Getting a Handle On Your Emotional State

Trying to get yourself out of a rotten emotional state (anxiety, fear, depression) can be difficult, unless you’ve taken a little time to prepare beforehand.

Take a few moments and try the following exercise:

  • Close your eyes.
  • Allow yourself to recall a pleasant memory from the past. What it is doesn’t matter, as long as it’s something you enjoyed.
  • Gradually, let the memory become as intense and realistic as you can.
  • Visualize the scene (if visualizing doesn’t come easily for you, just pretend you can see it) as vividly as possible – make it full color, three dimensional, full-motion and pretend you are stepping right into the memory. Allow yourself to hear any sounds you might have heard at that time, feel any sensations you were feeling, and let yourself come entirely into the experience.
  • At the very peak of intensity, reach out and touch yourself firmly on the inside of your left arm.
  • Allow your eyes to open, and come fully back into the present moment.
  • Do this a few times over the next few days, being very careful to touch your arm in the exact same place, and you’ll find that soon you can get a lot of those same pleasant sensations back just by touching that spot on your arm again.

If you have taken the time to do the exercise a few times, and you are like most people, you were probably pleasantly surprised at how well this works. This is an example of a well-known technique known as “anchoring“.

Once you’ve practiced this a few times, repeat the process with a “neutral“ memory – something familiar that you don’t really feel good or bad about – tying your shoes, perhaps, or brushing your teeth. Remember to make it as vivid and real as you can, with all of the appropriate sensations. When you feel you’re fully in the memory, anchor this neutral emotional state by touching a different spot on your arm. Again, repeat this exercise a few times over the next few days, until you find that by touching that spot (“firing the anchor“), you reliably go to that neutral emotional state.

The reason for building both of these resource states is that it’s sometimes difficult to go directly from an unpleasant emotional state to a pleasant one. Once you’ve practiced these states a few times, the next time you are feeling upset, try firing the “neutral“ anchor, and then firing the “pleasant“ one. If you practice firing the “pleasant“ anchor as soon as you’re fully into the “neutral“ state, you’ll find that soon just firing the “neutral“ anchor is sufficient to bring you all the way to the pleasant state.

This is a very effective technique for starting to get hold of your emotional state, but it has a few limitations. You need to take time every few weeks to go back into those memories and “refresh“ the anchors, or they will get “diluted“ and soon have little if any effect.

It’s also sometimes difficult to break ingrained habits with this technique, or move out of a really strong emotional state. In my coaching practice, I work with my clients on a variety of techniques to help them get rid of old “unresourceful“ reactions that are deeply ingrained.

Remember: Coaching is not therapy –our focus is to move from functional to extraordinary, whereas therapy focuses on moving from dysfunctional to functional. if you have physical or psychological issues to address, please see a competent medical professional!

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