Managing Emotions

Exploring who you are today

By Arlene Harder, MA, MFT and John Fabian, Ph.D.


It has been said that families major in some emotions and minor in others. That is why some people are comfortable being angry and very uncomfortable expressing sadness. Some families tend to worry and get anxious over small things but accept major upsets with greater ease.

As you read the questions below about common emotions all of us feel at one time or another, notice which ones your family was not effective in dealing with.


“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.”
— Swedish Proverb

“There are people who are always anticipating trouble, and in this way they manage to enjoy many sorrows that never really happen to them.“
— John Billings

Topic Stimulators

  • What do you tend to worry about most?
  • How has worrying helped you or hindered you?


"I believe in guilt. There’s not enough guilt around these days for my taste.”
— Joy Williams

“Guilt is an emotion that has periodically served me well.”
— Barbara E. Mraz

Topic Stimulators

  • How has guilt helped you or hurt you in your relationships?
  • What rules of behavior do you most frequently break and then feel guilty about?
  • Healthy guilt is when you’ve done something you shouldn’t have and your conscience bothers you. Unhealthy guilt is when you make an innocent mistake and blow your action all out of all proportion to what it means to others. In viewing guilt in this way, how much do you tend to blame yourself, or excuse yourself, for your mistakes?

Hurt Feelings

"When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you."
— African Proverb

"The things which hurt, instruct."
— Benjamin Franklin

"Oh, trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce, Or a trouble is what you make it. And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts, But only how did you take it."
— E. V. Cooke

Topic Stimulators

  • We all know the proverb about stick and stones and name-calling,but is it true that when someone calls you a name that you’re not hurt? If not, how do you avoid feeling hurt?
  • How do you feed your feelings of outrage and hurt so they hang around much longer than necessary?
  • What is your typical response when your feelings get hurt? If that is usually not very helpful in feeling better, what might you do instead?


“Now when you hates you shrinks up inside and gets littler and you squeezes your heart tight and you stays mad with peoples you feels sick all the time like you needs the doctor.”
— Margaret Walker

“I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.”
— Baruch

“Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed.”
— Bertrand Russell

Topic Stimulators

  • What and who do you hate and why?
  • Who taught you to hate the things you say you hate?
  • In what way does hate make you feel better or worse about yourself?
  • How do you express your hatred? Are you more likely to be direct so that the person knows where you stand, or are you more likely to be passive/aggressive and “make nice” to their face but talk about them behind their back?
  • How do you suppress your hatred of someone or something, but know that the feeling remains inside, ready to boil over sometime in the future?


“Through anger, the truth looks simple.”
— Jane McCabe

“Anger is the most impotent of passions . . . and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed.”
— Clarendon

“Keep cool; anger is not an argument.”
— Daniel Webster

Topic Stimulators

  • What things tend to make you angry?
  • Are you more likely to express anger directly at a person or do you tend to talk about the situation with anyone who will listen?
  • Whether you get angry seldom or frequently, there are times in your life when you’re about to explode in anger and say or do something you’re afraid you’ll later regret. What technique works best for you in stepping back and calming down before you have hurt someone or created more of a difficult situation than is necessary?


“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
— Arthur Somers Roche

“Why is life speeded up so? Why are things so terribly, unbearably precious that you can’t enjoy them but can only wait breathless in dread of their going?”
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Topic Stimulators

  • How effective is the technique you generally use to deal with anxiety?
  • How much does your anxiety interfere with your ability to do the work you have to do and maintain the relationships you want to have?


“It’s like the smarter you are, the more things can scare you.”
— Katheran Paterson

“That fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything. Keeps you from reality.”
— Etty Hillesum

“I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let fear control me. I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back, turn back, you’ll die if you venture too far.”
— Erica Jong

Topic Stimulators

  • What is your greatest fear?
  • What do you do when you are afraid or feel threatened in order to reduce your fear?
  • When you are afraid, to what can you surrender other than your fear?
  • How can you remember to do this when you first realize you are afraid?