Last updated on 2nd February 2009
Here are a set of handouts and questionnaires about emotions. It seems helpful to understand emotions through an evolutionary perspective - we have emotions, to a large extent, because they had (and have) survival value. We are the descendants of people with adaptive emotional systems that helped them stay alive and function well. Typically unwelcome feelings that seem maladapitve are due to emotions that are firing off inappropriately. As a rule of thumb, if an emotion is an appropriate reaction to a situation it can help us respond successfully. If the emotion is inappropriate then it's likely to be more useful to work to change the emotional response - through therapy or other approaches.
Emotions are like a ‘radar system' - this pair of Powerpoint slides, that I print out as a two-slides-to-a-page handout, introduces the idea of emotions as an evolutionarily adaptive system. I use the metaphor of emotions as a 'radar & rapid response system' - normalising emotions and conceptualising emotional problems as inappropriate levels of activation in a basically adaptive system.
Emotions, ‘arriving' & ‘leaving' - this pair of Powerpoint slides handout introduces a simple model of 'arriving' (understanding what one is feeling) and 'leaving' (acting from or processing the feelings). The ideas are based on the work of Les Greenberg, Robert Elliott and others.
Emotions, awareness & regulation - again a pair of Powerpoint slides based largely on the work of Greenberg and colleagues. The handout both looks at aspects of emotions and introduces a metaphor of wading into a river as a way of considering over- and under-regulated emotions.
Emotions as different rooms in a house, page 1 & page 2 - here are four Powerpoint slides that I usually print out as a handout with two slides per page. Page 1, with ideas from Antonio Damasio, looks at the changes emotions produce in body and brain. Page 2, partly inspired by John Teasdale, suggests that different emotions produce such different mind-body states that it may sometimes be helpful to view humans as possessing a series of different "minds" rather than just one. I then introduce the metaphor of humans as "houses" with a collection of different mind-body "rooms" that we move between.
"Positive" emotions, page 1 & page 2 - again this is a four Powerpoint slide handout usually printed as two slides per page. It looks at the work of Isen and Fredrickson on the function of positive emotions, including the broaden-and-build theory. The handout also briefly considers how positive emotions can be encouraged and the value of acting from them.
Fredrickson's positive:negative emotional ratio - this questionnaire assesses the ratio of positive to negative emotions. It - and variations of it - have been used in Fredrickson's research. Research suggests that, for healthy functioning, one needs a ratio of between 3:1 to 11:1. This applies whether one is studying individuals, couples or work teams.
"Positive" emotions: optimal ratio, page 1 & page 2 - another four Powerpoint slide handout (typically printed as two slides per page) that complements the "Positive" emotions and emotional ratio handout and questionnaire (see above). These slides give further background on the importance of a 3:1 to 11:1 ratio, benefits of positive emotions, types of positive emotion, and how positive emotions can be encouraged.
Emotions & feelings - this six Powerpoint slides to a page handout discusses definitions, components, types and functions of emotions.
Understanding our reactions: self monitoring - this is an assessment form that can be used to self-monitor or to complete within a therapeutic session. It looks at experiences of strong emotional reactions and asks a series of questions that can clarify the source of the emotion (leading to ideas about appropriate responses).
Understanding upsetting feelings, one week & two week forms, and suggestions - the 'Understanding our reactions' form (above) is used to note specific obvious examples of strong emotional reactions. These two 'Understanding upsetting feelings' forms are a little different. They encourage regular daily self-observation. Sometimes getting people to do this routinely for a while produces better information - possibly because it helps them keep the daily monitoring task in mind, rather than forgetting to do it. The 'Suggestions' sheet provides some background advice on keeping the forms.
Experiencing scale - this scale assesses seven levels of emotional and cognitive involvement with one's ongoing (internal) experience. Primarily tested in person-centered therapy - but also for other therapies such as group therapy and CBT - it has been found that being more emotionally engaged with therapy tends to be associated with better subsequent outcomes.