In the last blog on this topic I talked about how families differ in their handling of emotions. Parents are the primary role-models for how emotions are to be dealt with in family units. Children learn how to process their emotions by watching what their parents do (or do not do) with their own feelings.
In the same vein, there is a continuum for how emotions are expressed in family units. The continuum starts with families who talk little about emotions and ends with families who express most of their feelings but not always in healthy or helpful manners. An emotionally healthy family lies somewhere in the middle of this continuum.
When it comes to my family of origin, I would have to say I fall more towards the “not talking very much about feelings” end of the spectrum. Feelings were not considered bad; however, they weren’t often talked about. In my parents’ defense I think that was pretty normal for the time period in which I was raised. Nowadays, parents, children and people in general talk much more openly about their feelings and emotional health.
One thing I had to learn many years ago is that emotions (especially the ones that have a negative connotation) are not inherently bad. Emotions like anger, jealousy, sadness, frustration or nervousness are not intrinsically “bad,” though they can cause problems if not managed in healthy ways.
When it comes to emotions, an emotionally healthy individual is able to do a few things. First, s/he is able to identify and experience emotions as they come up. Second, s/he is able to process those emotions in healthy and helpful manners. Third, s/he is able to continue to fulfill his/her daily life roles even in periods of emotional distress.
This brings up my next point. If your emotions are interfering with your daily life roles (work, school, partnership, parenting, etc.) or damaging your interpersonal relationships, you are outside the healthy range of emotions. For example, if my beloved pet dies it is natural for me to experience feelings of sadness and grief. However, if I am so upset that I cannot get out of bed for several days and therefore miss work, I need emotional support. Another example is anger. If my partner does something to upset me it is normal for me to feel angry. However, if in anger I scream at my partner or throw something at him, I have stepped outside the healthy range of emotions. Furthermore, I would not be processing my emotions well.
In short, a healthy emotional range includes almost every emotion you can think of besides things like thoughts/feelings of hurting yourself or others—which you should seek help for IMMEDIATELY. A healthy emotional range means that you are able to identify and process your feelings in healthy ways and know when to seek extra support when you are unable to do so—BEFORE your emotions begin to disrupt your daily life roles. The idea is for you to feel competent to manage your emotions and understand how they connect to your thought life and your physical body. A trained therapist is essential for helping you learn more about these processes and connections.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to learn more about a healthy range of emotions and how to handle feelings well, a trained and seasoned Orlando psychotherapist can help you. She can provide the psychoeducation you need and teach you coping skills so that you can experience a healthy range of emotions in every life season. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.