101 ADD Strategies: #87, #88 – Regulating Emotions
#87 Reframe It
Our emotions are based on a perceived set of circumstances and events. I use the word perceived because it is impossible for us to see circumstances and events as they really are. Our brain stores our version of the situation along with the emotions we attached to it. Sometimes the only way we can change the emotions attached to this chunk of memory or change its intensity is to take it out and reframe it.
To do this you have to recall the situation in as much detail as possible; play it back in your mind from start to finish. Then when it is fresh in your working memory play it again. This time add some dimension to it that changes or defuses the emotion it holds.
Use as an example a situation at school where some kids were making fun of you. That could cause feelings of embarrassment and anger. Run through the situation in your mind, then back it up and run through it again. This time put clown faces on the kids that were making fun of you. After all, they were probably just showing off and that’s what clowns do. Also picture the other people who were watching and laughing as puppy dogs. Pick one up and pet it. Add whatever else you want to the new recording of the event. Notice how as you add those modifications your emotions about the experience start to subside. That memory will never affect you in that same way again.
Use your imagination to deal with run away or intense emotions by changing the cause of those emotions to something laughable and benign.
#88 Talk It Through
Perhaps more than any of the strategies in this book, the strategies for managing emotions requires help. At the time the emotion is raging in your mind, you may not be able to think clearly enough to apply any strategy on your own. If that is true, you will need to talk through the situation with someone else.
Your emotions can teach you who you are and what you need, but they are not the best counselor when it comes to knowing what to do. If acting on your emotions has caused some unpleasant consequences in the past, you need to delay action until you have a chance to consult a friend, spouse, parent, coach, or even a therapist. Find someone who is not feeling that emotion to help you formulate your response to it.
Once you have talked it through with others a few times, you may be better at talking it through with yourself. You may have established enough of a pattern of behavior to repeat the responses that have had a positive result in similar situations. If you use those patterns consistently over time, they will become a conditioned, even reflexive response to an emotional situation.