Many people hold misinformed beliefs about emotions, which act as barriers to emotion regulation. Specifically, these myths can undermine our emotional experiences (e.g., by
assuming we shouldn’t feel certain emotions), assume that others should know how we feel, or assume that we can control all our emotions if we apply enough self-discipline. The problem with these myths is that they are often inflexible and inaccurate, and lead to unhelpful responses and emotional suffering. Therefore, if you hold any of these beliefs yourself, it is important to be aware of them as you embark on this journey towards better anger management.
Here are some common myths about emotions:
- Showing my emotions is a sign of weakness
- Painful emotions are bad
- There is a right and wrong way to feel
- Emotions are more valuable than facts
- I am my emotions
- I have no control over my emotions
- My emotions are stupid
- Its inauthentic to change how I feel
- My emotions make me likeable, creative etc.
- If I feel my emotions, they will overwhelm me
- People should know how I feel just by looking at me
Do any of these myths ring true for you? Do you see emotions as weak or bad? Do you believe your emotions define who you are? Take a moment to think about any other emotion myths you hold and how they might be impacting you.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the above myths in relation to anger, and how they might impact a person’s behaviour.
Someone who believes “if I feel my emotions, they will overwhelm me” would likely fear their anger and therefore do things to try and suppress it. This may include working too much, overeating, using alcohol or drugs, or zoning out in front of the TV. As a result, the source of their anger is not addressed and the intensity of their anger builds up over time, without their awareness. During high stress situations, emotions become overwhelming, and this person is prone to anger outbursts.
As another example, a person who believes “emotions are more valuable than facts” would likely act on their anger impulsively, without checking the facts of the situation. In other words, they act out of Emotion Mind rather than Reasonable or Wise Mind. Given that emotions aren’t factual, they are prone to getting things wrong and damaging the quality of their relationships.
Clearly, emotion myths impact the way we regulate our emotions. It is therefore important to understand which emotion myths you hold and try to challenge them. For example, if you believe “painful emotions are bad”, you could come up with an alternative belief that is more helpful (e.g., “painful emotions are part of life, all emotions are valid and serve a purpose”).