-fugitive; victim-savior etc.)

The first step is always recognition, like observing our relationship if it’s balanced or not. Are we on the same level or you act like a parent and I obey as a child? Am I too needy or are you unavailable always?

The key of a happy relationship is always about balance.

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Complaint – When does it become destructive?

Can you recall a situation when you had to listen somebody’s complaint in the last few days? Or you just got into a negative spiral and saw everything negatively? Time by time we all tend to see negatively everything and express it. It’s a good feeling to send forth our sadness, disappointments and hurt. However there is a point where from the continuous complaint can become destructive. Absolutely an unaffected reflex that if we experienced something unpleasant we would try to share that with somebody to easy the caused tension. If we complained to somebody about our problem, that would cause a temporary relief but by itself just rarely helps to find the solution. Always nice to tell to somebody what hurts because it’s kind of a tool to process negative experiences but also has different meaning when we talk about complaint as an attitude. Complaint is mainly autotelic, nothing happens, nothing is going to change by its effect and what is worse it has a negative effect on people around and also strengthen the negative emotions in the person who is complaining.

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Shades of complaint

There are different communication forms and levels of our offences.

  1. Notorious lamentation: They are the permanent malcontents, they are always able to find a negative focus or negative point, doesn’t matter who with or what they are talking about. It’s not so difficult because people are not perfect and we always can find what we don’t like in something or somebody if we make an effort looking for it. But these people actually don’t have problems with the others, generally they are unsatisfied with themselves but it’s not easy to recognize and admit it.
  2. Who look for a cover: These people are like asking something from us but not even waiting for our answer launching his/her own complaint. They try to release a strong internal tension, so they start a conversation with others just looking for a cover for ventilation. The topic of their complaints mainly are the same and the repetitive worry doesn’t give any relief rather strengthen their anxiety.
  3. Who look for confirmation: In this case the aim of the complaint is looking for confirmation from others about a planned idea or something what they have done. They try to become more confident by external feedbacks and confirmations. They use complaints to get support, understanding and confirmation by other people around. They look for the most empathic people who listen and encourage them.

The main reason of complaint often is not about the subject itself, mostly it comes from the dissatisfaction with ourselves.

In the background

The basic characteristic of destructive complaints is it has become part of the behaviour, has become a habit. The focus of our perception is on the negative sides and in the meantime our schemas of experience are becoming fixed, so we concentrate on how that particular situation is so bad. The motive behind complaint – mainly the notorious form – is exaggerated self-centrism. In this case we see the world just from our point of view and that’s why we are able to understand people’s action and happening just from our standpoint. Chronic complaints always connect with distortion of the understanding the relation between the self and the world and we are not able to interpret properly the connection between them. This improper interpretation can cause a strong internal tension and dissatisfaction. The expression of the dissatisfaction can trend towards the outside world however in the background there is the dissatisfaction with ourselves mainly. This ambivalence can cause unbalanced self-image and doubtful negative self-estimation. In this case we experience our complaints well established. We feel that the world is hostile and we are unsuccessful and tied.

If we “practice” this habit for a while and we get use to it and later we can get stuck in it. If the aim was to get other’s sympathy consciously or subconsciously till now, we would become timid and sceptic with ourselves. Our self-confidence and initiative can decrease and we can feel more and more helplessness, become depressed and less motivated. As a result our performance declines, we can become unsuccessful in real. We can invest so much energy into complaints which can pay off unfortunately. What we were complaining about can become truth. This attitude also can change our brain because it has an effect on the connection between neurons. When we are complaining the cortisol (stress hormone) level is increasing in our body, which is increasing our blood pressure and the level of blood sugar. If we wiped out complaint from our communication channels, the flow of communication would be clear and we would find solution for our problem easier.

Instead of lamentation

To avoid lamentation we don’t need anything else, just to improve our self-knowledge and effective knowledge of reality. It’s a result of long time process and deliberate work. Some tips as a first step.

