Just the Facts

It is still Friday evening, January 26th, and I would like to do another DBT page about what I taught this week. If you are not up for any more DBT you can stop here and I will not be offended. [Lin/Linda: For those who are just joining us, DBT is a cognitive behavioral treatment used by psychologists like Sue.  To read more about it in Sue’s pages, choose the Category ‘Cognitive Therapy’ that you’ll find either on the side of this page or at the bottom. The pages will come up in reverse chronological order so start at the bottom and work your way up! Wish I could change that but so far, no luck.]

This week I taught justified and unjustified emotions. An emotion is justified if it fits the facts of the situation. Could someone else, as in not you, understand your reaction based on what happened?

If your emotion matches what is happening, it is probably justified. If it does match what has happened, it may be unjustified.

Now, some of our students this week did not like that idea at all! We got all sorts of comments about how someone who would say there are unjustified emotions would be so invalidating and who gets to tell me my emotions are unjustified, anyway?

The person who gets to say if your emotions are justified or unjustified is you. You do that by looking at the facts of the situation and asking yourself if your reaction could have been predicted from those facts. Notice I used the word ‘facts’ twice. We are harnessing our reasonable/rational mind here.

If, being in your rational mind, you decide maybe, just maybe, reality and your reaction are not matching up, the reaction could be unjustified. Then you need to check your ‘programming’. What beliefs do you carry that would have caused you to possibly misinterpret the situation? What is there in your belief system that would have interpreted it that way?

Suppose a neighbor tells you her daughter is paying for her own wedding and will have a very limited guest list. “Sorry, you are not invited.” You are furious and raging because it is obvious -obvious !!! – they do not want you there because of your vision loss.

Where did that come from? Perhaps you feel as if you are a burden to people or that you are less valuable than the people she invited. After all, they can see! Your reaction is fury because you are explaining her action with your own assumptions, not the facts at all. What might be a justified reaction? Disappointment. Maybe sadness. Fury does not match the facts.

Some people justify their reaction based on the intensity of the emotions they feel. If you are the angriest you can ever remember being, there is a reason for being angry; right? Not necessarily. The intensity of the emotion does not make the emotion justified. Would you be so angry if someone else had acted that way towards you? Was it how you feel about that person or really the situation?

In fact, it has been my experience that the most intense emotions are the ones you need the most to investigate. Unless you are dealing with an extreme situation, extreme reactions are generally not called for. Step back and ask yourself what is happening. Why this reaction?

With vision loss, especially recent loss, we are going to be more vulnerable. With our insecurities and preconceptions about people with vision loss, we may have some pretty intense reactions to some of the strangest things. Step back. Would someone else think this reaction fits? Which of my assumptions is fueling my emotions? Am I justified in feeling this way? Adding a little observation and reasonable/rational mind can help us navigate our situations.

Written January 26th, 2018

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