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reactions to your reactions

Posted Dec 10 2009 9:27am
What so many of you guys experience is two parts to a reaction.

First, there's whatever feeling arrises in response to whatever's happening at the moment. Then, there's your reaction to whatever feeling just arose.

I have a client whose just famous for this. She'll be sitting in my office and she'll experience some emotion in response to something we're talking about. Virtually instantaneously she's off and running with a discussion in her head that goes something like this: is this feeling a "good" or "bad" feeling? am I a good person if I feel it? Should I try to make it go away? Is it my fault I'm having this feeling? Is this emotion "appropriate" for the situation?

And on and on it goes. She gets so worked up and anxious with this discussion that she can hardly stand it. That's a problem in and of itself, because it's hard on her to be that anxious. But what makes it much worse and more complicated for her is that she then identifies all this anxiety with whatever feeling she had in the first place. Pretty much no matter what feeling it was that initiated this anxiety-provoking monologue is now associated with intense anxiety and angst. It could have been "mild happiness" or "deep sadness" or "mid-level excitement" or "intense joy" or anything.... doesn't matter, it's now associated with huge anxiety and discomfort.

She and I are working hard to help her stop when the initial emotion arrises, and learn to just let it be- without going off into a difficult, complex discussion with herself about the emotion.

Worth thinking about, because I bet a lot of you guys can relate :)
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