Emotion shifts are the things we do to help us not get stuck in an upsetting
thought or feeling. Emotion shifts are used to help us take a break from
upsetting thoughts and feelings, but not to try and forget about them.
confident we become in using emotion shifts, the less we will worry about having
the upsetting thoughts and feelings and the more we can then feel safe in
looking at and figuring out the things that cause us to become upset.
In medicine, emotion shifts are especially helpful for residents who are
moving quickly from one activity to another or one patient to another. Using an
emotion shift can help you avoid bringing a negative emotion (anger,
frustration, impatience, anxiety) that emerged in a prior activity into your
next activity. Imagine the clinic patient who sees you after you just found out
you have 2 admits waiting. Doing an emotion shift will help you approach that
clinic patient with attention and compassion rather than the emotions that might
have popped up about the extra work..
An adaptation of the emotion shift involves these steps:
- Become aware of the negative emotion or thought. Use your awareness of when
you are angry, frustrated, impatient, anxious to prompt you to start an emotion
- Pick an alternative emotion you would prefer to have in place of the
negative one. For example you could substitute calm for impatient, relaxed for
tense, accepting for angry.
- Pick an image you naturally associate for the preferred emotion. For
example, the image for calm could be standing in a park on a warm summer day
feeling the sun’s rays.
- Then do following:
- Take a deep breath, hold it briefly and then slowly exhale, letting your
shoulders drop as you exhale.
- Take another deep breath, hold it briefly and then slowly exhale, close
your eyes, picture the positive image and then the preferred emotion you want to
- Repeat two times.
- Return to your activity while thinking about the preferred emotion as you