Emotional analysis will help you to understand your emotions and what they are telling you. You can decide whether they are correct or not, and either change your interpretation of the situation or take action.

Use Your Emotions

Excessive emotions such as intense anger have tremendous power to damage the complex social relationships on which we rely. They can also lead to rash and unwise actions. However, this is only part of the story. Like the fight-or-flight reflex, negative emotions give us the benefit of a speedy, and sometimes effective, response to simple situations, at the cost of a sophisticated and reliable analysis of more complex ones. Even if instant action is not required, our emotions can alert us to something to which we need to pay attention. We can then utilize more sophisticated analysis techniques to understand the situation in detail.

What someone says may not be what she means. Read the emotions behind the words.

Check Your Fundamental Assumptions

There are six main automatic assumptions that can lie beneath negative emotions. The specific emotions we experience in a difficult situation depend on which of these assumptions or factors apply. These assumptions are:

  • The situation is relevant to our goals.

  • The situation threatens our goals.

  • The situation will turn out badly.

  • Something important to us is being threatened.

  • We are responsible, or someone else is to blame.

  • We have some power to affect the situation, or we have no power at all.

Hear the Warnings


Emotions can be a useful early warning signal of a problem

Emotions can be an important early warning system. We experience different negative emotions for different reasons, and we experience the emotion because we are making specific subconscious assumptions about the situation. For example, we feel anger because we are subconsciously assuming that someone or something is frustrating goals that are important to us. Emotional analysis can help us to get to the root of why we are experiencing negative emotions and look closely at whether the information they are communicating to us is right or wrong. If the assumptions we are making about a situation turn out to be correct, we can learn from the early warning signals and do whatever we can to change the situation. If our assumptions are incorrect, we can change the way we see the situation.

Techniques to Practise

When you experience a negative emotion, follow these steps to carry out an emotional analysis.

If you practise this type of analysis regularly, it will soon start to come naturally to you.

  • Use relaxation techniques to calm yourself down so that you can think clearly about why you are upset.

  • Identify your assumptions. Using the list of fundamental assumptions and the list of emotions and assumptions opposite as a checklist, work through them and identify the assumptions that you are currently making.

  • Challenge each of the assumptions rationally to see whether it is correct or not. Don’t be harsh with yourself – be fair. If it helps, imagine as you make each challenge that you are your best friend.

  • Take appropriate action. When your assumptions are incorrect, the negative emotion should change or disappear as soon as you acknowledge this. If there is some element of truth to an assumption, recognize this and consider how to manage the situation. It may be possible to derive energy from the emotion, and motivation to achieve what you need to achieve. Remember that controlled, well-founded anger can actually be hugely motivating and enormously powerful.

Analyze Your Anger

As an example, suppose that you have identified that you are angry and you recognize the assumptions listed against “anger” in the table opposite. The next step is to challenge these assumptions by asking rational questions such as: “What goals are being challenged? Are they important? Are they really being frustrated? How severe is the damage? Am I attributing blame fairly?” Likewise, if you have identified that you feel shame, ask yourself if the ideal you have created is realistic. Ask similar questions about any assumptions that you are making.

Check Your Assumptions

Psychologist Richard S. Lazarus (and others) proposed a theory stating that we experience different emotions for different reasons, some of which we understand consciously, but some of which we process subconsciously.

  • The emotions we experience depend on our assumptions.

  • Where our assumptions are correct, our emotions alert us to situations to which we need to pay some attention.

  • Where they are incorrect, we can act impulsively and foolishly.

Are Your Assumptions Correct?


  • The feeling that a demeaning offence has been committed against us and ours

  • The feeling of facing an uncertain, existential threat

  • The feeling of facing an immediate, concrete, and overwhelming danger

  • The feeling of having transgressed a moral imperative

  • The feeling of having failed to live up to an ego ideal

  • The feeling of having experienced an irrevocable loss


  • Important goals have been frustrated; our self-esteem, or people, objects, or ideas that we value are damaged; others are to blame.

  • Our survival or what we hold to be important is under threat; we are uncertain about whether the threatened situation will occur and we are unsure about its severity; no one is to blame.

  • There is a threat to our survival or to what we hold to be important; no one is to blame.

  • We have failed to live up to an important moral standard; we place the blame for this on ourselves.

  • We have failed to live up to an ideal of ourselves; we blame this on ourselves.

  • Our self-esteem, or people, objects, or ideas that we value have been damaged; no one is really to blame; we are unable to recover the situation.

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