Category Archives: emotions

The Brain and Emotional Self-Control

Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University.

In this study, published in Brain Structure and Function, the researchers scanned the brains of healthy participants and found that key brain systems were activated when choosing for oneself to suppress an emotion. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement.

“This result shows that emotional self-control involves a quite different brain system from simply being told how to respond emotionally,” said lead author Dr Simone Kuhn (Ghent University).

In most previous studies, participants were instructed to feel or inhibit an emotional response. However, in everyday life we are rarely told to suppress our emotions, and usually have to decide ourselves whether to feel or control our emotions.

In this new study the researchers showed fifteen healthy women unpleasant or frightening pictures. The participants were given a choice to feel the emotion elicited by the image, or alternatively to inhibit the emotion, by distancing themselves through an act of self-control.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of the participants. They compared this brain activity to another experiment where the participants were instructed to feel or inhibit their emotions, rather than choose for themselves.

Different parts of the brain were activated in the two situations. When participants decided for themselves to inhibit negative emotions, the scientists found activation in the dorso-medial prefrontal area of the brain. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement.

In contrast, when participants were instructed by the experimenter to inhibit the emotion, a second, more lateral area was activated.

“We think controlling one’s emotions and controlling one’s behaviour involve overlapping mechanisms,” said Dr Kuhn.

“We should distinguish between voluntary and instructed control of emotions, in the same way as we can distinguish between making up our own mind about what do, versus following instructions.”

Regulating emotions is part of our daily life, and is important for our mental health. For example, many people have to conquer fear of speaking in public, while some professionals such as health-care workers and firemen have to maintain an emotional distance from unpleasant or distressing scenes that occur in their jobs.

Professor Patrick Haggard (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) co-author of the paper said the brain mechanism identified in this study could be a potential target for therapies.

“The ability to manage one’s own emotions is affected in many mental health conditions, so identifying this mechanism opens interesting possibilities for future research.

“Most studies of emotion processing in the brain simply assume that people passively receive emotional stimuli, and automatically feel the corresponding emotion. In contrast, the area we have identified may contribute to some individuals’ ability to rise above particular emotional situations.

“This kind of self-control mechanism may have positive aspects, for example making people less vulnerable to excessive emotion. But altered function of this brain area could also potentially lead to difficulties in responding appropriately to emotional situations.”

Anger Group

Once a week I facilitate a anger management group. I use a variety of handouts and activities to have a process oriented group interaction. One of the hand outs I use is below. I use it in 1 of 2 ways. I have folks fill it out first and then we discuss or we go through it together and discuss. We explore as a group, learning from each other.

ANGER WORDS

anger disgust grumpiness rage  aggravation dislike hate resentment  agitation envy hostility revulsion  annoyance exasperation irritation scorn  bitterness ferocity jealousy spite  contempt frustration loathing torment  cruelty fury mean-spiritedness vengefulness  destructiveness grouchiness outrage wrath

Other:_________________________

Prompting Events for Feeling Anger

Losing power.

Losing status.

Losing respect.

Being insulted.

Not having things turn out the way you expected.

Experiencing physical pain.

Experiencing emotional pain.

Being threatened with physical or emotional pain by someone or something.

Having an important or pleasurable activity interrupted, postponed, or stopped.

Not obtaining something you want (which another person has).

Other:_______________________________

Interpretations That Prompt Feelings of Anger

Expecting pain.

Feeling that you have been treated unfairly.

Believing that things should be different.

Rigidly thinking “I’m right.”

Judging that the situation is illegitimate, wrong, or unfair.

Ruminating about the event that set off the anger in the first place, or in the past.

Other:____________________________

Experiencing the Emotion of Anger

Feeling incoherent.

Feeling out of control.

Feeling extremely emotional.

Feeling tightness or rigidity in your body.

Feeling your face flush or get hot.

Feeling nervous tension, anxiety or discomfort.

Feeling like you are going to explode.

Muscles tightening. .

Teeth clamping together, mouth tightening.

Crying; being unable to stop tears.

Wanting to hit, bang the wall, throw something, blow up.

Other:__________________________

Expressing and Acting on Anger

Frowning or not smiling; mean or unpleasant facial expression.

Gritting or showing your teeth in an unfriendly manner.

Grinning.

A red or flushed face.

Verbally attacking the cause of your anger; criticizing.

Physically attacking the cause of your anger.

Using obscenities or cursing.

U sing a loud voice, yelling, screaming, or shouting.

Complaining or bitching; talking about how lousy things are.

Clenching your hands or fists.

Making aggressive or threatening gestures.

Pounding on something, throwing things, breaking things.

Walking heavily or stomping; slamming doors, walking out.

Brooding or withdrawing from contract with others.

Other:_____________________

Aftereffects of Anger

Narrowing of attention.

Attending only to the situation making you angry.

Ruminating about the situation making you angry and not being able to think of anything else.

Remembering and ruminating about other situations that have made you angry in the past.

Imagining future situations that will make you angry.

Depersonalization, dissociative experience, numbness.

Intense shame, fear, or other negative emotions.

Other:______________________

Clients find healing, self-expression through restorative art program

Hung on the walls of the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope, you can see — and even purchase — Jim Lucas’ saving grace.
The formerly homeless Fort Collins man is a recovering addict who has been clean for four years after a 15-year struggle with meth, his “drug of choice.” He hasn’t had a drink in 11 years. He found his way off the streets around the same time he became clean.
“Funny how that works out,” he said.
The struggle to go back to methamphetamine and substance abuse is always there, but Lucas, 53, has the best sober companion he could ask for: art. He’s one of around 15 artists participating in ArtSpe@k, a restorative art program at the Murphy Center in partnership with Front Range Community College’s community studio that encourages Murphy Center guests to tap into their creative side. For more click.