Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
How do you deal with your emotions? Although we are all different, I think that there are two styles : externalisation and internalisation.
The externaliser expresses what they are feeling – they talk very freely about their emotions, or they may show their emotions in physical ways. But the externaliser tends to have a default position that when they are dealing with heightened emotions, they show them.
On the other hand, the internaliser doesn’t show their emotions very readily. Instead they keep things inside, and process them quietly on their own. When they are doing this it tends expend a lot of energy and they are likely to withdraw, to go quiet, maybe to take themselves completely away from other people.
I see this as a sliding scale – a continuum. If we were able to score our emotional energy on a scale from 1 to 10, an externaliser will be showing their emotions when their score is less than 5, whereas an internaliser won’t start to let their feelings about until the level goes above 5. We have probably all come across people who are at extremes of the scale – there are people who “wear their heart on their sleeve” – they are volatile and excitable. They maybe let their emotions out at level 1 or 2. On the other hand there are the people who are always calm and collected; nothing seems to ruffle them. Their feelings need to be up at 9 or 10 (or even 11) before they show any signs.
It’s a bit like a flood barrier. A low barrier – a 1 – lets the river overflow easily whereas a high barrier – a 10 – will need a tsunami before its defences are breached. But what the 1s and 10s have in common is that they are people who struggle to deal with their emotions – they are uncomfortable with them. The extreme externaliser handles this by letting their feelings out as soon as possible – by giving them away, even after the slightest rainfall. The extreme internaliser handles their feelings by squashing them – by denying they exist, until the tsunami comes along. If you can remember that far back, might think of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe as two extremes – at least on the tennis court,
In thinking about this, I realise that it is not quite this simple because people will have different ways of handling different sorts of emotion. Some people always seem to be chirpy – so they can express happiness easily but their sad feelings are kept inside. Others may come across as very anxious, fearful people, or very angry people – so they tend to express these emotions much more readily than others.
It can be helpful to think about where you are on this scale – and where friends and family are as well. If you are an externaliser, it is worth thinking about the effect this can have on others – are you dumping your feelings on them too much? And if you are an internaliser, perhaps you are trying to do too much yourself – it’s hard work maintaining those huge barriers.
I don’t think we can make drastic changes to our natural styles but I think that an awareness of them can help us to adapt. Moving from a 2 to a 3 – or from an 8 to a 7 – can have a big impact on those around us and is something that is achievable.