Keynote: “Emotional Schema Therapy: Coping with Emotions We are Told We Should Not Have”
Emotional Schema Therapy is a social cognitive model of emotional intelligence and emotion regulation. In childhood and throughout life we are often told, “You shouldn’t feel that way”, as if one can just wish away an unpleasant feeling. This dismissive, invalidating and reproachful message is carried throughout life for many people who are ashamed, confused, and unable to accept difficult emotions that are viewed as “unacceptable”. All of us experience unpleasant emotions at some time, but only some of us develop major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality or other psychological disorders. Once an emotion arises a series of automatic processes is activated including awareness, labeling, linking emotions to situations and thoughts, evaluations of the emotion, interpretations of causality, and strategies of emotion regulation. These processes often involve habitual biases in thinking and the elicitation of unhelpful emotion regulation strategies. Of particular focus in this presentation is how people respond to emotions that they believe that they should not have—such as jealousy, envy, resentment, boredom, ambivalence, resentment, and shame. Many people endorse beliefs in Emotional Perfectionism—that their emotions should be pleasant and always make sense—and beliefs in Existential Perfectionism—that their lives should go according to expectations of fairness, rationality, and control. The Emotional Schema Model assists in the incorporation, acceptance and containment of all emotions, normalization and validation of inevitable difficulties including the experience of self-contradiction of emotions, and the facilitation of a broadening and deepening of emotional experience. Cognitive, behavioral, and experiential techniques will be described that clients can use to live a life where one is capable of “feeling everything” rather than an unrealistic life of “feeling good”.