Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Impact of Emotional Role Models

As a child, you probably learned patterns from others by watching how they dealt with their emotions, expressing them or denying them, or even being overly reactive themselves. These people were most likely your parents or other care-givers.

Making a list of the major emotional role models from your family, or from your childhood and adolescence can help give insight into your preferred emotional reactions and preferred style now. Begin by listing your parents, guardians, uncles, aunts, siblings, grandparents, carers, teachers, clergy, etc.

My emotional role models were:





Now, comprise your list below of the top 3 people that you think were the most influential in your life. If your list is shorter than this, then work with that. In the space provided below each person’s name, list their dominant emotional style (their general emotional trait), then write a brief summary about how you remember these people. Think through if you remember them as angry, peaceful, balanced, imbalanced, depressed, anxious, etc. Finally, summarise what you think you may have learned from each of these individuals. How did you learn to manage your emotions? How easily do you recognise your emotions? Did you learn emotional balance? Did you learn to take your emotions seriously? Did you learn to be out of control or chronically angry; or how to judge others for displaying their emotions? And so on. Remember that if this person is someone you decided that you did not wish to emulate, have you over-compensated in the opposite direction e.g. if they were argumentative, have you become conflict-avoidant or vice versa?

You may include in this summary your opinion about whether these models and their lessons have been effective or detrimental to you.

Emotional role model #1:

Emotional style:

What I learned from this person:

Emotional role model #2:

Emotional style:

What I learned from this person:

Emotional role model #3:

Emotional style:

What I learned from this person:

After doing this exercise, can you think of any emotional reactions that you would like to modify or even let go? If so, list the pros and cons of this emotional reaction (the pros might be that it has become a familiar friend to you - a habit; or that it gets you the desired attention from others; you might feel good in the short-term but not so good in the longer-term; etc.).

Looking at the list of cons, write down possible alternative ways of responding that will give you more positive and sustainable outcomes. Giving consideration to the effects of your reactions on those you love or work with will help you decide how to modify these reactions. Give equal attention to those which are not visibly reactive such as simply witholding approval or communication; remaining quiet in the face of someone's bullying (avoidant); being overly-compliant (people pleasing). These are passive but will not be as productive for you in ensuring you are treated fairly. Make sure that you list all the emotional reactions that you have which are productive and are helpful in sustaining the healthy relationships that you have.

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