What is Emotion?
The overarching basis for all feelings is defined as affect (Gross & Thompson,2007) and within that model lies emotion as a subset of affect. Emotion, which is considered a subset of affect, is thought to be a process that on occasion reaches a detectable level by the person experiencing that emotion or by some type of external observation (Gross & Thompson, 2007; Walden & Smith, 1997). Emotion is considered a portion of a process that serves to organize the environment an individual is experiencing (Gross & Thompson, 2007; Rottenberg & Gross, 2003). Emotion is different from affect in that emotion contains some precipitating event, motor behavior change, some relevant cognition, and subjective expression of feelings; emotion can be seen to be a consolidation of many different behaviors and cognitions. Rottenberg and Gross (2003)believe that emotion is the coordinated response of an individual to some perceived stimuli that is important to the survival of the individual. Fundamental schools of thought regarding emotion surround the notion that emotion is either a biological component (i.e.,hard-wired) of the organism or that emotion is a learned process based on a social context.Emotion serves to provide information, evaluation, and possibly to act on various situations (Gross & Thompson, 2007). Emotion also serves to assist in the organization and presentation of behavior. Some consider the function of emotion to be a dominant system used to stimulate the body to action when a conflict exists among possible actions available to follow (Barrett, 2006). Based on this framework, all areas of human functioning are associated with emotion because emotion is an element of all systems to assist in guiding the behavior of the individual. A second frame of reference suggests that
emotion serves to categorize stimuli as they are experienced (Barrett, 2006).
Emotion Dysregulation and Psychological Diagnoses
When emotion interferes or impairs functioning emotion dysregulation is considered the cause (Cole et al., 1994). Episodes of emotion dysregulation are thought to take place in a various ways, such as inappropriateness of affect, chronic worry,avoidance of emotions, flatness of affect, unpredictable fluctuation between emotionless and rage, periods of elation, dejection, or prolonged negative emotions (Cole et al.,1994). Early deficits in emotion regulation have implications for future potential dysfunctional episodes, including externalizing symptomatology (Hill, Degnan, Calkins,& Keane, 2006). Hill et al. (2006) studied toddlers’ emotion regulation at age 2 and found correlation with later externalizing symptoms.For the purpose of this study, based on the work of Gross (1998, 1999; Gross &Thompson, 2007), emotion regulation is defined as a core process by which an individual is able to influence emotions either intentionally or unintentionally.
Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation
Mindfulness training may help improve emotion regulation skills by increasing emotional awareness. If individuals are aware and notice internal experiences as they are,they may view these experiences as thoughts or emotions, without valence (Baer, 2003).Also, in learning to pay attention to internal experiences and accepting them nonjudgmentally, an individual could also increase tolerance of these experiences while limiting avoidance tendencies (Baer, 2003). By limiting avoidance tendencies, an individual is also less likely to increase negative emotional experiences (Hayes, 2004).There are several theories of emotion that described emotions as being linked with behavioral response tendencies (Gross, 1998).
Gross reported evidence demonstrating that different appraisal strategies can consistently affect the physiological, experiential and expressive aspects of emotional responding. It is possible that mindfulness may change automatic response mechanisms when the individual observes, describes, and participates in emotional experiences without acting on them (Linehan, 1993).Mindfulness may change the behavioral response to emotions, as well as the associated thoughts, images, and/or memories. By changing the response tendency to one of an “observe only” stance, mindfulness is thought to alter the meaning of the event from bad or good to “just is” without the need to restructure, reframe, or modify the appraisal itself directly (Baer, 2003; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Linehan, 1993).
Mindfulness and mindfulness skills are reported to be positively associated with adaptive regulatory strategies, such as acceptance and letting go of negative thoughts (Baer et al., 2006; Brown & Ryan, 2003). Furthermore, it has been reported that the adaptive nature of acceptance when associated with emotional experiences is consistent with the idea that it may be more adaptive to experience or express an emotion than to change the path of the emotion (Barrett & Gross, 2001).
Selected Factors That Can Improve Self-Esteem
Adolescence is a developmental period from puberty to adulthood In which the individual strives to attain the physical, emotional, and social maturity of adulthood. It Is a time of turmoil, identification and independence. Most psychologists view adolescence as a stressful period because teenagers have to adjust to many changes (Mazen, 1981). During this transitional stage of adolescence, many teenagers have severe difficulties and become emotionally disturbed. They suffer from anxiety, depression, phobias, drug and alcohol addictions and behavioral and adjustment problems. They lack success in school, feel unworthy and alone and have low self-esteem. Disturbance is most likely to occur at times of transition and the extent of the anxiety Is partly a reflection of the adolescent’s perception of the balance of stress and support (Harre 8, Lamb, 1984).Improving self-esteem can help troubled youths to solve their problems.
