Emotions and behaviors go together. Feel fear, take flight. Feel angry, put up a fight. This works great to regulate our emotions when our emotions are justified. The cycle is complete and we come back to a balance. But, what do we do when we feel an emotion like fear, and there is no threat? What if our bodies don’t know how to let go of that fear and therefore become unregulated again? At those times, try to help balance emotional control by calling on the opposite behavior to flight.
So, instead of running away, maybe you stay put? Maybe you try to become more familiar with your surroundings? Or, maybe you watch a comedy and laugh really hard to force yourself into another emotion? Now, you have regulated your body again and have worked through the fear.
Next time you are stuck with an emotion that is not justified, pause and think of what the opposite behavior would be to that emotion. Then, act on that. That little shift in behavior should help your emotional control and you feel better.
For more information or tips on DBT skills, coping skills or emotional health, contact the Healthy Futures team today.
Dr. Kim (Lipsman) DiRé: Hi, my name is Kim Lipsman. Today, I’m going to talk to you about opposite emotion to action. What does that mean?
Well, we know that emotion and behavior are connected. When you’re feeling an emotion, we have a certain behavior that comes with it. For example, if you feel fearful, the action that usually goes with that is to run away. If we feel angry, the action to that, that’s connected, is to fight.
Well, sometimes that emotion is real justifiable. It really means we need to run away if a car’s coming towards us and we’re scared, or we need to really get in there and fight for ourselves and so we’re going debate or take action in order to advocate for ourselves.
Sometimes, the emotion is unjustifiable, and there really isn’t a pure threat that we can distinguish. When that happens, we want to make sure that we move to an action that’s going to be helpful for us. If we have an unjustifiable fear or emotion, then we want to move to a different behavior. If you’re feeling fearful — you’ve checked it out, there’s nothing scary around — now we want to work with that in opposite action.
Well, what’s the difference between running away, what’s the opposite of that? Ahh, staying put and maybe orienting to our surroundings, or turning on a comedy and laughing really hard, or watching a thriller movie that scares us into a different feeling or emotion.
Once we’re able to use opposite behavior to shift through an emotion that we’re feeling, then we’re able to regulate our emotions in a way that’s going to be really helpful for us.
Next time you feel something and you check out to see that it’s really not justifiable, but we want to shift it, try doing an opposite behavior and see what happens.