Making therapy and mindfulness fun!
For most of my life, I have thought of my emotions as people. Jealously was a green monster, sadness was a blue creature hiding under my bed, anger was a nasty spike ball, anxiety was an energetic little monster bouncing all around, and happiness was always a gigantic smiling sun. In 2015, when the movie, “Inside Out” was released, I was thrilled to see emotions characterized as people and the movie told from the perspective of the emotions. The media had finally created a way for children and adults to easily externalize and observe their emotions.
When we externalize and observe our emotions, we no longer take them to be the truth. We disconnect the emotion from who we are. We no longer see ourselves as the “nervous Nelly,” depressed person or angry person. Suddenly we realize that our emotions are not who we are, they are just emotions and no longer have the power to define or control us.
I think the hardest part of regulating our emotions is learning to separate ourselves from them. If our emotions are stuck to us like glue, we have no idea where we begin and they end. We become helpless to our emotions and they rule our everyday life. We mindlessly follow their stream of thinking and do what they tell us to do. If we feel scared, we avoid a situation. If we feel depressed, we feel less motivated. If we feel angry, we lash out. These little creatures have total control over us.
One way I have helped my clients take a mindful approach to externalizing and observing their emotions is through what I call, “Emoji Therapy.” Emoji therapy is done via text and uses the tools from mindfulness in a fun and creative way.
First, client’s select emojis that represent their emotions. The emojis act as a way to observe and describe what they are experiencing. I then encourage my clients to text the emoji to me whenever they begin to have a strong emotional reaction.
If clients are working on a behavior, they also send emojis. However, they select one emoji for when they’ve successfully avoided the behavior and a second emoji for when they’ve engaged in the behavior.
Clients track their emotions or behaviors with emojis in real time directly with me via text. Because non-judgement is a critical component of mindfulness, I never respond to the text unless my clients ask me to do so. Clients also develop a list of tools and skills to manage their emotions and behaviors more effectively. In my experience, clients who “emoji their emotions or behaviors” make significant improvement in counseling more quickly than any other therapeutic technique.
You might be asking why “emoji your emotions” works so well. For over 130,000 years, people have communicated with images. The emoji taps into the primitive part of the brain where emotions are expressed and processed non-verbally. This allows us to observe and describe our emotions more rapidly. The primitive part of the brain receives the emoji message, and enough space is created for clients to intervene with emotion regulation and distress tolerance tools. As a result, my clients cope with their emotions and behaviors more effectively.
If you would like to work with me to “emoji your emotions,” please visit my website to schedule an appointment.