  1. Change the way you are speaking! For instance Instead of saying “I hate this, that or being like this or that…” Say “Would be very nice this or that…”
  2. Analyze the situation! What is exactly happened? Critical way of thinking!
  3. Action! What can I do to change the situation? Usually chronic complainers never reach the action step, they don’t even think there are things which can be changed.

If we become a target of a chronic complainer, which can be very exhausting, use positive communication. Like “What did go well today with you?”

The center of our complaints usually are automatic negative thoughts but if we can manage to be aware of them and making an effort to rephrase and break them down, we can get close to our goal. We also can start to keep a diary with positive things, which things went well or what positive things happened with us daily. Keeping a gratitude diary can also help and change our continuous dissatisfaction mood. It doesn’t need to be a diary but at least a short daily summary what we are grateful for. When we feel that we are slipping back to the negative thought spiral, just open your diary and see, positive things happen as well.

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5 elements of emotional intelligence

The duality of emotions and intellect is already has accepted as a fact nowadays and have got across on every area of our life. We understand more those emotional factors which come from our feelings and also we understand to listen to our intuitions is not a weakness but means having opened mindset and positive attitude. It seems like emotional intelligence is the same important factor as genetic characteristics and cognitive knowledge and experiences. If we were able to balance both we could have a great chance to have successful social relationships, successful carrier and deliberate completed life. Often we can see that somebody has great successes in business but the private or social life is weak and poor or the opposite. This can show the missing balance between intellect and emotional intelligence (like Steve Jobs). If the balance is missing we try to compensate but mainly on the wrong side, like working harder and pushing to have more and more success in business and this is exactly what most of the people do who are out of the balance between heart and mind. We should be aware of how our emotions are so important. Not so sure if we are always aware of what we feel and how our actual emotional condition influences our “working mode”, our mindset and our health and happiness.

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I’m sure we all have experienced that there are days when we feel today everything is going to be fine, there are no problems and everybody is nice at our working place. Maybe a small experience or feeling (which didn’t seem recognizable in that moment) triggered the process to feel this “easy going mode” (feeling satisfied, happy, believing in good, kindness etc.) This mode has given us a positive feeling and we are beaming. With this mode we influence others around and that’s why they are acting positively with us but also in this mode we don’t detect significantly negative signs. We have infected our environment with a positive “virus”. If we want to find out how somebody is good or bad or what this person is thinking in that moment, we can try to adjust our facial expression to that person’s and then wait for what kind of thoughts or feelings are coming up in our mind or in our heart. This exercise comes from Edgar Allan Poe writer from the XIX. century and it’s brilliant.

Why do we need to look into someone? Why do we need to understand and care about others? Why can’t we just live as we feel like it, alone and don’t carry about others?

Actually we can but we must consider its consequences which are we are alone, we are not going to be accepted by any community and become lonely and burned out. We are social animals! We can go on with a behaviour like not considering other’s feelings and thoughts and having friends but those people around will act on the same way as we do and the outcome is the same, being lonely but surrounded by people. This is a big epidemic phenomena nowadays. Surrounded by people but being lonely.

How do we know if somebody’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is high?

It has several component and including several outward forms. If we want to know how our EQ is or just want to know how its outward forms are I suggest you to map 5 areas which are;

– Relationships, communication: How are your relationships with other people? Do you communicate easily with them, honestly without playing? Do others usually understand you easily or you need to use long time explanations?

– Empathy – NOT SYMPATHY: Can you be empathic with others? Are you able to feel what they do like putting yourself into their shoes? Are you able to attune to others even when it’s not important to you?

– Self-identity, authenticity:  How is your self-confidence? Low or too high? Are you authentic? Showing and acting like the way you are and the way you think or/and feel? Does your self work according to your scale of values consequently?

– Adaptability: How can you adopt changes? How do you handle stress? Are you able to learn from your own mistakes?

– Creativity, positive attitude, openness: How creative are you? How positive your attitude is to take challenges? How is your problem solving management?

If we need to highlight one from these 5 areas, I would choose empathy. On the one side these knowledges, sensitivities and competencies are not able to be separated from each other strictly and on the other hand empathy is the base of the others.

Researches proved that just from body posture, body language and from mimicry we are able to sense each other’s mental condition. So if we want to attune to somebody, try to take over the other’s body expression, after the feeling is coming by itself.

Interesting thing is supposedly this kind of technique works immediately with negative feelings especially with anger. If it’s true we must consider that how our negative feelings and messages are harmful. Would be very good to see ourselves from outside and being able to perceive if another person is just attaching own negative mental condition to us. Just think how is your day when your boss is coming to work in a bad mood or your partner is angry? I’m not even talking about all of those negative news from the media. We must consider those attached negative feelings can have serious consequences.

The emotional intelligence is improvable, hundreds of books have been written about it, what it is, its necessity and how to improve it.

Try to pay attention to others emotional condition, what kind of feelings do you get from them? What do you radiate from yourself? Are you understanding other people and their emotions?

Do you believe in that if everybody improved on the area of empathy our world would be a better place?

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7 principals to have a stable and well-balanced relationship

John M. Gottman American clinical psychologist and relationship researcher has been studying this area since decades. He defined 7 principles to build up and maintain stable and well-balanced relationship. His main focus is to study dynamics of marriages and the transformation of them. According to his research results he is able to predict if the relationship is going to be stable or the partners are going to be separated. His principles also can help to prevent our relationship from breaking up.

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  1. Deep friendship

The ideal relationship is based on a deep, accepting and loving friendship. This feeling can be a kind of a stable base for the future development. If the attraction, sexuality and intimacy were based on this friendship the relationship would face and deal with difficult times easier. There are also critical communication characteristics and if they are used in conflicts, they can be a bad sign for the future development of the relationship. These communication characteristics are, critic, contempt, defense and building up walls. If we can see these communication characteristics are appearing, becoming used, that can show the frailness of the relationship, which also can show that the mutual strong respect – the friendship might have suffered a damage. The problem with using critics is it doesn’t tend towards the conflict, it’s aimed at our partner. Contempt is very destructive because its aim is to humiliate the partner, its message is that we don’t consider our husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend as our partner and equal anymore. With using defense the problem is that it’s a kind of covert counter-attack and usually just rouses the conflict. When we build up walls around us, when we don’t even consider to react on to our partner’s arguments that can make him/her to feel or think like we don’t have more energy or motivation to care of the relationship. According to experts these four communication elements are able to shake the relationship and worth to keep eye on it and to avoid or resolve them.

  1. Love map

Love map means a deep and detailed knowledge of our partner. The secret of the good relationship is to be able to “read” our partner’s small fleeting emotions. We must be curious without judgement to know our partner, discovering his/her vulnerabilities, negative and positive characteristics, desires and fears and goals. Very useful often just staying in silence and listen to our partner, just observing.

  1. Not just observing, also listening!

We must give time to attune to each other, like sharing our day with each other after a difficult day, being an active listener. When we listen and react curiously it has a kind of a reward emotional effect in our partner. Common experiences and rituals are able to strengthen our connection and deepen our relationship.

  1. Let it go!

Before we get into an argument, consider that is it really worth to get into a conflict or argument about it? Often we slip into disproportionate fights because of small things and also into those where there is no objective truth. For instance, our partner forgot to replace the empty toilet paper roll. Is it really the end of the world? To let things go is not a sign of being weak, it’s respecting the other’s rights and accepting the other on the way she/he is.

  1. Do if you can!

   Professor Gottman divided upcoming problems in the relationship for two groups. The first group includes all of the resolvable problems and conflicts. If we worked on those together that would strengthen the relation and increasing the satisfaction of a stable relationship. For instance if a conflict is becoming too harsh they are able to break off the argument when they are feeling that they are losing their temper. In this case can help if they share their feelings with each other, if they are able to apologize and showing their love. Here I must mention that, very important also to keep in mind that “we actually love each other” in difficult times or during an argument.

