Part 1: Top 5 Things The Change Triangle Will Do For You
The Change Triangle is a map — a guide to carry you from a place of disconnection back to your true self. Working the Change Triangle is the step-by-step process at the heart of Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), a therapeutic method that teaches patients to identify the defenses and inhibitory emotions (shame, anxiety, and guilt) that prevent them from being in touch with their core emotions (joy, anger, sadness, fear, and excitement). In allowing ourselves to fully experience core emotions, we move toward an openhearted state where we are calm, curious, connected, compassionate, confident, courageous, and clear.
When we first incorporate the Change Triangle into our daily lives, we have instant benefits. Here are my top 5:
1. Imparts immediate distance and perspective from our distress.
Just remembering to think about where we are on the Change Triangle can stop a downward emotional spiral.
2. Brings awareness of the way our mind is working.
Once we see the Change Triangle on a piece of paper or in our mind’s eye, we understand what’s happening to us emotionally. Our current state is located on one of three corners of the Change Triangle or below it in the openhearted state. The openhearted state is a place in which we all want to spend more time. It feels great, as we are calm, clear in thought, connected, curious, compassionate and confident that we can handle whatever life brings. Working the Change Triangle over our lifetime helps us spend more time in the openhearted state.
3. Helps us figure out if we are using defenses, experiencing inhibitory emotions, or experiencing core emotions.
Knowing which corner of the Change Triangle we’re on is important. It’s knowledge that tells us what needs to be done to feel better. For example, if we recognize we are anxious, the Change Triangle guiding us clockwise tells us we have core emotions that need naming and honoring. Or, if we recognize we are in a defended state, we have the choice to stay there or reflect on the emotions we are running from.
We are liberated when we stop fearing emotions. Even though emotions are sometimes painful, they are more bearable than we realize and education really helps. Knowing what to expect makes the wave-like nature of core emotions less scary.
When we start to feel our emotions, we can expect anxiety to come up. Anticipating the anxiety helps. It’s still uncomfortable but less mysterious and scary. Once we notice anxiety, we can quickly shift gears and start calming anxiety with breathing, as we simultaneously name the core emotions underneath. Just by noticing and naming the underlying core emotions, we are better situated to find out what they are telling us and how to use the invaluable information our emotions provide us. Core emotions are designed by nature to be a compass for living.
4. Helps us find and name our core emotions
The brain calms down when we put language on our experiences. By taking the time to slow down, scan our body for emotions and put language on what we are experiencing, there is an immediate calming effect. Knowing the heavy feeling in your chest and pressure behind your eyes is sadness helps. Even saying to yourself, “It’s ok, I’m just feeling sad” often calms the brain and regulates the body so it’s easier to release the sadness with a good cry.
5. Gives us direction, showing us what to do next to help feel and function better
Once we can locate our self on a corner of the Change Triangle, we know what to do next. Whether we can work the Change Triangle alone, or need the help of a safe and non-judgmental other, we still have knowledge and direction for how to get relief and clarity.
I write about the Change Triangle because of how helpful it truly is for everyone who learns it. I cannot imagine life without this tool. Well, really I can because until I was 39 years old, I didn’t know it existed. Since then, I feel much more organized and less overwhelmed by my mind and feelings. I also feel much less self-conscious and just more me! Having had this education on the Change Triangle, I understand that anxiety and symptoms like depression, addiction, self-harm, social anxiety and more are symptoms of not fully feeling the underlying core emotions that arise from living, especially when adversity happens. The Change Triangle gives hope that there is always something we can work on to feel better and more connected to our calm, courageous, compassionate, clear, and confident authentic Self. I am so thrilled to pay this knowledge forward to you.
Thank you for reading. If you like learning about emotions and want more resources on the Change Triangle, you might like my blog or book “It’s Not Always Depression.” Please visit my website for free resources or to join my mailing list to receive a monthly article on emotions and wellbeing. Click here!