Anxiety and Emotions

Our thoughts, behavior and emotions are all connected. One has an impact on the other and when it all gets too much, we end up with anxiety.

As we have been slowly discovering, our thoughts, behavior and emotions are all connected. One has an impact on the other and when it all gets too much, we end up with anxiety.  In this article we are going to take a look at emotion, see what they actually are, and then begin to unwind the mess that our emotions get so many of us into. Then we are going to look at ways of managing emotions and keeping them in control by using CBT.

What are Emotions?

Put quite bluntly, we have many different emotions that everyone feels and the truth is there's no one way to describe or define what an emotion actually is. After all, everybody is unique, and therefore we feel things in different ways. But we can split things into "good emotions" and "bad emotions" which essentially means taking a look at emotions that are appropriate i.e. being sad after someone dies, and those that aren't, i.e. not being able to control that sadness. Essentially, what we are going to do is to try and realize that emotions are good for you, when they are appropriate. We will take a look at your feelings, and see how we can identify a good emotion from a bad one.

The Emotional Map

Many of us actually have our own ways of describing emotions, so when it comes to actually telling somebody about how we feel, it can be like speaking in another language. Even though people are used to their own emotions and can understand emotions, explaining what you mean when you say you feel "bad" can be difficult. So, by creating an emotional map, you can help yourself and others to realize what you are feeling without confusion. You can actually start to understand what you are feeling, and you can also work towards eliminating bad emotions and replacing them with good ones

While we realize that it is really difficult to sit down and think about what you are feeling, this is one of the best ways to start dealing with your problems, and an essential part of any therapy, including CBT.

For the most part, this article will deal with you and your emotions, and start to help you through the process of mapping your emotions out in a way that you can understand and see logical sense in. Filling in your emotional map will help you to reach a realistic conclusion about how you feel. By looking at what triggered your feelings, you will manage to work through the process and realize what you are feeling and subsequently give your emotion a realistic label. Look at the illustrations below, which show the steps you go through in your work in creating your own emotional map:

Emotional Map

Emotional Map Your Answers
The trigger

Start by identifying the trigger. What do you think caused your emotions? A trigger can be a situation, or potential situation, or thought that started your emotions flowing.
I got fired at work.
Your Behavior

How did your emotions lead you to act or want to act? Did you shout out, swear at someone, and swear at yourself? Did you start drinking? Smoking more? Avoiding people?
-I started shouting and blaming everyone else but myself for loosing my job - I sleep too much. I don't feel like getting out of bed because then I have to look for a new job, a thought that is overwhelming. - I avoid being around people because they will just ask me questions about my job.
Emotional Diagnosis

In your own words, describe what you think the problem is; look at what you have been doing, how you have been feeling and what you are thinking. What would your friends or family say was wrong?
- I am feeling embarrassed for acting the way I did when I got fired but even more so I feel useless and I fear that I will never get a new job.
Emotional Conclusion

What is the single word you could use to describe what you are feeling? Feel free to look at a dictionary to help you find the perfect word to describe things.
- Useless

Next it's your turn. The emotional map really is a good way to try and identify what you are feeling. At first, it may be difficult, but it's a great way to discover what you are feeling. If you're struggling to realize what emotion it is - take a look at the list below for a little inspiration. Feel free to add to the list if you think of any more.

Disappointment Embarrassment Hurt
Regret Sadness Grief
Shame Jealousy Remorse
Envy Fear Anger
Anxiety Concern Guilt

The components of your emotions

Feelings don't exist in a box; instead they are out in the open. Various things, including our behavior, which makes up an important part, affect our emotions. All human emotions comprise of four components and every component interacts with and strengthens the others.

Components of Emotions

Our emotions are intertwined with our thoughts, behavior attention, memory and essentially everything. We can use these to tell whether or not we are stuck in an unhealthy or bad emotional period, or a healthy one. It's important to realize though, that it is OK to be emotional. But, when emotion leads to overly negative behavior, then those emotions tend to be bad, destructive and unhealthy because they tend to prevent you from dealing with what happened and moving on. Unhealthy emotions only lead to more mental anguish, so it's important to realize the difference between them and alter your thinking to prevent them from happening.

What we're going to do now is look at the emotional map you just created, and expand on this by looking at how an emotion such as "useless" can be broken down into these four components. When you have filled in these four components, read it and write down your realization about your feeling. This is another key part in being able to accept and understand yourself. Take a look below for an example:

Emotional Feeling Useless
Thoughts I failed again because I lost my job.
I don't know what will happen.
I'm a failure.
I must find a new job but just the thought of it is overwhelming.
I have lost my friends at work.
Memories and attention I remember that I didn't make any great error at work.
They told me to take "redundancy".
I remember not completing some tasks on time.
I was told that they are strict and firm employers.
But I mostly keep remembering how much I liked my job.
Physical effects I've lost my appetite.
I can't sleep.
Sometimes I sweat profusely.
Behavior I'm not eating.
I'm spending time thinking about my failures.
I'm avoiding looking for new work.
I'm staying away from my friends.
I'm sleeping too much.

Emotional Truth

I'm filled with bad thoughts about losing my job, and it's stopping me from looking for a new one or from even taking care of myself. I am looking at how I failed and I am avoiding my friends who can help me find a better job or tell me what I did wrong. I have to stop avoiding things.

Challenging my negative unhealthy emotions

Challenging your negative unhealthy emotions doesn't mean that you are supposed to stop feeling emotions or feeling indifference about your life. Instead it means that you are going to try to replace your unhealthy negative emotions with other negative emotions, but this time with ones that are more healthy. Focus on a situation that triggers your anxiety and think about how you felt about this situation and then what would be a more appropriate and healthy negative emotion.

What is your trigger/problematic situation? My husband wants to divorce me.
What is your unhealthy negative emotion? Unhealthy rage
How is this unhealthy negative emotion causing you additional problems? I am acting uncivil towards my husband and it's turning out to be a divorce from hell. It is even putting stress on my relationship with friends and colleges since I am always in a terrible mood.
What healthy negative emotion would you like to feel instead? I want to feel healthy anger and sadness instead of unhealthy rage. I don't want the divorce to totally extinguish the good memories that I have from our marriage.
What do you have to do to change this emotion? I won't drink to numb my feelings of outrage. I will start to be more focused at work. I will talk to my friends about how I feel. I have to let myself feel sad.


  • We looked at emotions and came to the realization that it's OK to feel negative emotions, as long as they are healthy ones, like sadness.

  • You pinned down your own emotions by doing an emotional map and to get an even deeper insight into these emotions you broke them down into the four components of emotions: thoughts, memories and attention, physical feelings and behavior.

  • Finally you challenged these emotions by coming up with alternative healthy negative emotions.
Let us know what you think!

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