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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Emotional Emergency Management: Step 2 of a 4 Step Process

According to the principles of Crisis Management, once you have identified a hazard, threat or event, the second step is to assess that hazard in terms of impact. This can usually be done by asking the question "so what". The same approach can be used for managing unwelcome emotions.

If you've been following along and did your homework, you now have a list of emotions that are prevalent for you. Hopefully you've increased your emotional vocabulary, looked deep inside yourself and found a few that accurately describe the emotion you would like to bring in check or balance.

In the same way that you really can't manage a hurricane, you really can't manage an emotion such as terror. What you can manage is the roof damage caused by persistent 130km/hr winds, or the situation of not being able to go into the basement because you are terrified of spiders. That's impact assessment. Once the impact is assessed you can start to implement solutions to change your situation or behavior.

Four "so what" questions can be used to really asses your emotion.
1. So what is the direct impact of this emotion on me? How does it directly affect me?
2. So what is the indirect impact of this emotion? This is the ripple effect- how far does the impact reach and to what areas of my life.
3. So what areas of my life make me particularly vulnerable to this emotion? Are there certain situations or people that bring this emotion on?
4. So what physical signs and symptoms might be caused by this emotion?

Let's assume you went through Step 1 of this process and decided you were terrified of spiders.  It isn't a dislike of spiders, or a worry about spider bites, or a mild fear of spiders.  It's a total terror emotion that's come up for you a few times. Here's a  hypothetical walk through of those questions using the "terror of spiders" example:

1. Whenever I see a spider I am frozen in fear. I can't move to get away or do anything. I am paralyzed.

2. Because I am frozen in fear by the thought of, or sight of, a spider, I can't get my sons' stroller out of the basement which means we won't be able to go to the library today and our books will be overdue. He will miss the story time he loves and I will miss the hour of focused concentrationI was going to use to study for my real estate exam.  I have also already left a message on my husband's work phone telling him exactly how I feel about him putting the strolller in the basement last time he used it!!

3. I am most vulnerable to this emotion any time I am asked to go into dark damp places. This is particularly affecting my desires to be a real estate agent specializing in heritage houses and hobby farms.

4. For hours after an encounter, or potential encounter with a spider, my heart is still racing, my palms are sweaty and I'm shaky.  My doctor says I have mild hypertension which may be getting worse.

And that's the way it goes. For any emotion you experience, and want to manage, you sit down (when the spider, threat, or emotion is not affecting you!) and walk yourself through the questions.  Be sure you are honest with yourself. Attach "I" to the answer's like I did in the example above. Even if you're getting help with this, it's something that you are taking personal responsibility for.  You can help someone walk through these questions but you can't do it for someone else.

The "so what" questions really just bring you closer to understanding yourself and rationally seeing your emotions for what they are.  We loose touch with ourselves sometimes. If you can break your emotion down into "so what's" you've gained an awareness of the issue so you can move on to the third step which is developing a plan of action.

Stay tuned....

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