|During the quarantine, I continue to hear in sessions about the difficulty of dealing with and expressing emotions while being forced to stay inside around loved ones. Emotions are important to understand in order to successfully navigate under “normal” circumstances. However, under quarantine, it becomes even more critical.
Emotions are the manifestation of your brain communicating to you the possibility of a threat or unmet need. If your brain interprets your environment as unsafe, it sends signals to your body to react accordingly; a racing heartbeat, shaking body, tension in muscles, and the like. Those signs lead you to expression of emotion; fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and the like.
Emotions are important, but they aren’t always fact.
Your brain doesn’t interpret whether a threat is real or not. It only interprets that you are in danger. You have to regulate that signal (emotion) and interpret how factual the threat really is. Interpretation is important in regulating your emotion.
For example, without hair, I tend to be colder than most of my family. So a 68 degree day might FEEL chilly to me, but FEEL hot to my thick haired son. However, my precious mother keeps her room at a balmy 80 degrees, which FEELS very hot to me, but still FEELS comfortable to her. None of us are wrong. We gather information (lack of hair, age, where we live, experience, body type, clothing, and the like) and interpret how the temperature FEELS. Temperature is subjective.
Like temperature, emotions are subjective. Some may cry or laugh at a movie, while others may not. Likewise, a person’s emotions about the facts of a situation are also subjective. It depends on many factors and experiences and how we interpret and learn how to interpret them.
What to Do With Emotions?
So try something while being locked up during this quarantine.
Pay attention to the difference between how you and those with whom you live interpret situations. Acknowledge that your partner or child has a right to feel however they feel, even if it’s different from you. You have that same right. It’s ok to feel differently. Your brain defines threats and unmet needs differently. Lower temperature may bring someone great comfort, while bringing someone else great discomfort.
Be kind and respectful as they express it. Be kind to yourself as you learn to regulate your expression of that interpretation. Acknowledge their emotions. Acknowledge your emotions. Don’t take it personal.
Here is Another Example
Here is one more example to explore. A person in the house has the television on too loud while you are working.
The fact is that the television is on. It isn’t too loud for the person watching it. It is too loud for the you, while working. So which reaction will create a negative reaction?
“Turn down the television!! It’s too loud.”
“I feel frustrated. I’m not able to focus on work with the television so loud.”
The first response is blaming and attacking and then creates defensiveness. “No it’s not! I can barely hear it!” The second response takes responsibility for your need and emotional response. “I’m sorry. Would you like me to turn it down (Or close your door)?”
So take some time to examine facts from fantasy when your emotion surfaces. What threat does your brain perceive? How true is it? How should you regulate the emotion in a way that doesn’t induce a defensive reaction from others? How can you resolve the perceived threat or unmet need without dehumanizing the other person?
Try these things and see what happens.