• Dr. Abby Cobey

Emotions and I'm Driving Myself CRAZY!!

Here it is:

We wander around invalidating our own emotional experiences convincing ourselves that we are wrong for feeling what ever we feel and then essentially putting ourselves into emotional double binds and it’s impossible to feel the right thing and the only solution is to feel nothing and then the feelings start becoming physical health issues and then our PCM’s tell us it’s all in our head but we know that whatever it is really hurts and you swear you aren’t crazy but you kind of think you might be and you just legitimately drove yourself nuts.

So the solution is to validate our own emotional experiences.

We have emotions for a reason. For the same reason that we have curls in our ears and opposable thumbs. They help us survive! These features were programed into us through natural selection. And no matter how bothersome you find emotions to be, eons of evolution suggest that you wont be getting rid of them anytime soon. So when you have an emotion, the first step is to recognize what it is and validate it.

“I’m feeling anxious, there must be something going on that is setting off my spidey sense that something is a potential threat to me.”

As opposed to:

“I’m feeling anxious, I shouldn’t be, there is nothing wrong, I’m just crazy.”

What is an emotion?

An emotion is a cocktail of hormones released into your blood stream by applicable glands that get circulated through your body in your blood and picked up by receptors in specific places causing reactions that your nervous system interprets and your brain labels as love, anger, fear etc….

How long does the emotion last?

For as long as the glands are triggered to release the hormones and they are circulated through your body.

How can I make an emotion go away?

Address the trigger and make it stop so that your body ceases to automatically respond.

How do I know what I’m feeling?

This is harder. Some of us had parents who were helpful in teaching emotion identification and others of us had parents who heard us cry and shoved food in our mouths whether we were hungry or not. The trick is to ask yourself when I feel X, how do I know? Take the time to go through the primary emotions and really think about it. How and where do you experience emotions? Maybe your body changes, maybe your instinctive behavior changes….

When you feel anxious, how do you know you feel anxious? What do you notice changes in your body?

When you feel depressed, how do you know you are depressed, what do you notice?

When you feel love….

When you feel anger….


Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling you’ll need to validate it.

We acknowledge the feeling and wonder where it might have come from.

“I feel sad, I wonder why, nothing sad just happened but I still feel it.”

“I feel anxious, I wonder why, life is pretty good, but something is causing me to feel anxious, I wonder what it could be.”

If the answer doesn’t jump out at you then start doing process of elimination: Is it the bills on the table, is it the way my friends talked to me last night, is it the thing I have to do for work???

Once you identify the trigger for the emotion you can address the trigger and do something about it: yes, it’s the stack of bills on the table, I don’t have the money to pay them all but I can at least make the calls and set up payment plans, no it’s not how my friends talked to me last night, they care about me, yes it’s the thing at work but it’s outside of my control so I’m just going to take a deep breath and focus on other things, I can’t control, what I can’t control. That may do the trick and the feeling may start to fade.

Sometimes an emotional reaction is out of proportion to the trigger. You identify the emotion, you identify the trigger and you think “ya but come on, I had a full on panic attack and we’re just talking what to get at the grocery store.” Often that means that one emotion triggered another bigger emotion and then you have to go through the process a little deeper. This is when it can be helpful to meet with a therapist who can help you trace the triggers back to a more traumatic or significant event that might be causing your current emotional response.

It’s important to remember that emotions are neither bad nor good. They serve a purpose for our survival even if they don’t always feel good to experience. Shame and guilt feel terrible!! But they control our behavior so that we act in ways that are acceptable within our cultures and we don’t get kicked out into the wild world to fend for ourselves. Love feels nice and it keeps us around people who will take care of us when we are weak. Fear lets us know that there is a threat; anger lets us know that something needs to change; passion lets us know that something needs to be more so….

Have a look at the primary emotions and take a moment to think about the emotions objectively, think about why you have them, how they manifest in your body, how they contribute to your survival.

**found on a website long ago, if this is yours, please let me know


2312 Mt. Vernon Ave

Suite 207

Alexandria VA 22301

Tel: 703-350-5908

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