Have you ever had the thought, “If I cry, that means I am weak?” Has anyone ever told you “emotions are bad” or have you ever thought to yourself, “If I let other people know how I’m feeling they will take advantage of me?” If you answered yes to any of the above, then you are not alone. These are just a few emotional myths we tend to believe as facts.
As a DBT therapist, and as someone who also uses the DBT skills in my own life, I often review emotional myths in order to help clients challenge them. Buying into emotional myths can get in the way of regulating our emotions. Some of the myths invalidate our emotional experience while other myths emphasize the current emotion to the extent we believe if we have the emotion it’s valid and we shouldn’t change it.
So now what? Ways we can start to challenge emotional myths include:
- Arguing the complete opposite
- Looking for extremes in our thinking
- Noticing judgmental language
- Becoming mindful of assumptions.
Extreme / polarized thinking includes, but is not limited to words like all, never, everyone, everything, always etc. Judgmental language includes, but is not limited to: should, bad, stupid etc. Here are some examples of ways to challenge the myths mentioned above:
- “If I cry, it means I am weak”—> If I cry I am not weak OR If I cry it is my body’s way of signaling there is something going on
- “Emotions are bad”—> Emotions are not bad OR Emotions are hard wired and can be difficult to regulate OR It takes effort to deal with my emotions\
- “If I let other people know how I’m feeling, they will take advantage of me”—> If I let others know how I am feeling, they may be able to help OR It can be effective to communicate how I am feeling to others.
Next time you find yourself struggling with an emotion, I encourage you to check the facts and access whether there is a myth operating. Notice what happens to the emotion when you identify whether it’s been generated by myth or fact!