The basis of emotion focussed therapy is on the heightening of awareness and acceptance of emotion. There are four steps to the process.
The fist step is to be able to identify what it is that you are experiencing emotionally with heightening the awareness that, no matter what it is that we are doing or experiencing or thinking, we are also experiencing emotion.
Second, we need to be able to welcome our emotional experience and allow it. This does not mean that we need to express everything that we feel, but we do need to be able to tolerate what it is that we are feeling and regulate our emotion.
Third, we need to be able to describe our feelings in words rather than actions, instead of doing actions such as eating. We need to be able to engage our use of words in order to be able to solve problems and to look at situations and events in a rational manner, not an emotional one.
Fourth, we need to able to get in touch with what our primary emotions are. Primary emotions are the most fundamental initial reaction to a situation. This leads to secondary emotions such as grief and anger. Primary emotions are based in either fear or pain. Such as fear of not being in control or the pain of loss.
So once these four steps are achieved the second phase is focussed on emotional transformation. To experience emotional transformation the goal is to be able to identify and evaluate if the emotion that's been felt is a healthy or an unhealthy response to the current situation. If the emotion is maladaptive or unhealthy, it needs to be transformed. These are feelings that do not change in response to a changing circumstance, these are old familiar feelings such as loneliness, sadness, abandonment, worthlessness, and inadequacy. These feelings need to be transformed to adaptive or healthy responses.
The next step is to identify the negative voices that are associated with these emotions. This is called having a negative cognition. Negative cognitions are self-statements that you say to yourself, something like, I am not good enough, I am hopeless, I am ugly, etc. Once these negative cognitions are identified you need to be able to find an alternative healthy emotional response. The need is to create an intervention in order to transform the emotion, by countering the negative cognition to a positive cognition; times when it is for example; you have been successful or felt special.
The final stage is to work on forming an new inner voice based on healthy primary emotions and needs. To then learn to regulate those emotions, by developing a new narrative to explain your emotional experience by creating new meaning.
So in the moment when you are experiencing a maladaptive emotion, the question is; instead of food, what is it that that you need to resolve your pain or fear? Learning to generate opposing emotions through imagery, by using your imagination to bring about a positive emotion is the key. By creating a new meaning, changes how you view a situation and often helps you to experience the new positive and adaptive feeling.
I often have negative feelings towards myself. I tell myself I’m not good enough, I’m not doing enough, other people are doing more, everything moves at a snails pace because I’m not meant to go anywhere, yada yada yada!
To cope with these negative and maladaptive feelings, I would eat. Honestly to tell you the truth, even when I had positive feelings, when I had achieved feeling special, I would eat. I felt like either way I deserved food.
On the one hand, “Oh I feel bad, I shouldn’t feel bad so I will eat to make myself feel good.”
And the other,
“I feel good! I’m going to make myself feel even better with food!”
It took a lot for me to realize that maybe instead of dealing with my emotions by suffocating them with mounds of food I should actually deal with them…like…actually acknowledge them, figure out why they have arisen, and come up with ways to solve the problem or to just be able to sit with them, even though they make me uncomfortable. You know, like, the healthy way to deal with feelings.
Of course I am still working on it. When I get bored I want to munch on something, when I feel sad or angry I still feel like I don’t deserve to feel this way. Therefore I say to myself, “Bring me the pie”, and when I am happy I want to celebrate in the way that I have been taught to, by feasting.
Even with these cravings and instinctual feelings, I have learned to stop myself, consider what the consequences will be, how hard I have worked to get to the place that I am, and with my recognition that all food is really just a pile of sugar, I can see it differently now… Either way I win.
On the quest to lose 50 pounds in a year. Can she do it? Only time will tell....with the help of this blog.