Our emotions often underlie the behaviours we are trying to change, for example, we might be using substances to cope with uncomfortable and challenging experiences of pain. Learning to identify and manage our emotions effectively can therefore have a significant impact on the way we think and act. These skills are helpful for understanding emotions, changing unwanted emotions, reducing vulnerability to emotion mind, and managing extreme emotion.

Myths about emotions:

  • There is a right way to feel in every situation
  • Letting others know that I am feeling bad is a weakness
  • Painful feelings are bad and destructive
  • Being emotional means being out of control/irrational
  • Emotions can just happen for no reason
  • Some emotions are really stupid
  • All painful emotions are the result of a bad attitude
  • If others don’t approve of my feelings, I obviously shouldn’t feel that way
  • Other people are the best judge of how I should feel
  • Other people are the best judge of how I do feel
  • Painful emotions are not important and should be ignored
Primary and Secondary EmotionsABCPLEASE take care of your bodyActing Opposite

Primary and Secondary Emotions

Often our distress is caused by secondary emotions. Learning about and practicing mindfulness of primary emotions, which are often helpful and appropriate, can sometimes reduce the experience of these secondary emotions. Practicing being okay with primary emotions can also help you to express them in helpful ways, when they are uncomfortable or painful. Click on the image below to learn more about the model of emotions.
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Accumulate positive emotions Increase positive events to increase positive emotions. Practice being mindful when you are positive and keep a diary of all of your positive experiences. Know what's important to you and make choices that reflect these values.
Build mastery Do things you are good at, and that make you feel confident. Practice getting better at things that are important to you.
Cope ahead Plan how you will cope if things get difficult. Imagine yourself coping.

PLEASE take care of your body

Use this acronym to take care of your body. A healthy body reduces vulnerability to emotion mind.
(treat) Physical iLlness See a doctor when you are feeling unwell, and take medications as prescribed.
(balance) Eating Eat the kind of food that makes you feel good, and develop a routine for eating healthily.
Avoid mood altering substances Alcohol and drugs influence mood; don't use them, or use in moderation.
(balance) Sleep Try to sleep between 7-9 hours each night.
Exercise Try to do 20 minutes of exercise almost every day.

Acting Opposite

  1. Identify and name the emotion you want to change and then check if it's reasonable given the situation. If your emotion is justified, take care of it.
  2. If the emotion is unjustified, or unreasonable, ask wise mind if acting on the emotion's urge will be helpful.
  3. If it won't be, do the opposite of your action urge e.g. if your urge is to go out and use substances because you are feeling anxious, stay in the situation and focus on relaxing your tense muscles.
  4. Keep acting opposite until you notice the unhelpful emotion change, even if it's just a little bit.
Tips for some opposite actions; remember only use these when the emotion is unreasonable given the situation, or acting on your urge will be unhelpful.


Common Urge

Acting Opposite

Anger Attack, be mean Do something kind. Half-smile and focus on relaxing and open body language.
Fear Avoid Do what you are afraid of, relax tense muscles.
Disgust Recoil Stay close to what disgusts you.
Envy Attack others for what they have Focus on your own blessings.
Jealousy Control, covet Let go of control and share what you have.
Love Be near/with that person Avoid and distract yourself from that person.
Sadness Avoid, isolate, do nothing Get active and participate.
Shame Hide Stop hiding your behaviour with people who won't reject you.
Guilt Hide, over-apologise Continue your behaviour without apologising, educate your community.