Importance of Emotions

(25 minutes)

the brain
  • Show your students this feelings chart and stress the importance of identifying and naming their emotions in order to regulate them.
  1. Have your students think for a few minutes about how they feel when they are involved in conflicts. Ask them how these feelings make them want to react, and how these reactions might make the conflict play out. 
  2. Introduce your students to the necessity for practicing emotional regulation in order to productively resolve conflicts, and make sure to let them know:
    1. In order to come up with constructive ways of dealing with stress and conflict, we need to understand our own emotional responses and manage anger that we feel.
      1. Ask students how they manage their stress and feelings of anger.
    2. Channeling our emotions in ways that don’t escalate conflicts can help us to deal with them so that the likelihood of them turning into destructive conflicts diminishes.
    3. Using constructive strategies for regulating our own emotions can help us to better deal with conflicts.
      1. Ask students for tips on how to manage stress and strong emotions such as anger.
  3. Let your students know that the brain is where emotions and regulation occurs.
    1. Our brain stem controls our basic needs for survival, including the fight/flight/freeze response. When we are in a situation of tension or conflict, we get the instinct to fight, run away or freeze. The brain stem is connected to the limbic system, or emotional center of the brain, and so when we are in these situations, our emotions also flood our brains, including the cerebral cortex, or logical center.
    2. Sometimes the flight/fight/freeze response is necessary, like when you are about to cross the street and a car comes zooming at you, but other times, we can regulate ourselves and our emotions in order to connect with our cerebral cortex and react more productively. 
  • Show your students this video that explains how the brain reacts during strong emotion.

Understanding Emotions

(20 minutes)

  • Have your students watch the video below.

by WJC directed by Peter Ferris Rosati

  1. Teach your students about feelings and how best to understand emotions.
    1. Sometimes, including when involved in a conflict, it is easier to feel mad than to feel other emotions. You might get mad at your friend for talking behind your back, but you are probably feeling hurt as well. The next time you are angry, see if you can figure out what other emotions you are feeling.
    2. Emotions are temporary, even though sometimes when we have them, we think they are going to last forever. This belief that the emotions will last forever can make us act in ways that we would not if we realized they were temporary (for example, commit an act of violence when we are angry). As they are temporary, we can do things to regulate ourselves.
    3. We cannot control our emotions – we need to accept them – but we can control our behaviors and how we act on our emotions. Rather than instinctively acting on our emotions, we can think about them and constructive ways to act on them.
    4. When we name our feelings, it helps us to calm our emotions. 
    5. Emotions are indicators for whether a need is being satisfied or not. If you are happy, it is likely that you are satisfying some need, or a group of needs. If you are sad, angry, or frustrated, it is likely that you are NOT satisfying some need or group of needs. You can also use the emotions others are feeling as clues to help determine what interests and needs may or may not be met for them at the moment.
  2. Have students fill out the Understanding Emotions Worksheet or use the questions for in-class discussion.

Managing Emotions

(50 minutes)

  1. Even though you generally have choices in the way you handle conflicts, sometimes you might not be aware of those choices because you’re too angry or upset. Stop and think each time you have a conflict, and see if there’s a different way you might handle it in order to meet both your interests and needs and those of the other people involved. This does not necessarily mean you should let an issue go that is causing a conflict. You can be assertive! What are the differences between being assertive, passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive?
    1. Assertive: self-assured, positive and confident. Person addresses issues in a non-hostile way.
    2. Passive: submissive and/or avoiding. Person does not address issues, even if they are harmful.
    3. Aggressive: inclined to behave in an actively hostile way. Person may attack others instead of calmly addressing issues.
    4. Passive-aggressive: Person uses hostility or negativity to address issues in an indirect way.
  2. Ask students to fill out questions 1-6 of the Anger Management worksheet.  Have them discuss their answers with a partner.

  • Show your students these regulation strategy videos and listen to the guided mediations. Let them know that these are they types of things they can do to help regulate themselves, including when they are in a conflict.  
  • Have students write down which regulation strategies would work best for them when they are in a conflict and why on question 7 of the Anger Management worksheet and who they can turn to when they need help regulating themselves on question 8.