A bodily component in the form of central nervous system arousal, as when you experience your heart go aflutter in the presence of a love interest or when you tremble in fear.Jeffrey S. Nevid, Ph.D., ABPP – The ABCs of Emotions
A cognitive component, which includes the subjective feeling of the emotion, which we label as fear, love, joy, anger, and so on, as well the judgments we make about our life experiences that trigger emotional reactions (back to this in a moment).
The behavioral component, the third “side” of the emotional coin, is the outward expression of an emotion in overt behavior, such as smiling when happy or approaching someone we love or moving away from a feared object or situation.
Let me explain using a simplified ABC model, as proposed by psychologist Albert Ellis. The “A” stands for an activating event that sets the stage for an emotional response. The “B” stands for beliefs or judgments we make about the event, and the “C” represents the emotional consequences, such as anger, anxiety, sadness, guilt, worry, or for positive events, perhaps joy or happiness.
The emotional consequence (C) isn’t the direct result of the A (activating event) itself, but of the exaggerated or catastrophizing way of thinking (the B) that cognitive-behavioral therapists call a cognitive distortion.
In other words, life experiences are filtered through our belief systems that, in turn, trigger our emotional responses.
In order to validate and regulate emotions, it’s necessary to be aware that you are experiencing them in the first place.Mallory Frayn Ph.D. – How to Validate Your Emotions
There are three questions you can ask yourself to prompt your awareness of emotions: What am I feeling physically? What am I thinking? What emotional label would I put on this experience?
Paying attention to physical sensations is a helpful starting point because emotions usually present themselves in our bodies to motivate us to action.
Thoughts are also helpful to attend to because they provide some context as to what your emotions are communicating to you about your needs and whether or not they are being met.
Allowing yourself to feel your feelings—to lean in, rather than lean away—can show you that you’re capable of riding the waves of emotion. Because emotions are temporary experiences, they will reduce in intensity over time. Not allowing them to run their course can in fact make them feel more intense for longer, like trying to fight the tide.
Three simple words can go a long way in working to acknowledge and validate how you feel, and they are as follows: “That makes sense.”
They are a reaction to something that is happening in our environment, a threat detection system as it were, and they don’t pop up out of nowhere.
In some cases, after being present to your feelings and allowing them to run their course, you may realize that this in and of itself was all that you needed in that moment. Other times, after the intensity of the emotion has reduced, you may want to address whatever led to the emotion in the first place.
The key here is to wait to problem-solve your way out of an emotion until you’ve actually gone through it. If you jump right into figuring out what you need to do to make it go away, you’re effectively telling yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling, which is a sure-fire way to make it worse.