Tolerating Overwhelming Emotions

We see this confusion in our clients as well. Our clients (and some of us) confuse emotions with thoughts, rumination or even the facts of a situation.


In 1884, William James wrote an article, What is an Emotion? Scientists are still debating this question today.  As clinicians, however, most of us would describe an emotion as a natural instinctive state of mind triggered by circumstances, mood or relationships, or something similar.

Emotion is a relatively recent concept. The English word emotion derives from the 16th century French word émotion used to describe mental agitation. Before the word was introduced into the English language, people used words such as appetites, passions, affections or sentiments. Besides being a relatively recent concept, emotion is culturally-based and some languages do not have an equivalent word to this day.

We see this confusion in our clients as well. Our clients (and some of us) confuse emotions with thoughts, rumination or even the facts of a situation.  They say, “He made me angry” rather than seeing emotions as a natural instinctive state of mind.  They believe emotions are bad or a weakness.  They judge themselves for having emotions.  Saying someone is emotional is an epithet.

Continue reading “Tolerating Overwhelming Emotions”

Extending DBT To Couples

Why is it we sometimes say the nastiest things to the person we love the most? How is it that seemingly simple negotiations sometimes end up with partners screaming at each other?  How do we end up snapping and acting in ways we swore we would never do again? What makes people who love each other sometimes get really anxious when approaching each other, or leads us to avoid talking about important matters?  And more importantly, how can we learn to stop long-standing patterns of destructive conflict, develop the skills to manage our negative emotions and destructive urges, and learn how to talk and listen in ways that lead to understanding, validation, negotiation and closeness?

Continue reading “Extending DBT To Couples”

Can’t “Fix” Teens Unless Parents Change Too

Parent’s inclination often is to seek help for their teen on the assumption that the teen has to do all the changing. The reality is both caregivers and teens will need to make changes …

Imagine — Tamara is 15 years old. She and her mother started arguing when Tamara was 12.  They argue about seemingly everything – clothes, curfews, chores, homework, friends – you name it and they’ve argued about it.  Their arguments have escalated over the last year.  Mom doesn’t trust Tamara to make good decisions, especially now that Tamara is dating a 16 year old who just got his driver’s license.  Tamara says her mother never listens and doesn’t trust her.  Tamara often storms out of the house when it gets too overwhelming.  Two times, she has stayed overnight with a girlfriend without calling.  Mom feels out of control and hopeless to change the situation. Mom decides to find help –- for Tamara.

Continue reading “Can’t “Fix” Teens Unless Parents Change Too”