Healthy Tahoe: Making sense of strong emotions
About The author
Saul Zelan, MD, specializes in adult and child psychiatry. He is part of the team at Barton Psychiatry and provides counseling, assessments and other mental health services for adults and children. He will be giving a free public wellness lecture on “What is Mental Illness?” this Wednesday, May 10, at 6 p.m. at Lake Tahoe Community College. For more information about the lecture, go to bartonhealth.org/lecture.
Emotions — what a puzzle! We all have them, yet none of us understand them very well. Why is that? Stated simply: Some people seem to have more emotions than others. But why? Why do some people seem to have a shorter fuse, or struggle to control themselves, or have a harder time letting things go? Why are teen years often so difficult? And beyond all that, why do we as a species experience so much rage, hatred, violence, bias, injustice and discrimination? Indeed, why can’t we all just get along?
Fortunately, science is making progress in understanding emotions. One way is through a basic model called bio-social theory. It involves ideas about how we are born (the bio part) and how we are raised (the social part).
Some people are simply born with more emotions than others. Like hair or eye color, emotional tendencies seem, to some extent, to be a heritable trait. Those with more emotions than others will tend to react faster, have stronger responses, have a harder time controlling their reactions, and need more time to return to their emotional baseline. We call this overall pattern “emotional vulnerability.” People with a higher emotional response may have a more acute or sensitive reaction to challenging and even everyday events.
Role of Life Events
We sometimes encounter experiences that increase our emotional vulnerability. This is the “social” part of the bio-social theory. Emotional vulnerability can elevate because of a variety of occurrences, such as invalidation (from the environment or from yourself), trauma, substances, poor sleep, illness, lack of coping skills or feeling overwhelmed.
Life looks very different to emotionally vulnerable people. There is no doubt that emotions at this level can be more painful for them compared to less emotional people.
The good news is the same science that helps us observe and describe emotions can also help us predict and influence them. So if you or someone you love seems to be struggling with emotional vulnerability, know there are solutions and help is available.
Healthy Tahoe is a look at health-related topics that shape our community and is made possible through content provided by our sponsors.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
There’s a good chance you or someone you know will soon get a COVID-19 vaccine. El Dorado County is in Phase 1B-Tier 1, which allows residents in certain age categories to now receive a vaccine,…