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Living with feelings you think you should not have

Prof. Robert Leahy

Thursday, 19 September 2024


All of us have emotions that we would prefer not to have, such as anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, jealousy, envy, resentment and boredom. Certain events may trigger these emotions but once we have these emotions we use problematic strategies to cope such as suppression, alcohol, drugs, reassurance seeking or blaming others. These strategies only perpetuate the emotional turmoil leading to further reliance on problematic coping. This is because we each have a theory of our emotions including beliefs about what we should feel and what causes our emotions and how to handle them. We will see how modern theories about emotion and emotion regulation can help us make room for “unwanted emotions” so that we can live a life that feels more real and more complete.

The event will be equivalent to 2.3/4hrs of CPD.


Each of us has a theory of our emotions and the emotions of other people. This includes beliefs about which emotion are OK to have, how long an emotion will last, will the emotion go out of control, do others have similar emotions, do our emotions make sense, and whether we can accept having mixed feelings. These beliefs are called “Emotional Schemas” and they determine whether we can tolerate emotions or feel the need to avoid or escape from emotions. In this workshop we will see how we can help clients recognize and label emotions, accept them while recognizing that there are helpful strategies for coping, and address these problematic beliefs. The goal is to live a richer more meaningful life which often entails emotions that we wish we did not have—but which are emotions that are inevitable with the relationships, experiences and memories that we will have. The goal is not to get rid of emotions or to be happy all the time, but to be able to experience a full range of meaning without getting hijacked by our emotions. Do emotions last forever, are they dangerous, are they unique to you, do your emotions make sense, can you accept mixed feelings, and do you feel ashamed about the way you feel. We will see how evolutionary theory, socialization, cultural and historical factors, anti-emotional beliefs, and emotional schemas combine to perpetuate painful emotions. And we will see how changing emotional schemas, acceptance, focusing on valued action, making meaning rather than comfort a priority, and how meta-cognitive techniques and metaphors can help people make room for, learn from and grow with emotion. Finally, we will see how existential perfectionism (seeking a perfect life) and emotional perfectionism (wanting only wonderful emotions) need to be reversed so that we can live in the real world where meaning entails disappointment and attachment involves loss.

Learning Objectives

1. Be able to identify the emotional schemas that the client believes in
2. Understand how problematic beliefs about emotions interfere with therapy
3. Identify how emotional schemas are learned during childhood
4. Use tools of acceptance and mindfulness to make room for emotions
5. Understand how to help clients reduce shame and guilt about emotions

Training Modalities

Didactic content, lecture, experiential exercises, use of metaphors.

Key References

Recommended Reading

Leahy, R.L. (2015) Emotional Schema Therapy. New York: Guilford.

Leahy, R.L. (2018) Emotional Schema Therapy: Distinctive Features. London: Routledge.

Leahy, R. L. (2020) Don’t Believe Everything You Feel: The CBT Workbook to Identify Your Emotional Schemas and Find Freedom from Anxiety and Depression. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Leahy, R.L. (2018) The Jealousy Cure: Learn to Trust, Overcome Possessiveness, and Save Your Relationship. . Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Edwards, E.R. & Wupperman. P. (2019) Research on emotional schemas: A review of findings and challenges, Clinical Psychologist, 23:1, 3-14, DOI: 10.1111/cp.12171

About the presenter

Robert L. Leahy was educated at Yale University (BA, MS, PhD) and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine under the direction of Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy. He is the author and editor of 29 books that have been translated into 23 languages. Leahy is the Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City, Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College, Past President of the Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapy, the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and the International Association for Cognitive Therapy. He is the recipient of the Aaron T. Beck Award from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and the Outstanding Clinician Award from ABCT.

Who should attend

This webinar can be helpful to clinicians at all levels of training.

Details coming soon

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