Emotion Response Types

This blog is related to the previous blog: “Why is emotion important and what is Emotion Focused Therapy?”.

In therapy it can be helpful to reflect deeper upon what emotions we are experiencing in response to a certain situation.

Emotion responses can be categorized into four broad types:

•  Primary adaptive emotion responses
This is an unlearned, spontaneous and direct emotional response that is beneficial/adaptive and fits/matches the current situation. For example:
When there is a violation or an attack on ourselves or loved ones (situation), we will feel anger (emotion), and we will want to protect/assert/defend (adaptive action).

• Maladaptive emotion responses
This is a learned, direct emotional response that fits your deeper emotional experience but that is not beneficial and got triggered by a past experience and does not match the current situation. For example:
Someone in your environment offers genuine caring or concern (situation), my perception of caring or concern = potential threat because this is what used to happen in the past (activation patterns due to past experiences), we will feel anger (emotion), and respond on that – for example we might break contact with that person (even though there is no violation or threat in this current situation) (maladaptive action). So the emotional response anger is understandable if we look at the past experience, even though it is not helpful for this person in this current situation.

• Secondary reactive emotion responses
This is an emotion about another emotion which is not beneficial and does not match the current situation and your actual deeper emotional experience. For example: When someone experiences a loss (situation), that person can feel sad (primary emotion), which can be followed by anger that we feel sadness (secondary reactive emotion), and we will react with attack or punishment to ourselves or others (maladaptive action).

• Instrumental emotion responses
This is a strategic emotional response to get what you want, but doesn’t fit your true deeper emotional experience. This can be consciously intended but can also be unconsciously learned. For example:
When you are not getting what you want (situation), but you want attention or your way (intention), you show sadness “crocodile tears” to get what you want (instrumental emotion display).

Written by:
Flo Westendorp, Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate, MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)

Why is emotion important and what is Emotion Focused Therapy?

Emotions determine how we see the world, show us what is important to us, tell us what we want or need, help us to get in contact with our body, form our behaviours and give meaning and direction in life. 

We have emotions and actions that are adaptive in certain situations, a few examples:
When we have loss or separation (situation), we feel sad (emotion), and we would seek support (adaptive action).
When there is suffering of someone we care about (situation), we will feel compassion (emotion), and we will offer support (adaptive action).
When there is a violation or an attack on ourselves or loved ones (situation), we will feel anger (emotion), and we will want to protect/assert/defend (adaptive action).

We can also get stuck in our emotions and not be able to move on from a certain situation. At this point the emotions are not helpful anymore. For example we could:

  • Cover up an adaptive emotion with another emotion. 
  • The intensity of the emotions is too much or too little regarding the situation. 
  • An emotional response from a past experience could be triggered in a current situation.

I will tell you more about emotional response types in my next blog. 

What can we do when we get stuck in our emotions?
In a safe environment when a therapeutic alliance is built you can slowly and gradually start working with the emotions. Emotion Focused Therapy helps to get in contact with emotions, become more aware of emotions, regulate emotions, differentiate between emotions, deepen into certain emotions or core pains, accessing the underlying unmet need of the emotion, stay with certain emotions, acces useful information and promote expression of emotions.

This will eventually create relief, a shift in emotions, more awareness and better coping mechanisms. You will be able to feel more free and continue your life in a more relaxed state.

Written by: 
Flo Westendorp, Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate, MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)
SACAC Counselling

Tapping Your Way to Health and Happiness – with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

Mahima's Blog Pic 2

Have you ever felt upset or distressed and wished you could do something about it in real time? EFT might just be the solution you have been looking for.

EFT is a tapping technique clinically proven to effectively reduce a broad variety of emotional distress including stress, anxiety, tension, depression, physical pain, fears and phobias, limiting beliefs and blocks and is being widely used to heal psychological issues and improve quality of life. It is easy to learn, can be used by kids, adolescents and adults, and can bring stress-relief in seconds. EFT is a non-invasive process which combines the wisdom and power of ancient acupuncture (without needles) with the science and insights of modern psychology.

EFT involves gently taping on/stimulating certain acupoints on the body, while zoning into the issue that we wish to resolve – combining cathartic truth statements focused on the problem and positive affirmations of self-acceptance. This process clears and harmonizes the blocked/disturbed energy in the meridians, leading to a deep release of stuck emotions which allows for natural and often profound shifts in the ways we think, feel and react. Since EFT activates and works on all levels of our system – mind, body and emotions – the release and relief are long-lasting, holistic and deep. Studies also show that EFT works much faster than traditional forms of therapy, is similar in effectiveness to EMDR and often more effective that CBT within a smaller number of sessions.

The effects of EFT are incredible and undeniable at the same time. It isn’t something you need to make yourself believe – it’s a tangible shift you experience in your body. I have been using EFT for over 5 years now to help improve my mental and physical health and as a powerful technique to help my clients with the multitude of concerns they struggle with.
EFT can be learned and used easily and quickly as psychological first aid – helping you deal with the day-to-day upsets, stress, physical pain, anxiety, negative thoughts or anything else that pulls you down while also giving you a tool for self-development – empowering you to take charge of your emotions, health and life.

EFT is also highly effective for deeper work with limiting beliefs, low self-esteem and confidence, core issues, negative thoughts, trauma and abuse, PTSD, painful experiences/memories, depression, fears (like public speaking, failure etc.), test – taking anxiety, specific phobias, body image, athletic performance, cravings, headaches and pain management, chronic illness, insomnia, fibromyalgia, guilt, grief and loss, anger and almost any emotional distress.

Tapping is proving to be a powerful, well-researched and easy to learn and apply technique.
As further advancement, Matrix Re-imprinting combines advanced EFT techniques with inner child work and quantum physics. Matrix Re-imprinting allows for a gentle resolution of painful traumas and old wounds in a wholesome and integrative manner. This allows the person to safely process the shock and pain of the experience, release stuck emotions and cellular memories, reclaim lost parts of themselves and re-engineer/rewrite the memory into a happier, empowered picture of their choosing – as they integrate the new positive feelings and beliefs intellectually, emotionally and physically. Matrix re-imprinting allows for powerful and deep-rooted change in a rapid and gentle manner.

Please feel free to connect if you wish to experience or learn EFT. To view sample videos introducing and describing EFT, please visit:

Written by: 
Mahima Gupta Didwania 
Clinical Psychologist                                                                                      SACAC Counselling