Many interventions can take place that can help adolescents who are emotionally disturbed improve their self-esteem, such as the following four researcher selected intervention factors for this study that can improve the students’self-esteem through programs and activities at the School. These interventions are: quality of relationships with significant others primarily parents and peers, Incidence of guidance, counseling,and therapy, attitude toward school, and the development of vocational awareness. A discussion of these interventions follows:
1. Quality of Relationships With Significant Others—Primarilv Parents and Peers
Adolescence is a time of seeking independence from parents and looking for support from peers. Many feel that the adolescent-peer relationship is an important part in developing a positive image of oneself. Each adolescent seeks a new Identity and his peer group will serve as a substitute family, fulfilling his dependency needs and providing him with new values, beliefs, attitudes, and morality” (Mazen, 1981).Chasseguet-Smirgel (1985) considered the relationship of adolescents with their peers, an Important role in Influencing self-esteem. Because peers are very Influential with adolescents, Lloyd (1985) said that the peer group is a source of providing security, acquiring social skills,and Improving self-esteem.
Adolescents want to be accepted by their peers and when they are, they feel a greater sense of self-worth. If an adolescent is rejected by peers, he can feel isolated and can suffer emotional distress. This can have a negative effect on his self-esteem, and it may deprive him of learning vital adult social skills, which begin to take place In adolescent-peer relationships. This could have an ultimate negative effect on future relationships that will occur in adulthood. It Is important for those who work with adolescents, such as parents, teachers, and counselors, to be supportive in adolescent-peer interactions (Lloyd, 1985).Coleman (1987) recognized that adolescents try to separate themselves from their parents and family, and peers help to support them. Youths seek Independence and psychological distance from their parents and families during adolescence, a period in which the relationships with their peers help to develop their self-formation.
2. Incidence of Guidance. Counseling, and Therapy
To Improve their self-esteem, adolescents who are emotionally disturbed often need guidance and counseling from parents, peers, teachers, school counselors and therapists. Because these adolescents feel negative about themselves, change must take place in order to improve their self-esteem.
Because of their severe problems, troubled youths usually need the guidance, counseling, and therapy of a special needs school staff and administration and clinical specialists such as therapists who can assist adolescents In acknowledging their problems and encouraging them to be willing to try to solve them. Maslow (1966) felt that through the humanistic approach to therapy that patients can see themselves as they are and, therefore, can give themselves control over their positive and negative qualities.
Group therapy also may be effective with adolescents. Feinstein (1989) reported that peer support Is Important to an adolescent. In substance abuse behavior, for example, peers can support drug abstinence. Buchholtz and Mishne (1983) concurred that many adolescent drug abusers need extra support. Family group therapy can help them and their families to interact, communicate, and recognize the adolescents’ problems. In addition, Slsson (1985) said that special needs students can utilize computers while participating In a group therapy program, and this technology can assist with learning problems and self-esteem development.
3. Attitude Toward School and Development of Vocational Awareness.
Many adolescents who are emotionally disturbed lack success in school because of their serious problems. There are many special programs for adolescents who are emotionally disturbed. A discussion of some of these programs follows. Through the federal government’s Perkins Vocational Education Act which provides vocational education benefits for individuals who are emotionally disturbed, Evans and Henry (1989) reported that every state department of education Is supported with funds to assess and provide services for special needs students. Zaenglein (1989) said that in the Harrlsburg, Pennsylvania area the Perkins Act funds the vocational-technical school to establish Project Best (Building Esteem and Success Training). This training program encourages students to learn to set goals and to deal with success in attaining these goals. Since this school began Project Best, the number of dropouts has decreased.
At Portland State University Regional Research Institute for Human Services, stated McManus (1987),there is a “Youth in Transition Project” which focuses on helping adolescents with serious emotional problems to transfer from a youth serving system into society. In order to do this, the following procedures are used:programs are individualized, services start early and are skill and goal oriented, programs contain vocational elements, and parents are involved in planning services. At the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association In New York, Holmes (1982)described a summer program of exploring careers for high-risk youth. This program, which the U.S.Department of Labor funds for school dropouts and delinquents, provides youth with information on vocations, careers, and job skills in order to gain employment. Students receive classroom instruction, vocational guidance, and on-the-job work experience.
Adolescents who are emotionally disturbed usually have low self-esteem. Many need the Intervention of schools to assist them to deal with their severe problems and poor self-esteem.
