Happiness: many of us strive for this constantly, searching for a solution to achieve lifelong bliss. Its enemies: fear, anger, grief, and despair, common forms of reaction to threat. These emotions seem to so easily slip into our daily lives, distracting us from our search for happiness. In addition, these emotions also have negative consequences on our physical health, especially fear. Fear increases the level of stress put on our heart, elevating respiration and even shutting down digestion. Sadly, these four emotions are inevitable and we must embrace these to conquer them. Easier said than done, right?
Many of us may attempt temporary solutions to our problems that cause fear, anger, grief, or despair. Avoiding certain situations, ignoring emotions, creating excuses, and negatively releasing anger are just a few. None of these solutions will last, so how do we cope with the curve balls life throws at us? This question led to the development of a process called recasting. This process involves moving through our trauma, illness, or struggles by transforming these negative emotions into meaning, opportunity, and action. By developing and utilizing these emotions, you may develop a more positive emotional style overall, which has been shown to help humans resist illnesses, such as colds.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Isn’t that just reframing? How am I supposed to change negative emotions into positive ones?” With recasting, we use techniques to handle emotions as a natural part of life, derive the value from them, and eventually return to a happy life. By recasting, negative emotions are not allowed to persist over time, take over our existence or become our identity.
Follow these steps to set yourself up for success in recasting:
- Feel your Feelings - Feelings are real, and everyone has them. We are hardwired to experience feelings as motivators and survival mechanisms. So, feel your feelings. Specifically, describe to yourself the clear picture of the problem or issue you are currently dealing with. Then, find one or more of these primary emotions you are experiencing because of the issue: sadness, anger, fear, & joy. (Stick to these primary emotions to keep the picture as clear as possible!) To find these, focus on your thoughts surrounding the problem or issue and pay attention to the sensations throughout your body that those thoughts bring. By paying attention to these sensations, you may be more able to pinpoint the primary emotion towards the problem or issue.
- Find Meaning - Consider these questions: What can I learn from all of this? What was my part in creating this? What does this issue say about me or about the way I have been behaving? What do I believe is the genesis of the problem? What are my feelings telling me? Keep in mind that everyone will have different answers to these! Here are a few examples of what you may come up with: “My family is overwhelming me.” “I need to spend more quality time with my spouse.” “I have to deal with things head-on.” By searching for answers to these questions, we can discover a world of new information, insight, and a deeper understanding of ourselves.
- Recognize Opportunities – This step involves the following question: “Given my emotions (Step 1) and the meaning I have discovered around this problem (Step 2), what new opportunities exist for me?” For example, "How can I help others who also are experiencing this? If a loved one is experiencing this with me, how can I make our relationships stronger? In what ways can I show more appreciation for the good fortune I have otherwise received, no matter how small?" We must re-imagine opportunities that can allow us to progress and distance ourselves from negative life experiences.
The recasting process takes time! A lot of us wish to solve problems quickly, or cover them up entirely. But when you are equipped with the recasting process, you can more readily handle big life stressors and traumas. All three steps of recasting are crucial to any situation or scenarios you are dealing with: work problems, romantic relationships, friendships, family, illnesses, and so on.
Research has shown a strong correlation between the ability to recast and a perception of good health. Thus, resolving a problem utilizing the recasting process is a must for everyone to try. Find different ways that make it work for you: talk with friends or those close to you to discover (feel) your feelings, spend extra time in self-reflection to find the true meaning in those feelings, or write a list out of all the opportunities you might have as they come to mind. When you find out what works for you, try it as new and different scenarios come along with newfound confidence!
Berezin, M. (2002). Secure states: Towards a political sociology of emotion. MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Cohen, S., Alper, C. M., Doyle, W. J., Treanor, J. J. & Turner, R. B. (2006). Positive emotional style predicts resistance to illness after experimental exposure to rhinovirus or influenza A virus. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68, 809-815.
Foster, R., Hicks, G., & Seda, J. (2008). Happiness and health. New York: Penguin Books.