Emotions can “strike” us in response to many events – a catastrophic illness, sudden job loss, political upheaval – and we may experience more long term “storm systems” with feelings such as chronic anxiety.
How can we respond to these kinds of strong feelings in healthy ways? It is a crucial question for physical and mental well-being, and for a successful creative life.
As Beverly Hills psychologist Cheryl Arutt, who works with actors and other artists, says:
“Learning how to regulate internal states, how and when to use self-soothing techniques, and how to know when we are actually safe — these are key to emotional well-being for anyone, but for artists, they are especially useful.”
One example is actor Nicole Kidman:
“You live with a lot of complicated emotions as an actor, and they whirl around you and create havoc at times. And yet, as an actor you’re consciously and unconsciously allowing that to happen…”
From my article Nicole Kidman on her rich inner life.
Emotional intelligence involves being more conscious of our emotions, and more able to deal with emotional stress.
Can we learn to be better at how to deal with our emotions?
Therapist Sheri Van Dijk, MSW writes about aspects of emotional health she finds with her clients:
“Difficulties regulating your emotions can often lead to all sorts of other problems in your life.
“Trying to avoid or tolerate your emotions, you may engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking or using drugs, disordered eating, gambling, overspending, or dangerous sexual practices (such as having sex with strangers). The list goes on and on.
“I work with people on a daily basis who have difficulty regulating their emotions, and I see firsthand the problems it causes in their lives, and all because they didn’t learn certain skills to help them deal with their emotions as they were growing up.
She also notes “There is evidence that the way we experience emotions is hardwired into us; some people are simply born more emotionally sensitive than others.
“When this is the case, you are more vulnerable to emotion dysregulation problems because you are more likely to be overwhelmed by your emotions.”
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
John M. Grohol, Psy.D., CEO and founder of this site, Psych Central, explains:
“Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a specific form of cognitive-behavioral therapy…DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment — how a person interacts with others in different environments and relationships.
“The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships.”
From his article What’s the Difference Between CBT and DBT?
Highly Sensitive People, as Sheri Van Dijk implies above, may be more vulnerable to disrupting emotions.
My related articles include:
Highly Sensitive People and Depression: Overstimulation May Lead to Depression by psychologist Susan Meindl.
Sensitive to Anxiety and Depression
Elaine Aron, PhD thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.”
Waves and emotions
Sharon M. Barnes, MSSW, LCSW is a therapist for creative, sensitive, gifted children, teens and adults. She writes:
“Emotions are like Ocean Waves. This realization came to me one day, sitting in my counseling office with a client.
“I was searching for a better way to help him understand and cope with his emotions. I was struck with the many parallels between ocean waves and emotion waves. Let’s consider a few of them.
“Ocean waves are a natural phenomenon. They’re made of energy ─ moving through the water of the ocean.
“Emotions are a natural phenomenon too. Emotion is energy moving though our bodies. It’s instinctive to fight ocean waves. And most of us have been taught to fight our emotions.
“What works in dealing with ocean waves is to stop fighting them and allow them to flow through us. What works with emotions is to allow the waves of emotion to flow through us…and out of us.”
From her post How to Help Your Creative, Sensitive or Gifted Kids Weather Emotional Storms, January 19, 2017. See the blog section of her site.
Here is a link to the information page on the site about her Social-Emotional ACES Home Video Program.
“We designed the CASIGY™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted You-s) Social-Emotional ACES Home Video Program™ to help you become ACES, that is, skilled experts in the Social-Emotional arena.
“You’ll learn to ride the intense waves of emotion in your CASIGY life, instead of being pulled under by them.
“And if you have creative, sensitive or gifted children at home or in the classroom, it’s also designed to help them ride their waves of emotion instead of being flooded by them. It will also reduce or eliminate their having an emotional volcanic eruption right beside you.”
Here is a video I made about some of the material in the program:
For more on her resources and teaching, see these articles (with videos):
or visit her site page:
Judith Orloff, M.D. is a psychiatrist, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, and leads workshops on intuition, energy, and medicine.
She thinks “Fear is the biggest energy thief there is. A master seducer and gigantic source of negative energy, fear shamelessly robs of us of everything good and powerful, preys on our vulnerabilities.”
She adds, “Creative people are extremely sensitive.
“Neurologically, they are very finely tuned and open to all kinds of energies from the outside, so it’s important they protect themselves and not be overwhelmed.”
“People need immediate relief for anxiety; they don’t want to wait.
“Medications alter your neurochemicals, but I believe we can do that with our own techniques and meditation practices.”
From my article How to reduce anxiety – Judith Orloff on Emotional Freedom.
The article includes quotes from her book “Emotional Freedom” and some of her suggestions of supplements to relieve anxiety – such as 5HTP; Kava Kava; Calcium, magnesium and others.
Meditation for emotional health
In her Psych Central post Rewiring Your Brain through Mindfulness, Candida Fink, MD (a psychiatrist who specializes in several areas including mood and anxiety disorders) refers to studies indicating that meditation and mindfulness practices may improve emotional regulation.
See more on this topic in my article Meditation for Emotional Health and Creativity.
Lightning storm photo at top from article Emotional Storms & How to Respond by Eric Klein, Elephant Journal – ‘about the mindful life’.
Article: Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist by Cheryl Arutt, PsyD.
“I don’t like emotions… For some reason I’m more comfortable in imaginary circumstances.” – Actor William H. Macy, quoted in my article Emotional Intelligence To Be Creative.
Ocean wave photo from post Emotional Health, Waves and Creativity – which has more quotes by Sharon Barnes and a video related to her question “Why are social & emotional needs so crucial and yet so difficult for so many CASIGYs™, (Creative, Super- Sensitive, Intense, and/or Gifted You-s), AKA Highly Sensitive, Gifted or Twice Exceptional People?”
Related page Emotional Health Resources – Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional balance and enhance your creative life.