  1. Don’t want to change the partner!

There can be factors in a relationship which on there is no control of the other. This is the second group which includes the unsolvable problems. If a fundamental difference appears between a couple, where is impossible to find the common consensus, to maintain the relationship they must accept this difference and being able to see it from the partner’s point of view. Happy couples are able to build in each other’s goals into their common plans and supporting each other to reach them even if it requires sacrifices.

  1. Find common goals!

In a balanced stable relationship there is always a common principal, a central conception or value which connects the couple even deeper. To establish it, we can create own habits or traditions. If there is something which is important for two people in the relationship that has an incredible cementing force. Shared experiences and traditions can remind us of this force even if we are going through a difficult time period.

According to Professor Gottman a couple’s happiness mainly depends on if they are matched well or not. Not enough to learn and use effective communication or conflict management techniques. The essence of a long-lasting and satisfied relationship is based on if those two people are match well and depends on if they are able to care of their relationship well and accepting each other’s unsolvable differences.

 

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Emotional blackmail IV. – Aftermaths

Emotional blackmail is not life-threatening but overbalances our mental unity. This unity means I am who I’m; I believe this and this; this what I’m willing to do; these are my boundaries. Victims often give up their mental unity, they don’t stand up for themselves; they allow fears drive their life; they don’t oppose whom hurt them; and they allow others to define them how to act, think and feel; they betray themselves and others; they can’t protect their physical and mental health and they lie. They give up their beliefs, continuously get disappointed in themselves and loosing self-respect. But how is it possible that victims can’t see it?

Victims often use rationalization when they need to choose between their own scale of values and surrender. Finding justifications why must surrender because the victim doesn’t want to lose the important person-who is the autocrat. (Not to be confused with codependency) The highest price of emotional blackmail is the narrowed world of the victim. They lose their friends, their interests just to make the autocrat happy.

Also victims suffer a lot from feelings what they are not able to express freely. They dig them deeply which come up like depression, anxiety, overeating or chronic headaches or other physical pains. They often question themselves if they are allowed to feel certain emotions, mainly anger.

They betray themselves but they might don’t realize the fact, they often betray others as well just to avoid disapproval of the autocrat. Often victims feel they must choose between the autocrat and another important person or even a child.

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Emotional blackmail destroys security in the relationship, which means the trust and the good will is going to disappear. If these two things are missing the relationship becomes superficial, there is not going to be emotional openness. The victim loose trust and start to hide things and emotions and stop talking openly. They start to hide things from the autocrat, avoid topics to talk about as a protection. For instance: avoid to talk about mistakes; expressing sadness, fear or doubts; hopes, dreams, goals or fantasies; unhappy moments or time periods; everything which can prove that the victim changes and develops. The safe talk topic’s scopes get ever tighter and talks become more and more vapid.

When intimacy and security disappear from the relationship, mainly victims start to pretend. They pretend to be happy and not having any problems, not to be worried about things and pretend still loving that person who emotionally blackmailing them. Victims usually use so much energy to keep up appearances.

We can see to live together with an emotional blackmailer is not easy and the price is very high. But as always, there are solutions and available help as well to change it, it just requires a bit of courage.

If you could have recognized yourself as a victim of emotional blackmail, you must know that there is a way out, it doesn’t matter how hopeless and helpless you feel. You are the only one who is able to change your life! If you want to know more about emotional blackmail, I recommend you a book to read.

Susan Forward – Donna Frazier

Emotional Blackmail: When the people in your life use fear, obligation and guilt to manipulate you

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Relationship conflict spiral

Very often couples experience that situation when in the heat of the argument they keep repeating the same phrases and they can’t talk about the real problem, just repeating their own offenses and the other’s faults. How can we break this spiral?

