In this article we are going to talk about the emotional curve. Many experts define an emotion as a subjective state with an overwhelming or intense affective charge. Although it is difficult to describe emotions explicitly, anyone can clearly describe these subjective qualities.
For example, you can describe a situation where you felt angry or happy. Much of these emotions, from sadness to fear, develop in a similar way: through the emotional curve.
What are emotions for?
According to researchers such as Martinez-Sanchez (2011), the suppression or non-expression of important emotional events (crying over the loss of a loved one, expressing affection, etc.) can have noticeable physiological hyperactivation, immunodepression, and other negative effects on your physical and mental health. health in the short and long term.
If this is the case, why are emotions and their expression so important? The same authors point to the existence of intrapersonal functions, related to homeostasis and survival, and extrapersonal functions, which are more social in nature.
- Emotions help coordinate the various cognitive, physiological, and behavioral response systems.
- They activate behaviors that can be inhibited when the emotion is not there. For example, someone who is not very athletic can run quite fast when scared. Or a self-proclaimed pacifist is able to physically defend someone in trouble when he feels angry or enraged.
- Emotions prepare the body for fight or flight. They play an extremely important role in your survival. Being afraid is just the prelude to flee or fight in response to anything you interpret as a threat. Without the signs of fear, the body would not be prepared to face the danger or flee.
For example, when your body sounds an alarm in response to a dangerous stimulus (when you feel fear), it activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. That, in turn, activates your adrenal glands, which release glucocorticoids.
Your body releases adrenaline and endogenous opioids to reduce physical pain, as if you were being attacked. At the same time, systems not needed for flight, such as the digestive system, are suppressed.
When you’re in danger, fear increases your heart rate, your spleen contracts to release red blood cells in case of injury, your pupils dilate, and so on.
Emotions also help you process information quickly. Your brain can quickly evaluate the characteristics of the stimuli in question, allowing you to take the most appropriate action as quickly as possible.
Emotions help you communicate your intentions to other people and share how you feel. They help you control your facial expressions, gestures and your voice so that you can influence the behavior of others as well.
As Aristotle once wrote, man is a political animal and emotions also play a socializing role. For example, your emotions affect how other people act.
Some people use sadness when they need support from others, other people use affection or joy, for example. There are many examples of the role of emotions in social relationships.
The emotional curve
It is difficult to maintain the maximum intensity of an emotion over a long period of time. The normal development of emotions is like a curve. At first, the sensations get stronger and stronger. Once they reach their maximum intensity, they decrease in strength.
This may seem intuitive, but most of us don’t think about it on a daily basis, especially when it comes to mental health. This emotional curve applies to emotions as well as anxiety or panic attacks. They usually rarely last longer than ten minutes.
The emotional intensity associated with fear, anger, or sadness makes it all too easy to act when the emotion is at its strongest. Many people who go to therapy do so for that very reason. The actions you take at the peak of emotional intensity are often counterproductive.
Learning to deal with your emotions and emotional curve in therapy
In the early stages of therapy, when the patient does not know how to handle their reactions, talking about the emotional curve can be helpful. The goal is not to control the emotions, but to avoid the negative consequences that a poorly controlled intense emotion can cause.
For example, for patients suffering from depression, anxiety or sadness, it can be very helpful to learn how emotions work in detail. The therapist should also explain what you should not do at the peak of emotional intensity. Over time, ongoing therapy should help the patient not to experience such intense emotional reactions.
What not to do at the peak of the emotional curve
It’s important to explain the things you shouldn’t do when you’re experiencing an intense emotion, whether it’s anger, sadness, fear, or happiness.
Experts recommend this because actions taken at these times are unlikely to be rational. Following are a few things you shouldn’t do at the height of your emotional curve.
To take decisions
Let’s use the example of a woman with clinical depression. It’s important to show her that it’s dangerous to make decisions when she’s feeling the worst.
The decisions she makes will always go hand in hand with the deep sadness or despair she feels at that moment. So if she doesn’t make decisions in those terrible moments, she can avoid terrible outcomes like suicide or self-mutilation.
Trying to solve problems
If the intense emotion was caused by some event, you should not try to resolve everything that is happening while still feeling everything. If your rational brain isn’t turned on, you don’t have all the tools you normally need to solve a problem.
Not only that, but the frustration of the moment can lead you to take wrong actions. It’s best to just leave it as it is until you feel the emotional intensity wane.
Think it over
Emotions can lead to endless catastrophic, irrational and useless thoughts. Some thoughts can even provoke new and equally intense emotions. This, in turn, can lead to irrational behavior.
Make a list
In addition to avoiding these actions, it is helpful to come up with a list of alternatives that you can find in moments of emotional intensity.
Try to think of things you can do to avoid thinking, solving problems, or making decisions. Keep the list handy for the next time you’re high on your emotional curve.