ABCDE for emotions
One of the things I love about working with Kinesiology and it's basis in Chinese Medicine is that the emotions are as much a part of the meridian system as the physical body, there's no separation. This resonates with me because when I feel an emotion I notice the physical sensation sometimes before I can even label it fear or anger.
We all have a tendency towards different emotions and different ways we express them. For some it’s anger outbursts, for some it’s tears, for some it’s withdrawing, for some it’s freezing on the spot (and many more). It’s absolutely ok and normal to feel emotions. What most of us get stuck with is…what do I do when I feel this way? It feels uncomfortable and I don’t like that feeling but I don’t know how to move that feeling out of my body. How do I express what I’m feeling appropriately?
This is a topic that is too large to address fully in a simple blog. However, a wonderful 8 year old client introduced me to this simple ABCDE protocol that can help both children and adults start to work with their emotions in a beneficial way.
n.b. this is not the CBT model developed by Albert Ellis. It is a simple first aid tool to help us process emotions.
Start to notice the uncomfortable feeling in your body that goes with the emotion or stress you’re feeling e.g. a sick feeling in the stomach, jaw clenching, fidgeting.
As soon as you notice the uncomfortable feeling in your body focus on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Simply count your way to 10 deep breaths. Alternatively use a breathing technique you already know such as 8/8/8 – breathe in for 8 counts, hold the breath for 8 and breathe out for 8.
If possible, move away from the trigger of your uncomfortable feeling (this may be your little brother or sister!). Ideas are: go to your bedroom and read or listen to music, have a shower, go outside. I don't recommend using video games as a tool here. Doing some movement helps too – dancing, jumping on the trampoline. For adults, you may need to go for a walk around the block.
Express your emotions
Once you feel calmer express what you are feeling to the appropriate person using talking, writing or drawing.
Once you feel calmer (ideally this takes a maximum of 20mins but sometimes we need 24hrs to start with!) express what you are feeling to the relevant person where appropriate – this could be verbal or in writing. Face to face is great as you can calibrate the person to see if your message is getting through appropriately. (Remember – don’t send an email when you are still feeling angry or upset, wait until you feel calm and then read it again or get someone else to read it).
Important note: In order to address deep-seated sub-conscious emotional responses you may need the support and guidance of a health practitioner. You can still use this process as a first-aid strategy.Here is a pdf version of ABCDE incase you want to print it out.
What are the aims of this technique?
To reduce or prevent inappropriate emotional outbursts.
To reduce or prevent suppression of emotions.
How is this simple technique doing that?
Increases awareness of the physical sensations associated with your emotions.
The sooner we can start to feel the physical sensation the sooner we can implement ABCDE and we may be able to prevent an outburst.
Teaches us to both take time to calm down but also express what we are feeling in an appropriate way.
Helps us become aware of how our behaviour affects others.
Helps us become aware of how others' behaviour affects us.
If you get stuck with any particular aspect of the technique let me know at your next appointment and we can work it through. For example, many people (myself included) get stuck on how to verbalise what they're feeling. This takes practice and a willing listener but there are also some good NLP (neurolinguistic programming) techniques that can help :)
Happy working with your feelings!