Meta-emotion is an organized and structured set of emotions and cognition about the emotions, both one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. It refers to the idea that whenever we elicit a certain emotion, we also deal with subsequent emotions regarding how we experienced the primary emotion.
Meta-emotions are somewhat common: Over half of the adults in our study reported experiencing meta-emotions at least once during the week of surveys. Although its prevalence has been found to be overtime dependent on how we were raised.
Meta-emotions can be classified into four (4) types:
- Negative-negative (e.g., feeling embarrassed about feeling sad),
- Negative-positive (e.g., feeling guilty about feeling happy),
- Positive-positive (e.g., feeling hopeful about feeling relieved), and
- Positive-negative (e.g., feeling pleased about feeling angry).
From study conducted by the Emotion and Mental Health Lab at Washington University, negative-negative meta-emotions were the most common type. This indicates that many people get upset, nervous, or angry about their own negative emotions, in particular. prior research has also linked negative meta-emotions to feelings of depression, and negative-negative meta-emotions may be particularly problematic.
It is important to note that experiencing negative-negative meta-emotions does not mean you have, or will develop, depression. The opposite could be true—feelings of depression could lead to negative-negative meta-emotions—or some other cause could lead to both.
Data from research shows that people tend to report meta-emotions during times when they were paying more attention to their emotions in general. This makes sense, since being attentive to our emotions may lead to more judgments and feelings about them. It could also be the case that meta-emotions pull for our attention, leading us to become aware of layers of feelings all at once.
How to deal with Meta-emotions
Use Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), as prescribed by “healthline” and this include;
- Label your emotions with words; e.g Is it “bad feeling” sadness, hopelessness or fear
- Explore how you are experiencing the emotions in your mind and body. E.g faster heartbeat, chest pressure and sometimes urge to leave.
- Your negative emotions are important signals that alert you when something is not right in your environment. They can also serve as signals to others that you need help or support.
- It can prompt you to seek a greater understanding of your emotional experiences e.g; if you feel guilty about feeling angry at your spouse, that guilt might encourage you to explore what made you angry and whether that anger is justified. But in a clinically depressed state; people who suffer from clinical depression, often feel guilty about how they reacted in the past to things that can’t be changed.
- Experiencing negative-negative meta-emotions is not inherently a bad thing. The trick may lie in learning to understand these emotions and being flexible about the way you cope with them.
- If trying strategies on your own does not work, and you feel like negative-negative meta-emotions are interfering with your day-to-day life, it can help to work with a mental health professional trained in emotion-focused treatments, such as DBT and ACT.
Reference: Healthline, Science Direct, Wikipedia