After a while the pink cloud is gone in a relationship and that time appears when not everything is nice and loveable in a our partner. We are able to see our partner’s shortcomings and also we don’t pay that much attention to the style how we express our problems. To communicate our needs or desires is not a problem by itself but how we do it is crucial.

Conflict spiral

There are 4 typical ways how we obviate negative stress in a conflict. I’m sharing with you and explaining why it could have developed in this way and how you can react to it effectively, to improve the relationship instead of damage it.

  1. The blamer

“I don’t want to believe you can’t manage your time better!” There are people who react to the own negative emotional frustration with blaming attitude, blaming others. This person believes the other is the responsible for it, shifts the responsibility on the partner, and becomes angry what he/she works off on the partner. It doesn’t make the partner feeling better obviously and switching on a painful button and rolling over the conflict.

Why do we blame others instead of looking for our own responsibility for our negative state? It happens mainly in those families where the members learnt that expressing pain or negative feelings is not allowed because it was punished, denied, ignored or minimized. The child learnt that: don’t show your vulnerability because they will not understand it anyway.

How can we react effectively to offenses from a blaming partner? Help the partner to express what caused the negative feelings, let him/her talk about the negative feeling itself and encouraging to find the own role in the situation instead of blaming others or highlighting others’ faults. Pointing the finger, never helps.

  1. The conciliator

“No problem, it can happen!” This attitude can result stuck conflicts if someone very often react to uncomfortable situations with attempting to calm the partner with not expressing own needs. This person is so much afraid of the possibility of hurting the partner (can happen) and to avoid that withdrawing instead of taking confrontation.

The background of this attitude usually is to express anger openly was not acceptable in the origin family. Children try to be adaptive so they learn to hide negative emotions even if this kind of coping style is not healthy at all.

If our partner is this type try to encourage him/her to express negative feelings and to phrase needs with more confidence.

  1. Mechanical

“This is not logical!” Also a typical conflict management strategy is to handle conflicts without emotions just with rational logical mindset. In this case one side tries to handle own frustration with lack of information and logical arguments which can be very annoying to the partner, especially if the partner is very emotional. I used to say, emotions are on ice, keeping the strong, often unhealthy emotional control.

The dominant feeling in the background of this strategy is fear. Fear of sharing feelings which can make the person vulnerable in front of another. Often even their voice becomes cold, rigid and the communication is very objective which can often cause a rejection feeling in the partner. The experience of listening and understanding of emotions was missing in their origin family. They missed deep emotional closeness and in setting up intimacy they struggle with lack of confidence.

If we use this strategy, the solution is to try to be (more) empathic, putting ourselves into the partner’s shoes and trying to see and understand his/her point of view and discuss if our perception is correct or not.

If your partner uses this strategy, try to express how your emotions are important as well to you not just the facts and try to express what you feel with using examples.

  1. Changing the conversation

“If you knew how the new neighbour is so annoying!” People who change the conversation when they experience emotional distress sometimes change the discussion with using irrelevant topics. They keep a big distance from their own emotions and they have difficulties to attune to others that’s why it’s difficult to establish emotional intimacy with them.

 Who uses this strategy physically experiences anxiety, can show nervous or panicking symptoms. The feelings behind are loneliness and incompetency what this person can’t deal with. In a situation with emotional pressure they try to change the topic and the conversation or using manipulation, including using several destructive tactics, like aggression or making the partner to feel guilty.

Worth to assure the partner (who uses this strategy) that she/he is safe with us, problems can be discussed and solved together. Instead of using manipulative techniques, we can ask to use opened expression of needs because this way of solution can improve the intimacy and the feeling of being an ally, exactly what our partner misses and running away from.

How can we stop the conflict spiral?

When we are able to recognize our own and our partner’s typical reactions and able to understand the emotional motivation in the background, we can find solutions to set up constructive discussions in a conflict. We can intensify the trust and the relationship, also we can improve our belief, that we are able to maintain a working relationship with healthy and constructive dynamics.

