We spoke with Michael Schaefer, who works in a psychological advice centre, about dealing with your emotions.
Are there good and bad emotions?
No. All emotions are OK. They are our way of reacting to things: annoying situations make us annoyed, sad ones make us sad, and happy ones make us happy. Even if I react differently to other people, that’s OK. If I want to laugh at a funeral because I’m nervous and tense, this emotion is also OK, even if my behaviour is inappropriate.
Can you learn to deal with your emotions?
Yes, we are not prisoners of our emotions. There are many ways of influencing what we feel and above all how we deal with our emotions.
Can you give us an example?
We should not allow ourselves to be taken unawares by our emotions. If you listen to your body you will notice how you are. Is your heart beating faster? Are your hands clammy? Do you have tummy ache? These signals tell us how we’re feeling. If you notice in time, you’ll not be overcome by emotions and will have time to find remedies. The next time you feel sad, listen to your body. Then think about what happened to trigger this feeling..
And how does it help to know what made me sad?
It’s always useful to know what triggers an emotion, because then it’s no longer so mysterious. You’re in a better position to talk about it and can adapt to future situations when you’re aware that they affect you.
We should not allow ourselves to be taken unawares by our emotions.
How is it that my girlfriend and I react quite differently to the same situation?
People can be similar. They can have the same tastes and opinions. But no two people are identical. You have your history, your girlfriend has hers. You come from different families, maybe even from different countries. You have different role models. Perhaps you have brothers and sisters and she doesn’t have any. Perhaps your parents are strict on good manners, hers less so. You like to read and are good with words. She is quiet and a little dreamy. Situations are not objective but depend on people and their backgrounds, experience and characters.
On the one hand that’s a good thing because it makes us curious and enables us to learn from one another. But it’s often at the root of misunderstandings or incomprehension. If we believe that our way of reacting is the only correct one, we will miss out on all kinds of things.
Are there so many ways of feeling and acting?
Yes, people feel and act differently, but individuals also have more possibilities than they might think. If someone angers you, you can decide to hit him, but you can also say to him that you feel hurt and go away. You can also go to your girlfriend and tell her what happened or record it in your diary.
Hitting someone or harming yourself are not good ways of reacting to feelings. There are always other solutions.