At Transforming Emotions, our work is based upon the following premises:
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” This phrase, called Hebb’s Law, reminds us that neural pathways are most changeable when they are activated or ‘firing.’ What does this mean? When we routinely experience stuck emotion patterns such as feeling anxious, down, angry, sad, or some other ‘stuck’ or repeating problematic emotion, we are most able to change and heal this pattern when feeling it. In Emotion Focused Therapy, we focus less on teaching you how to cope with difficult feelings, and more on how to generate new reactions to familiar situations, people, or ‘triggers.’
Our emotion systems have developed collectively through human evolutionary processes to act as rapid signaling systems, and individually through our prior lived experiences. During every waking moment, we are experiencing dozens of signals from our internal and external environment (colours, shapes, sounds, smells, textures, pains, itches, twitches). Our emotion systems help to direct our attention where it is most needed. For example, it is more important when crossing the street to pay attention to the speed of the approaching car than to the colour of the flowers across the street, or to our itchy back.
Each healthy emotion signals an underlying need. For example, fear signals a need for safety. Anger signals a need to defend a boundary or value. Sadness typically signals a need for comfort.
Each emotion and need are also associated with a physical action tendency: to pull away in fear; to push forward in anger; to seek physical comfort in sadness.
Ideally, our emotions provide important information about our environments - whether we are safe, comfortable, being treated fairly or unjustly - and what we need. When our emotion systems go awry, it can be difficult or impossible to identify and find ways to meet our needs. This often leads to pervasive discomfort including symptoms of anxiety, depression, loss of hope and/or efforts to manage feelings through avoidance or distractions such as drinking, drug use, exercise, eating, and sex. We believe that emotions are most effectively changed by changing emotion with emotion.
Dr. Thompson’s work, and that of her associates, is based primarily upon the psychotherapy research of psychologists Dr. Leslie Greenberg, Dr. Jeanne Watson, Dr. Sandra Paivio, and Dr. Antonio Pascual-Leone. Practitioners may draw from additional evidence-based practices as the need arises, as outlined in clinician profiles.