Very important to recognize and understand first our own conflict management techniques in the beginning of the relationship. Love is a connecting link, a helping force to make clear misunderstandings or destructively used conflict management techniques and it’s better to do it before the passionate love is gone and having “grey” everyday life.

Worth to choose the understanding way what with we know and accept our partner’s background motivations. Help our partner to understand his/her own reaction to anger, anxiety, pain and fear. Also important to make our partner to know and understand how it influences us, how we feel. With this technique the emotional closeness improves. The way out from conflict spiral is; real understanding, acceptance and intimacy.

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Emotional regulation – advices for regulating our emotions

The essence of regulating emotions is to control/regulate behavioral reactions for our emotional situation. Most of the people already in kindergarten age are able to reflect consciously for different emotions and they know which they would like to express and which ones don’t. However nobody teaches us which emotional regulation techniques/methods are advantageous or disadvantageous.

In some situations we do everything to express, prolong and intensify different emotions of course depending on if they are negative or positive emotions. For instance when we have a good time with our friends we try to prolong to end it and leave. Or when we are a disappointed customer we try to maintain our anger to complain.

In other cases we try to make blunt or destroy our emotions. Like if we got into a university but our best friend didn’t, we try to make blunt our happiness in front of our friend. Most of us try to get rid of negative emotions (sadness, frustration) to feel better and not being a “problem” to someone else. Sometimes we make an effort to maintain or stop negative emotions but the main question is how we do it?

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We are able to keep our emotional reactions under mental control on a several different ways. For instance: if we become very angry or upset with our partner after an argument, we can try to cool down our mind simply with focusing onto another more positive thing, like a good book. It’s called distraction. We also can try to re-evaluate the situation, using a more objective view on it or finally trying to discuss in detail with our partner, we might be able to resolve the conflict together.

These techniques can be used together and also make sense if we use these techniques step by step. Might be the best strategy to use distraction as long as we feel angry and just after cooling down re-evaluate the situation and after have a discussion in detail with our partner to find solution. To choose our emotional regulation methods is not always conscious but our affective answers are intuitive and automatic.

What is the consequence to use each emotion regulation strategy?

Let’s suppose that, our grandmother gives us a very old style pullover but made by her for our birthday. She is able to detect if we are happy about the gift or not by checking reactions on our face. So we can try to control our emotion like hiding our disappointment or dislike with a smile (suppression). There is also another method as well, re-evaluating the original situation, re-interpret and change it. Like as our parents said all the time “Not the gift, the intention is important!” and according to this we can re-evaluate the situation reminding ourselves that, not so common to get a handmade gift, and also she made so much effort and spent time to make this pullover. After this short internal monologue our smile on our face is going to be more honest and not feigned. There is a way to be happy about an old-stylish pullover and not hurting our grandmother’s feeling. This is called re-framing technique.

Of course both of these methods is going to make our grandmother feeling satisfied about the success of the gift but the forced facial expression can make us uncomfortable and this uncomfortable feeling appears not just in the suppressive person, also in another. However the re-framing technique has not this “psychological price” because we don’t suppress our emotional but transform it. Some research results suggest that there is a price to be paid for suppressing our facial expression in our cognitive processes.

Re-interpret those situations which produce actual emotions is called deep acting seems/is a better solution than superficially manipulating our mimicking which called surface acting. In a short term distraction also seems better than chaffing about the situation. Chaffing forces us to re-think our negative emotion’s preliminaries and consequences continuously but watching a good movie or doing physical training for instance can calm down our negative whirling emotions. After eliminating the uncomfortable condition, solving the problem calmly can be more successful.

And you? How is your emotional regulation? Are you able to control and properly handling them? If you would like to get closer to yourself, to your desires and to your emotions, I have a good news for you. It’s learnable and available.

Source: Smith, E. E., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Fredrickson, B. L., & Loftus, G. R. (2005). Atkinson & Hilgard Psychology.

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