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Your Emotional Type

Emotions have gotten a bad rap in our culture. They're often seen as signs of weakness or the things that get in the way of our ability to function and cope. 

I disagree. In my 20 years as a psychiatrist specializing in energy and intuitive medicine, I've witnessed firsthand the power our feelings have to spiritually awaken us and offer a positive, courageous way to deal with stress. 

Dealing with emotions effectively isn't about stuffing them away or feeling them less. It's about establishing balance, shoring up those areas where we're most vulnerable, and making the most of our natural strengths.The key lies in understanding your natural style of relating. What's the default setting of your personality, the one you revert to -- especially under duress? Do you lead with your intellect? Share your feelings freely? Shut down? 

Following, I've outlined four different profiles from my book, "Emotional Freedom." See what resonates with you and what doesn't. No type is better than another as long as it's in balance. The goal here isn't to stereotype your responses, but to identify your own strengths and weaknesses -- and ultimately, be your best self.

The Intellectual: Heavy Thinker
Bright, articulate analysts, intellectuals often take refuge in their heads, filtering the world through rational thought. Impeccable analyzers with a killer sense of logic, they often risk cutting themselves off from their emotions, dismissing them as too "soft" or illogical. 

Known for keeping their cool in heated situations and excelling at debate, intellectuals struggle with emotions and may be slow to engage in anything playful or lighthearted.

Are you an intellectual?
Do you believe you can think your way to any solution? When presented with a problem, do you immediately start analyzing the pros and cons rather than notice how it makes you feel? Do you prefer planning to spontaneity?

If so, try this:
Breathe
If you're mentally gridlocked, simply inhale and exhale deeply and slowly, in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Exercise
Whether you're Rollerblading, walking, or poised in a yogic sun salutation, exercise imparts an in-the-now body awareness that gives the intellect much-needed rest. 

Practice empathy
Ask yourself, "How can I respond from my heart, not just my head?"

The Empath: Emotional Sponge
World-class nurturers, empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. Because they interpret the world intuitively, they tend to feel everything (sometimes to an extreme) and can therefore fall prey to stressful emotions, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, especially if they don't set and maintain firm boundaries.

The right mix of intellect, feeling, and groundedness can help them get centered.

Are you an empath?
Have you ever been called too emotional or overly sensitive? If a friend is distraught, do you start feeling that way, too? Are your feelings easily hurt?

If so, try this:
Enlist your intellect
When you're emotionally wrung out, think things through to counter anxiety. Repeat this mantra: "It is not my job to take on the emotions of others. I can be loving without doing so." This forms the intellectual foundation for coping.

Decompress
Take calming mini-breaks throughout the day. Head outside for some fresh air, go for a walk, or find a private place to close your eyes and meditate. Focus on exhaling pent-up negative emotions, such as loneliness and worry, feeling them dissipate with each breath.

Safeguard your sensitivities
Make a list of your top five most emotionally rattling situations, then formulate a plan for handling them so you don't get caught in a panic. For instance, if your comfort level for socializing is three hours, always take your own car so you can leave an event early.

The Rock: Strong and Silent
Consistent, dependable, and stable, rocks offer security and rarely lose their cool. You can sob, complain, or rant; they won't pull away or judge. But unlike empaths, there's a solid border between themselves and the world. 

Because they tend to internalize their own stressful emotions, they need some nudging to bring them out. Don't expect them to exhibit or reciprocate emotions -- or handle relationship conflicts head on. Rocks can find balance by engaging in freer, more spontaneous interactions.

Are you a rock?
Is it easier for you to listen than it is to share your feelings? Do you often feel like you're the most dependable person in the room? Are you generally satisfied with the status quo in your relationships (though others try to draw you out emotionally)?

If so, try this:
Stir things up
Decide to initiate emotional exchanges rather than only respond to them. Remember that showing emotion is as much a form of generosity as being dependable is. With loved ones, expressing your feelings generates sparks, which generates passion -- yours and theirs.

Express one feeling a day
In a daily journal, record an emotion you're experiencing. Don't mince words. Maybe you're pissed off. Content. In love. Whatever it is, bravo! Now tell someone. If you don't suppress your emotions, your stress lessens, and there's more of you to connect with.

The Gusher: Nonstop Flow
Spontaneous, direct, and trustworthy, gushers are virtuosos of their emotions and need to share them. Their compulsive emotional purging, however, can inhibit their own self-sufficiency and sometimes even drive others away. But they're also able to quickly metabolize negativity and move on.

Are you a gusher?
Do you get anxious if you keep your feelings in? When a problem arises, is your first impulse to pick up the phone? Do you have difficulty sensing other people's emotional boundaries?

If so, try this:
Before soliciting support, check in
Ask yourself how a certain situation makes you feel. Mad? Seething? Experience those emotions before acting out or involving someone else.

Use positive self-talk
Tell yourself, "I did my best. I even deserve kudos for graciousness." Affirm everything you did right; try to forgive when you might have fallen short.

Tune in to your intuition
Spend a few moments meditating to see what impressions or "aha"s come to you. Don't cheat yourself out of the chance to build your emotional muscles.

Adapted from "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life" by Judith Orloff, M.D., by the author. Published by Harmony Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

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