I was anxious as a kid. To avoid my worries, I focused on schoolwork and after-school jobs. At that time, I had no idea my anxiety had meaning and there were things that I could learn about my mind and body that could help me diminish the anxiety I felt in the long term.
I was almost 40 years old before I first came across the Change Triangle. This tool and map for healing was something I learned in my training to become an AEDP psychotherapist. AEDP, or accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy, is an empirically-validated, healing-oriented, emotion-centered, trauma-informed method grounded in the latest neuroscience. Personally, the Change Triangle helped me organize my mind, which helped me feel less weird and "crazy." I finally learned to use my emotions the way nature intended,
Emotions are a part of everyone's daily experience. They are biological communications that need attention. I wish my parents had received an emotions education so they could have taught me important things to know about emotions when I was a teenager. Until recently however, there was no such thing as "emotions education" so I give my parents a pass. Nevertheless, a basic education in emotions would have helped me navigate some of my suffering and insecurity and empower me to feel better. I am now passionate about sharing the Change Triangle with others along with practical stories that show exactly how it is used to improve the way we feel.
5 Things About Emotions I Wish My Parents Had Explicitly Told Me
You’re not weak for having emotions, your brain and body are working correctly. Emotions are a fact of being human. All people, men, women, and every gender are wired for anger, sadness, fear, disgust, joy, excitement, and sexual excitement. It’s when we are judged, shamed, or abandoned for our core emotions that we start to feel chronically anxious or depressed.
Emotions make us feel alive. Our thoughts are flat. It’s emotions that give oomph and color to lives. Emotions are, above all, energetic experiences. They infuse us with vitality.
Emotions have strong impulses that are designed by nature to make us move. Emotions make our bodies react quickly to danger and pleasure, for survival advantages. For example, fear propels us to run; anger moves us to fight back to survive an attack. Disgust, with its gag reflex, causes us to expel something poisonous, protecting us from toxic food and (toxic people). Sadness moves us to seek comfort in others. Without excitement, what would propel us to explore new and unknown endeavors? Without sexual excitement, we probably wouldn’t be here. You get the picture.
Society teaches us to ignore, invalidate, judge, bury, and suppress emotions. And this is not right, not healthy, and makes no sense. When we block emotions and live only up in our head, we are depleted of vital energy that could be used for thriving. Furthermore, symptoms like anxiety, depression, and other diagnoses, like PTSD and personality disorders are caused by buried emotions. Even some physical ailments and pain are caused from buried emotions. In childhood, we must bury emotions to survive abuse and/or neglect. The mind and body figure out any way possible to avoid the internal pain caused by the sensations of blocked emotions in the mind and body.
We can learn to validate emotions and think through how best to use them. When I realized fear, sadness, excitement, and joy were hiding underneath my anxiety, it lowered my anxiety considerably. Dealing with core emotions is all about naming, validating them, and making space for them in our bodies. This doesn't mean we act on our emotions letting them loose on others without thinking. Once we are informed by the data that our emotions provide, we must use logic and reason to think through how best to communicate them to others. Often just processing them is the best use of an emotion.
Believe it or not, we can learn how to experience our emotions instead of blocking them. Demystifying emotions by learning about them jump-started my ability to validate and process them in my body. And that is what made me want to write It's Not Always Depression -- so others could have this empowering knowledge too.
The bottom line: there are skills we should all be learning to help us process, not bury emotions. We should demand emotions education for parents, teachers, and all so we can raise healthier generations to come.
Fosha, D. (2000). The Transforming Power of Affect: A Model for Accelerated Change. New York: Basic Books Hendel, H.J. (2018). It’s Not Always Depression: Working The Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions, and Connect to Your Authentic Self. New York: Random House