Over the last few years we have had a terrific response in terms of de-escalation with our course incorporating Affect Labelling. Some of the following text and imagery is taken from this book by Douglas E. Noll.
Emotions arise to make us pay attention to our environment. The more emotional our experience, the less we can think clearly, resist impulses, and engage in constructive problem-solving. By creating even the simplest label, we learn to express what we are experiencing. At a rudimentary level, we think about what is causing us to feel emotion and take action to experience either more or less of the emotion, depending on the situation.
“Affect” is the word used to describe the physiological changes that occur within our brains in response to a memory or outside event.
The creation of cognitive labels is called emotional categorisation and, unlike affect, is learned from experience.
The more granular this emotional categorisation the more self control the person has in making choices when an emotion is powerful.
Layer 1: Anger, rage, frustration
Layer 2: Disrespect, betrayal, unfair
(unfair - not really an emotion, but it works)
Layer 3: Anxiety, fear, afraid, scared
Layer 4: Grief, sadness
Layer 5: Abandoned, unloved, unworthy
When people in an fMRI machine are shown photos of faces expressing strong emotion, for example, their brain signals show greater activity in the amygdala, which is involved in generating emotions, especially fear. When asked to label the emotion, however, the subjects show less activity in the amygdala, and greater activity in a region of the right frontal lobe known as the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rvlPFC), a region involved in vigilance and discrimination.
In effect, assessing and naming an emotion seems to transform the emotion into an object of scrutiny, thereby disrupting the emotion's raw intensity.