Help! My emotions seem too intense!

Q. I think I tend to feel emotions very strongly as compared to my friends. Is it abnormal?

A. People differ from each other in terms of the intensity with which they usually experience emotions. You may have noticed that for the same kinds of situations, different people may have quite different emotional reactions. Often, this applies to both positive and negative emotions but the intensity may seem to be much more for negative emotions. In itself. there is nothing abnormal about having high intensity emotions. But it is important as to how you handle these intense emotions.

Q .But ….I end up doing things which are harmful under the sway of these strong negative emotions

A. Yes, if you find that you tend to lose control when feeling strong emotions and do things that you later regret/engage in acts that are destructive ( to self/others/for the situation), then it is a cause for concern.

It may help to explore different things that help you to take a pause/put it on hold/not react till you are feeling a little more in control/till the emotion has passed its peak intensity. You may need to explore and see what exactly may help when a particular emotion runs high. Different things work for different people. Here we are only talking about very short term/emergency measures that can work like a strong stop signal. It could be a physical activity, a distracting /engaging /tiring task/ a piece of music/jotting down your thoughts in words/through paint. The possibilities are endless and you will need to find what works for you as a pause/stop signal. This should give you enough time to be in a position to respond (rather than react) by thinking through different ways of handling the situation/problem/ the emotion in the longer run.

For some individuals, it may not be so much about an intense negative reaction that turns out to be a problem but the fact that these emotions keep lingering on and on and it is difficult to bounce back to   one’s usual state of mind. The prolongation of negative emotions makes them into negative moods that influence our day. It is worth the efforts and energy to learn strategies that can help us recover faster from our negative moods. Sometimes it helps to check with ourselves whether we are ok with allowing something small that went wrong to spoil our entire day or to ask ourselves how bad this situation actually is- on a scale of 0 to 100.

If emotion –management seems to be a major concern in your life, utilizing various resources such as  participating in short term self development programs on related themes, accessing authentic sources of online help, reading professionally written self-care books and meeting a therapist/counselor could be some of the smart ways of gaining a sense of control.

In the long run, strengthening skills at managing our negative emotions wisely is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and the rewards are worth the efforts.

Expert: Dr Seema Mehrotra

Professor of Clinical Psychology

NIMHANS, Bangalore