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Why Do We Have Emotions?

14: Why Do We Have Emotions?

Many sensitive people have wished at times that they could just get rid of their emotions. They may try to dampen, suppress, or deny emotions. Although these efforts may work partially, at least in the short-term, they never really work in the long term. Plus, often the things sensitive people may turn to in order to lessen the sting of painful emotions, such as addictive or impulsive behaviors, create additional problems. 

In this episode, Marielle and Ed talk about the purpose of emotions and things that make it hard to regulate them. They talk about how emotions send a message to ourselves, letting us know that there is something we need to pay attention to. Emotional expression is also a powerful communicator to other people, whether we like it or not. Emotions move us to take action when we need to. Without emotions, we wouldn’t run from tigers, tend to a sick child, or fall in love. 

Show Highlights:

  • Emotions motivate us to take action quickly when we need to
  • Emotions keep us connected to others; they motivate behavior that is good for the “tribe”
  • Emotions can be infectious or contagious
  • Body language and tone of voice also communicate our emotions to others
  • Emotions may be based on assumptions rather than facts
  • When anger is really strong, it tells us that someone or something has gone past our limits
  • Anger can feel very self-righteous at times
  • Anger might fit the facts but expressing it may or may not be effective
  • So much of the work with emotions is about slowing down
  • Some people feel like they don’t have a right to express anger
  • Our relationship to anger can be very gendered
  • Anger is one of the few emotions that men are typically allowed to have
  • Men are often socialized to not feel fear or sadness
  • Women are often socialized to not express or even feel anger
  • Class, race, gender, and sexual orientation can influence which emotions are ok to express publicly and how they are expressed
  • The different factors that make it hard to regulate emotions
  • Some people just feel emotions more strongly than others
  • Things like lack of sleep, being sick or not eating enough can make it harder to regulate emotions
  • Telling someone to “just get over it” doesn’t help
  • Sometimes our expressions of intense emotions get reinforced
  • Moodiness also gets in the way of being able to regulate emotions, meaning that your current mood dictates what you do (rather than your wise mind)
  • Mood-dependent behavior can take us out of line with our goals and values
  • It takes willingness and effort to work on regulating emotions

Links & Resources

To learn more about DBT and therapy in general, read our blog.

DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition

Would you like to ask a question and have the chance for it to be answered on the podcast? If so, please use this form. Please note that asking a question and this podcast in general is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individual mental health treatment.