Bringing Balance to our Emotions
Years ago, I had a patient whose emotions were out of control. Everything was a huge ordeal. We all know people like this, don't we? They are the ones to whom you'd just like to say, "Get a grip!" For those who tune into reality TV, think Tatiana.
Not all overly emotional reactions are that intense. Most are just mildly annoying. Regardless of their intensity, emotional reactions are not "overly emotional" to the person experiencing them. We give appropriate reactions for our value system. Someone else's response seems too great or too small because they value the situation differently than we do.
During a family vacation, our kids were watching a DVD in the car. Mysteriously, it turned itself off. Three shrieks of horror simultaneously burst forth. The kids had been watching the show for an hour and were engrossed in the tale. My husband and I hadn't been paying the DVD any attention. In fact, we didn't even notice the DVD had cut off; we were completely unaffected. We ascribed no value to the DVD working, but our three girls placed great value on the DVD playing. We had a different reaction to the same stimulus, because we valued the stimulus differently.
But a stimulus exists that would provoke a reaction of similar emotional intensity. There is a situation out there that would produce a shriek of horror from me and my husband...it just isn't the DVD cutting off!
People's reactions are proportionate to the amount of value they place on the situation. Their reactions seem disproportionate to us because we value the situation differently. When we say someone is overly emotional, we are really saying they assign more value to an object or situation than we would.
The take away value here is threefold. A person's "emotional" response is a window into their value system. Instead of focusing on their response, you can acknowledge their feelings, then steer the conversation in a direction that will allow you to learn more about them. "I can tell the DVD cutting off really bothered you. Will you share why that was important to you?"
If you are someone who is referred to as "overly emotional," take a look at how important situations are to you. Do your responses reflect your value system? If they don't, you may want to dial down your responses. But, if your responses do reflect your value system, understand those around you do not place the same importance on situations as you do. You can acknowledge this and request respect for your feelings. "I understand my reaction seems intense. Please give me a few minutes to process this."
Last, realize that our responses aren't consistent. Responses are affected by our world. Our responses are more emotional during times of high stress or pain. Always assume you are seeing someone at their worst and offer a disproportionate amount of grace.