Monthly Archives: May 2015

Making Sense of Emotions

Making Sense of Emotions

By: Angela Englander    May 22, 2015

            Primary emotions and secondary emotions are the two categories that emotions are often placed into. Primary emotions occur when the emotion you are feeling fits the situation you are in. Secondary emotions occur when the primary emotion is too scary or painful to experience or your experiences in life have conditioned you to supress or ignore one or more of your emotional experiences. Using the emotions chart for reference you can see what events and situations trigger which common emotions, what the emotion may influence you to do, and how to act opposite of that emotion to decrease its frequency and intensity.

The two most common secondary emotions are fear/anxiety and anger. Often a person will feel one of the two emotions on an ongoing basis or in intense bursts and will ignore or supress the other emotion. There are many approaches you can use to start working on creating a balance between the two emotions. One path is to accept and work to understand the emotion you have been pushing away and fighting against. For example, if you constantly ignore your anger and instead experience chronic anxiety you can reflect on what anger and anxiety mean to you. Perhaps you believe if you allow yourself to be angry when someone violates your boundaries you will lose control and all your past anger will come up and you will physically or verbally hurt someone you care about. On the other end of the spectrum you may constantly feel yourself becoming angry about relatively small experiences. You may also feel invulnerable, fearless, or that if you show people you are weak they will take advantage of you. The work on this you can begin to understand the meaning of fear and anxiety and how you can use that experience to make choices that help you keep yourself safe. You can also reflect on your experience of anger and see what role it plays in your life. Some people who experience chronic anger use this emotion to keep others away, keep themselves safe, feel tough, or to ensure no one is able to come close enough to hurt them.

Through understanding and reflecting on primary and secondary emotions you can understand your experience of emotions and work on finding your balance between all emotions.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to e-mail me at angela@waystowellbeing.ca

Thanks and have a wonderful emotionally balanced day

Emotions: Our Subconscious Language

Emotions: Our Subconscious Language

By: Angela Englander                                 May 17, 2015

Emotions are one of the most direct ways for our body and subconscious mind to communicate with us. These emotions give us information about our environment, our experience, and what is happening around us. These emotions also give us information based on past experiences, our morals, and our values.

There are two main categories of emotions, primary emotions and secondary emotions. Primary emotions occur in response to the present situation and tell us when we are in danger, when we have been hurt, when we are doing something that we enjoy, when someone has crossed our boundaries, or when we are motivated to achieve something or obtain something for ourselves. Secondary emotions may be present when the primary emotion feels too scary or painful for us to face. Anger and anxiety tend to be common secondary emotions people experience. These emotions show up and can lead people to feeling that they are “anxious people” or “angry people”. Anxiety can be experienced on an ongoing basis when a person has been in dangerous situations in the past or believes to be in danger if they do certain activities. Anger may show up on a regular basis for people who are afraid to admit or accept that they feel sad or scared. Anger may also show up when people have had their boundaries violated in the past and now they are acutely aware and guarded against people violating their boundaries again in the present.

Through using an emotions graph people can work towards identifying their emotions, figuring out what emotion may make sense in a given situation, and figuring out how to change their emotion if it is uncomfortable for them, decrease the intensity of an emotion, or increase the intensity of an emotion. On the Links and Resources page of this website an emotions chart will be available to you so that you can begin to get a better understanding of emotions and begin to gain some control over your emotions and feel more comfortable with the emotions you are experiencing. Working in partnership with your emotions will also allow you to make choices that incorporate both logical and emotion allowing you to make choices that are in line with your goals and priorities leading to a happier and healthier lifestyle.

If you have any comments or questions please feel free to e-mail me at angela@waystowellbeing.ca

All the best on your healing journey!

Trauma, The Nervous System, and Digestion

Trauma, the Nervous System, and Digestion

By: Angela Englander      April 24, 2015

The Effects of Trauma

            Following a traumatic experience some people may continue to feel that they are in danger, anxious, suspicious, on edge, or startle easily. Over the long term the person may experience sleep disturbances, appetite changes, sexual troubles, and problems concentrating. These symptoms are linked to the autonomic nervous system staying in a fight or flight mode due to traumatic hyper-arousal. This traumatic hyperarousal is created in a part of the brain called the limbic system which is located between the brain stem and cerebral cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for the flight or fight response when someone is in a dangerous and threatening situation. When this part of the brain is on high alert and the autonomic nervous system is staying active the brain is continuing to give the person the message that they are in danger and need to be on guard and ready to protect themselves. People experiencing this highly aware state may also continue to have episodes of the same physical symptoms they experienced during the trauma, for example they may have a fast heart rate, cold sweats, rapid breathing, be wary, anxious, and jumpy.

A Delicate Balance

The autonomic nervous system has two channels which normally function in a balance with one another, when one is active, the other is quite. These two channels are called the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is generally on when the person is excited, scared, or in a state of acute stress. The parasympathetic nervous system is often on when a person is relaxed, resting, or sleeping. When a traumatic experience happens the brain may send a message telling the two systems to turn on at the same time, in most people the sympathetic nervous system will turn off once the threat has passed but for people who continue on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic stress symptoms their brain never sends the signal that the threat has passed. The person may then continue to experience their trauma as if it continued to occur in the present moment instead of it having settled in their past as one might expect.

Digestion

Here is where digestion comes in. Your body’s digestive system works best in ‘rest and digest’ mode; when the sympathetic nervous system is activated and the parasympathetic system is deactivated. People are often advised not to eat in front of the television, to sit down while they eat, and to be aware of what they are eating. This is important because when you are focusing on what you are eating the brain can begin to send more digestive enzymes to your mouth and stomach helping break down the food into nutrients. When the food is not properly broken down in the mouth and stomach the entire digestive system is affected. This can lead to a number of digestive problems and inflammatory reactions.

Moving Forward

By learning some mindfulness techniques and finding support for your traumatic stress symptoms you can gain skills to help yourself out of your trauma and begin to feel more calm and at ease. As you learn mindfulness skills and distress tolerance skills you will learn how to quiet your mind and gain a better understanding of your emotions, your mind, your body, and the way all of these things interact and the meaning behind the different messages they are sending you.

If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me at angela@waystowellbeing.ca or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!    

Reference: Rothschild, B. (2000). The body remembers: The psychophysiology of trauma and trauma treatment. New York: Norton

Sanfilippo, D. (2012). Practical paleo: A customized approach to health and a whole-foods lifestyle. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing.