Look at any example of the change curve (see the resources section of this site) and you will see descriptive terms heavily laden with emotions: shock, denial, anger, frustration, depression, and so on. You would be forgiven for thinking that any journey through the change curve is one of fluctuating emotions and that progress is made and measured by how you are feeling at any point. Yet our emotions are a result of our thinking and how we interpret the events that have triggered the change. Once we understand the link between our thoughts and our feelings then we have the opportunity to change the way we think, and therefore change the way we feel.
It is no coincidence that the latter part of the change curve is described in more objective terms: experimenting, decision, acceptance, and so on. At this stage of the change we have worked beyond our emotions to deal with the change on a rational adult basis. There are two aspects to managing our emotions: Firstly, how our thinking leads to our emotions.
When a situation or trigger event arises, our brain immediately interprets it. It may feel that we go straight to an emotional response but this just because our brains are so powerful we quickly interpret the event before know it. As an example, let’s say we are fired from our job with no prior warning. Our brain will rapidly react that this is unjust, it has financial consequences, reputational impact, and assess our chances of quickly finding another job, amongst other things. All this will be done in a split second. This will give rise to the feelings of shock, anger, and worry that will result. These feelings in turn will drive our behaviour and what we do next.
The second aspect to this is to recognise that our emotions are valid and should not be denied. There is a time and place for our emotions. They are part of who we are and part of what makes us human. So how do we handle our emotions and separate our emotions from our adult, rational, and objective thinking about the situation? In the next two posts I will give you techniques for separating your emotions from your thinking, and for making sure your thinking is positive and constructive.