Universals and emotion

Just a musing prompted by watching UK Big Brother the other night. Some of the housemates get very emotional very frequently – and when they do, they use a lot of universal quantifiers: “This always happens to me”, “I’m never accepted” etc.

And I got to thinking – when you’re flooded with emotion, those “always/no-one/never/every time” words really do feel like the truth. The emotional brain is not designed for reframing or putting things in perspective.

So the appropriate meta model “challenges” and the very similar questions used in cognitive behavioural and rational-emotive approaches – “What, always? Has there ever been a time when that didn’t happen?” and so on – are designed to help the client get out of the emotional swamp and back to the firm ground of rationality, where perspective and reframing become possible.

Frequent use of universal quantifiers, then, would indicate someone over towards the “Feeler” end of the spectrum in Myers-Briggs terminology. I wonder, are there (or should there be) other language patterns which could be markers for someone off the scale towards the “Thinker” end – and what “challenges” could help them to restore balance?

© 2005, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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