Processing Tools

What it is

Processing skills are tools that are used to help us with understanding our current emotions. They can also be looked at ways that help us with getting the emotions “out”. When we use processing, we get the emotions out in front of us and then dissect why we are feeling the way we do. Processing is extremely important because it helps us dig to the root of our emotions and allows us to replant healthier views, which leads to longer lasting change and maintaining a healthier well being.

How it works

Processing tools work by helping us with connecting to our emotions and then slowing our thought speed down. When we can connect to the emotion we acknowledge that it is there and that it is telling us there’s something happening within us, very similar to how a check engine light tells you there’s some problem with the car. Then as we process it, (break it down verbally), we slow down our thoughts and the way our brain is working, and this helps us to see why we are reacting the way we are.

When to use

Processing is most helpful when you are aware of your current feelings and are in a physically and emotionally safe place to analyze what is happening. It is helpful in being able to “dive deep” and for this reason you want to feel somewhat balanced and not in panic at the moment. This doesn’t mean that you need to be calm and collect, processing is extremely effective for strong feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and joy. But if you are in crisis it probably may not be the skill to use initially. Usually if you use a grounding technique or a distraction tool first, they can help get you in a more emotionally safe place where you can analyze more clearly what is happening for you internally.

Specific Tools

  • Venting feelings about a situation to a safe and close person (partner, family member, friend)

  • Talking with your therapist

  • Writing thoughts and feelings in a journal

  • Attending a support group

  • Listening to a song that matches your feelings

  • Watching a movie that matches your feelings

  • ABC Model

  • Chain Analysis

  • Circle of Influence (look at what you can and cannot control in the situation)

Circle of Influence

One valuable way of processing is being able to identify your circle of influence. This looks at and seperates the different things which you can control, can't control, or things you influence.

Being able to identify your circle of influence can help you determine where you can put your time and effort as well as your mental and emotional energy. You become less stressed when you put your efforts towards the things you can control and an appropriate amount towards the things you influence. And then it's important to take emotional and mental space away from the things you can not control. It's no use worrying about it if you can't control it.

Being able to determine your influence of control can be helpful for general anxiety, depression, and anger. It can also be used in a particular stressful situation such as a family conflict, challenges with finances, or stress at work (refer to image on the right). Being able to identify the certain areas of influence and knowing where to put your efforts will help you in decreasing the stress within your life.

ABC System

The ABC Model is a helpful way of helping us notice how our way of thinking about a situation can cause challenges in the way we react to it. The goal of this is to see where we have unhealthy beliefs, challenge those beliefs, and replace unhealthy beliefs with healthier beliefs.

In this exercise it is helpful to think about a recent event that may have caused you to feel anxious, sad, or angry. Example (frustration with a partner, stress at work, or frustration about a recent mistake you made.) The ABC Model is used within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy.

A - Activating Event

What was the event that happened that caused an emotional and behavioral reaction from you?

B - Beliefs

What are your beliefs about different things or scenarios which happened within the event?

What past experiences have created those beliefs?

C - Consequences

What emotional reaction did you have, or what feelings came up?

In what way did you react to the event?

What happened as a result of your reaction?

D - Disputation of Beliefs

Was the belief you used to react helpful?

What are the facts of the situation?

In what ways can your beliefs not match up with the facts?

What could you be missing or not seeing in the situation?

E - Effective New Beliefs

Are there beliefs which are more accurate to the situation?

Are there beliefs which are more healthier for me mentaly or behaviorally?

What would I like to do the next time a similar situation arises?

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