Check out the ladder of emotions below. Where might you fit on this scale in all of the different aspects of your life?
The Emotional Guidance Scale (Hicks & Hicks, 2004).
- 1. Joy/Appreciation/Empowered/Freedom/Love
- Positive Expectation/Belief
The emotional ladder is something I use with my depressive clients. As you can see, depression and despair are among the most negative of emotions. What if I told you that depressive symptoms will lessen if you allow yourself to feel the emotions (ANY emotion) in the higher registers? I’m not saying that you must talk your way into seeing unicorns and rainbows…cuz that won’t work, obvi. However, I am saying that even feeling the emotions of hatred, vengeance, and jealousy can help treat depression. In a nutshell, feeling ANYTHING outside of depression (even other negative emotions) can be very helpful.
Often times, depression occurs because the person has given up on feeling anything at all. He or she has likely experienced so much pain that they would rather resign. It’s my job to slowly allow them to run the gamut of negative emotions until they might hopefully reach the positive registers. For example, I had a client who was betrayed by his dad. He went through so much pain that he had resigned from feeling anything…no emotion…minimal dialogue…stoicism and sadness as far as the eye could see (these are often the characteristics of someone with depression). We had to slowly climb up the emotional ladder, one emotion at a time. He had to first acknowledge his resignation and start to pin point the other emotions he was feeling towards his father and towards the world. The major ones turned out to be vengeance and anger. Anger towards his father and vengeance against anybody and everybody who tried to manipulate him. We thereby spent our time working out these emotions by processing them, expressing them, accepting them, and finally moving passed them. I think it was once we hit disappointment that I knew we were on our way to success.