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Changing Emotional Responses

Changing Emotional Responses


Emotions are powerful survival skills so ingrained in the brain they are unavoidable. When something happens or is noticed, the brain starts creating the chemicals in ~40 to 100 milliseconds and starts thinking about the thing in ~250 to 500 milliseconds. We think in emotions, and they come automatically. Emotions are used by the body to prepare us to survive for the next 3 to 30 seconds, and generally only last 90 seconds if not reinforced. We can’t choose what emotions come to us (we actually can, it’s going to take a fair bit of work though!), but we can choose which ones to surf. 



  • The greater project is to increase mindfulness, i.e. strengthen that Medial Prefrontal Cortex, and if necessary process trauma. 
  • If at all possible, when we, or someone we trust, notices we may be emotionally flooded we need to take a time out. Once we become flooded, we stop being loving, caring, rational, problem solving people and instead become an animalistic survivor.
    • This time out needs to last at least 20 – 25 minutes after the thing that triggered us and any rumination has stopped influencing us so the liver can filter out all the adrenaline and cortisol.
  • Name your emotions, let yourself feel them. If the feeling is anger, what else did you feel just before anger?


DBT Skill

  • Check the facts, do your emotional reactions fit the facts of the situation. Changing your beliefs and assumptions to fit the facts can help you change your emotional reactions to situations. 


Many emotions and actions are set off by our thoughts and interpretations of events, not by the events themselves.

  • What is the emotion I want to change?
  • What is the event prompting my emotion? (Is there a first, traumatic event like this?)
  • What are my interpretations, thoughts, and assumptions about the event?
  • Am I assuming a threat? Is there an actual threat?
  • What’s the catastrophe?
  • Does my emotion and / or intensity fit the actual facts?


  • Opposite Action, When your emotions do not fit the facts, or when acting on your emotions is not effective, acting opposite (all the way) will change your emotional reactions.


  • Problem Solving, When the facts themselves are the problem, solving the problem will reduce the frequency of negative emotions.
  • Figure out and describe the problem situation.
  • Check all the facts to be sure you have the right problem identified.
  • Identify your goal in solving the problem.
  • Brainstorm lots of solutions.
  • Choose a solution that fits the goal and is likely to work
  • Put the solution into action
  • Evaluate the results of using the solution.

Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.