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Stave off bad feelings

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Stave off bad feelings

Cognitive behavioural therapy that involves assuming an angry person has had a bad day - and it’s not your fault - arms you against negative feelings from that angry person.

Just telling yourself that your boss might be suffering from a bad headache or is feeling the stress of unmanageable workloads may help you deal with her angry outbursts.

It’s called reappraisal training by therapists trained in cognitive behavioural psychotherapy. Look at someone in a new light and it will affect the way you receive their negative emotions. This is a change from the way psychologists counselled patients in the past: by focusing on the negative emotion and then working on get getting rid of it.

New research at Stanford University has reinforced the newer approach and suggests that it is “actually a much faster and deeper process.”

“You can see this as a kind of race between the emotional information and the reappraisal information in the brain: Emotional processing proceeds from the back to the front of the brain, and the reappraisal is generated in the front of the brain and proceeds toward the back of the brain where it modifies emotional processing,” researcher Jens Blechert said.

Two experiments tested research participants’ reactions, first to images of different faces without any preconceptions, then to the same images after being told to consider that the people they’d seen had had a bad day, but that it was nothing to do with them.

The researchers found that the participants held onto negative emotions brought on by an angry face, but weren’t disturbed by them when asked to adjust their attitude to those faces. The researchers called this attitude adjustment “reappraisal.”

In the second study, the researchers recorded electrical brain activity from the scalp and found that this reappraising got rid of the signals related to the negative emotions felt by the participants when they were just asked to look at the faces.

Arming yourself with this reappraisal self-defense mechanism might make those dreaded meetings with your boss a whole new experience. And if you need more decompression, try out some stress-busting exercises when you get back to your desk.

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