Emotions as Feedback

As a therapist one of the most critical tools I have is my own emotional response to other people. Just like everyone else my emotional filters limit the “accuracy” of the information I get ; however as long as I can step back and observe the feelings that I have instead of allowing myself to be controlled by my emotional response they provide amazing opportunities for effective action.

If I feeling frustrated as I work with someone – if I step back and look at the whole picture I may see an individual who has experienced a pattern of learned helplessness and disempowerment. If I find myself getting triggered with anger I might observe that I am working someone who has a tendency to blame others for their results and who has been unwilling to take responsibility for the results of their choices. If I feel tired and exhausted when someone leaves the room when I step back I may notice that the person seems to have a constant need to be affirmed for the smallest of things and is constantly trying to “win” me over to their version of events.

None of these emotional habits that I am observing are necessarily “bad”, they simply reflect where that person is on their journey. If I can maintain this framework instead of attributing gross personal flaws to these individuals then my emotional response helps inform me about what it is I can potentially provide that person as a “catalyst” so that if they choose to move forward they can take effective action.

For the person who has learned that they have little or no power when I start to feel frustrated and helpless myself I can simply recognize that these feelings are not mine – that I am in fact holding the feelings of the other person. With this knowledge I can explore the formation of their limiting beliefs and assist them in identifying the smallest actions they can take to begin the process of recognizing the power and influence they have over their own lives.

If I am triggered with anger I can step back and hold my boundaries clear without the expression of anger. Instead of becoming a bull charging head to head with another bull I can simply observe with the other person “These are your results. Here are some options for different results – however choosing to blame me or others in this situation will result in the same outcome.” And if that person continues to engage in behavior that does not reflect integrity – I can step away from the relationship altogether – not in judgment – but in simple recognition that this particular individual does not offer what I need in an ongoing relationship. I

If I find myself exhausted each time the other person leaves the room, I can redirect that person to engage in processes where they can see their own worth and value. I can clearly validate what I see regarding their potential while still being clear that I won’t forfeit other relationships or allow that person to monopolize my time and attention so that they can have their sense of self validated.

Our feelings are not always “accurate”; however they are always one of our best sources of information about our interactions with others and ourselves. When we use our feelings as feedback and let them inform our actions – instead of triggering reactions – we have amazing power to positively influence others, set clear boundaries (which when done well also promotes growth in the other person), and appropriately validate and connect us to opportunities where we can thrive.

In therapy this process would be two processes – transference and counter-transference – however in life it is simply the ability to use our emotions as they were intended – to inform ourselves about what is happening in our environment so that we can make the best choices possible – to enhance both our lives and the lives of others. When we integrate our heart’s ability to feel, with our head’s ability to think, our voice and our actions become powerful agents for Being the Difference.