EMOTION AWARENESS

Each EET session focuses on one or more of five treatment components that build on each other through the protocol.  This blog explains the first component of EET: Emotion Awareness

Emotion Awareness is the ability to make present-moment contact with emotion. Emotion is experienced through its four components, and clients learn to recognize how it manifests through thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges.  Sometimes clients know they are experiencing an emotion, but they’re not sure what it is. Or they may know the feeling label for the emotion, but not realize how it is manifesting through the components of sensations, thoughts and urges.

Through Emotion Awareness, clients develop an understanding of their trans-emotional process, by learning to identify and observe each component.  Emotion Awareness also helps clients learn to notice the origin or trigger of the emotion, as well as the typical lifespan of the emotion wave that results from the trigger. Having an awareness of one’s emotional experience and its process is the first step toward increasing emotion efficacy.

WHAT DRIVES LOW EMOTION EFFICACY?

The underlying drivers of low emotion efficacy as we conceptualize it are emotion avoidance and distress intolerance. We define emotion avoidance as an unwillingness to experience difficult emotions, which then fuels distress and leads to more suffering.   

Distress intolerance refers to a person’s inability to experience intense emotions. Both of these maladaptive responses to emotions typically result in responses that do not serve the individual in recovering from intense emotion triggers, or choosing responses consistent with their values.

Often these drivers work in tandem to leave people feeling that they don't have a choice when they get emotionally triggered.  Emotion Efficacy Therapy (EET) targets these drivers through 5 components: Emotion Awareness, Mindful Acceptance, Values-Based Action, Mindful Coping and Exposure-based Skills Practice.

WHAT IS EMOTION EFFICACY?

Emotion efficacy is defined as how effectively a person can experience and respond to a full range of emotions in a contextually adaptive, values-consistent manner. As such, emotion efficacy encompasses both the beliefs people have about their ability to navigate their emotional life as well as their ability to do so.

The more people can effectively experience difficult emotions, regulate their emotions through coping, and express their values, the higher their emotion efficacy. Low emotion efficacy is likely to be the result of key vulnerabilities or patterns of maladaptive behavioral responsesbehaviors enacted in response to emotional pain, or the desire to avoid pain, which fuel and maintain psychopathological processes.

Some common vulnerabilities and patterns may take the form of one of more of the following:

•   Biological predisposition or sensitivity that leads to high levels of reactivity

•   Significant levels of emotion avoidance (sometimes also called experiential avoidance)—efforts to avoid experiencing uncomfortable sensations, emotions, and cognitions triggered by internal or external cues

•   Significant levels of distress intolerance—the perception or the belief that one cannot tolerate aversive emotions

•   Significant lack of emotion-shifting skills to down regulate emotions

•   Consistent and significant socially invalidating environments