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Levels of Emotion

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Inadequate Concern For Others.

For a variety of reasons, some people fail to develop emotionally beyond the early childhood stage where caregivers exist to take care of and to frustrate the needs of little children. Adults whose identities fail to develop in this manner tend to regard the other adults around them as primarily there to either care for or frustrate their needs. It tends not to occur to such folk that those other adults may have perfectly legitimate needs or desires themselves that they ought to be accommodating. When this thought does cross their minds, they tend not to put too much stock in it. Adults who demonstrate inadequate concern and empathic appreciation for others tend to have troubled, conflict-filled relationships with others. They may fail to appreciate that it is their own empathic failings that are causing a large number of such problems, and think instead that other people's failings are to blame (e.g, "So I fooled around a little on the side, so what! Why is (my wife) so upset with me? It's not like I love those other women").

  • Are you a giving, generous person?
  • Is other people's welfare important to you?
  • Do other people say you are selfish?
  • Are you aware of having a conscience? Are you troubled by it?

Overly High Concern For Others.

If some people demonstrate an inadequate concern for others' feelings and needs, other people react so strongly to those feelings and needs that they end up harming themselves in the process. The problem typically has to do with how a person is in the habit of judging themselves. Healthy people are attentive to the needs and desires of others, but retain their own center of judgment If a healthy woman is out on a date, for instance, the questions that fill her mind (to the extent there are questions at all) have to do with whether she is enjoying herself. Some people, however, get hung up on what other people are thinking and spend all their time worried about being negatively evaluated by those other people. While out on a date, such a person would spend his time worried whether his partner liked him or not. It wouldn't even occur to him that his own sense of the date was important. People who demonstrate an over-regard for the opinions of others tend to set themselves up to be anxious and worried. Over-concern for others is related to self-esteem, as your self-esteem tends to be low when you are always worried about being judged by someone else. However, it is an independent dimension of identity, nevertheless.

  • Does your concern for what other people think get in the way of your life?
  • Do you worry about rejection? About being evaluated in a negative way?

Poor Emotional Coping Skills.

Some people's problems are not so much that they pay too much attention to what other people think, but that they don't know how to manage the intense feelings they experience when they are rejected. These people tend to become overwhelmed by their feelings and end up "acting out" various emotion-motivated extreme behaviors that may result in harm (to themselves or to others), or feelings of embarrassment, shame, humiliation or regret. They may feel betrayed by friends, lovers or family members and become intensely angry with them. They may start fights or slash tires. They may take drugs or consume large quantities of alcohol. They may act out sexually. They may become abusive They may threaten suicide, or cut or burn themselves. Such people typically don't know how to calm themselves very effectively, and might not choose to do so in the heat of the moment if they did.

  • Do you have a temper? Do you upset easily?
  • Are you ever ashamed of how you react when upset?
  • Have you ever hurt yourself or someone else when upset?

 

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