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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Emotions in the Wake of Disaster, by Sarah Rose Cavanagh Ph.D. (From Psychology Today)

How you respond to emotions may have implications for your psychological health
Source: Psychology Today
Michiko is at home, contentedly sipping coffee and flipping through the pages of a gossip magazine while her toddler plays at her feet and her 7-month-old naps in her crib. She lives in an area with frequent earthquakes, so at first she hardly notices as her cup begins to clatter in its saucer. But quickly the shaking becomes more and more severe, and the apartment building begins to rock alarmingly from side to side. The quake is not letting up.

She grabs her son by the arm and rushes to her infant daughter’s room to swoop her up. Michiko manages to get to the stairwell, one struggling child under each arm. Dust begins to fall from the ceiling, and she realizes that there is no way to get all three of them down the long, steep staircase safely. She rushes to return her infant to her crib, kisses her hot face, and begins the challenge of wrestling her toddler down the perilous stairs.

Once outside, she looks desperately for someone she can entrust her toddler to so that she can return for her daughter. Huge buildings tilt and crack as a sea of panicked humanity rushes by her.

This is a fictional recombination of several real accounts told to us by our research participants, living and working in Tokyo, Japan during the March 2011 tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear crisis.

The Regulation of Emotion

I study emotion regulation, or the strategies people use to change or modify their emotional states in order to feel better or meet some other sort of goal, such as behaving appropriately in a social situation. Most of the time, the situations that require us to regulate our emotions are fleeting and minor (you must dampen your irritation with a frustrating client in order to maintain a good working relationship). Decades of research have taught us a lot about which methods of emotion regulation are most successful.

This research seems to indicate that one of the most effective emotion regulation techniques is that of cognitive reappraisal – the ability to rethink the nature or implications of a situation in order to alter its impact (the client is just trying to please his own boss – I can recall being in similar situations and should be more patient).

So, cognitive reappraisal is effective, and both how frequently you use cognitive reappraisal in your daily life and how successfully you are able to use it to reduce negative emotions have been linked to all sorts of good outcomes like lower depression and heightened well-being. (Continue reading)

🔎Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Psychology and Director of the Laboratory for Cognitive and Affective Science at Assumption College.

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