This study focused the School which works with troubled youths and provides them with programs and activities to deal with their problems and develop into well-adjusted and productive individuals. the study was to determine the influence that the programs and activities at the School had on improving its students’ self-esteem; to measure over-time changes in the students’ self-esteem and to correlate those changes with personal and demographic characteristics of the students. In this study, the potential Impact of the programs and activities at the School on the students’ self-esteem was determined. The student population at the School consisted of 30 students (15 males, 15 females). After being exposed to the programs and activities at the school. During four week that this evaluation occurred, the students’self-esteem was measured through pre-post testing for over-time changes in self-esteem; and the influence of various personal and demographic student characteristics, such as age, sex, grade, etc., on changes in self-esteem were determined.
The relationship of the four selected factors that can Improve self-esteem,Promotion of Relationships, Promotion of Help and Support, School Related Experiences, Development of Career Awareness,with actual changes in self-esteem did not indicate any correlations that were significant at the 0.05 level.When the student demographic variables of age,grade, and I.Q. were correlated with self-esteem changes, there were no significant correlations at the 0.05 level. When t-tests were conducted on the student demographic variables of sex, major wage earner, and socioeconomic status, no significant differences were found. Of the participating 30 students in the study, 20 students (10 males, 10 females) improved in self-esteem, and 10 students (4 males, 6 females) did not Improve In self-esteem. The results of the formative evaluation provided data to determine correlations between the programs and activities at the school with self-esteem changes.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
The programs and activities at School do not relate strongly to changes in self-esteem. Specific programs and activities at School, however, do correlate with changes in self-esteem. Of the students’ personal and demographic characteristics, only sex (males) is significantly related at post-testing to over-time self-esteem changes. Most of the adolescent’s day is spent at school, and emotionally disturbed students attending an alternative school rely on the supportive atmosphere to overcome their serious problems. A special needs school has, potentially, a big Impact on its students educationally, socially, and emotionally. Success is uncommon to many of these students. Adolescents need positive experiences in school in order to learn, acquire skills and overcome their emotional problems, which lead to improving their self-esteem. In this present study, when the factors were correlated with self-esteem, a set of insignificant correlations resulted.
However, beyond the categories existed specific programs and activities at the school which produced some strong relationships to self-esteem changes. The programs and activities at School that showed the greatest impact on Improving students’self-esteem were the following:The recreational facilities at the school, fully equipped music room, auditorium for live performances and films, library, woodshop, computer lab,are significant to students because they create a desirable atmosphere for the students to interact with their peers in a more casual, educational setting and project their talents In music, acting, etc., which help students develop creatively, artistically, and vocationally. The helpfulness of the medications prescribed by their psychiatrists is very important to the emotionally disturbed students at School who have severe problems, such as behavioral, eating disorders, depression, and drug and alcohol addictions. The treatment/therapy programs at the school help students to deal with their problems, and many of them find that the medications help them feel better and give them more desire to interact with the programs and activities at the school.
- Baer, R.A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125-140.
- Baer, R.A, Smith, G.T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using selfreport assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27-45.
- Barrett, L. F., & Gross, J. J. (2001). Emotion representation and regulation: A process model of emotional intelligence. Chapter in T. Mayne & G. Bonnano (Eds.),Emotion: Current Issues and Future Directions (pp. 286-310). New York, NY:Guilford.
- Barrett, L.F. (2006). Are emotions natural kinds? Perspectives on Psychological Science,1, 28-58.
- Buchholtz, E. S., & Mishne, J. M. (Eds.). (1983). Ego and self psychology. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc.
- Chasseguet-Smirgel,J.(1985). The ego ideal. London:Free Association Books.
- Cole, P.M., Michel, M.K., & Teti, L.O. (1994). The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: A clinical perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, 250-283.
- Coleman, J. C. (Ed.). (1987). Working with troubled adolescents. Orlando, FL: Academic Press Inc.
- Evans, C. D. 8. Henry, J. S. (1989). Keyboardlng for the special needs student. Business Education Forum, PP. 23-25.
- Feinstein, S. C. (Ed.). (1989). Adolescent psvchlatrv (Vol. 16). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Gross, J.J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271-299.
- Gross, J.J. (1999). Emotion regulation: Past, present, future. Cognition and Emotion, 12,551-573.
- Gross, J.J., & Thompson, R.A. (2007). Emotion regulation: Conceptual foundations. In.J.J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation. New York, NY: Guilford.
- Harre,R.,Lamb, R. (1984). The encyclopedic dictionary of psychology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Hayes, S.C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy and the new behavior therapies.In S.C. Hayes, V.M. Follette, & M.M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavior tradition (pp. 1-29). New York,NY: Guilford.
- Hill, A.L., Degnan, K.A., Calkins, S.D., & Keane, S.P. (2006). Profiles of externalizing behavior problems for boys and girls across preschool: The roles of emotion regulation and inattention. Developmental Psychology, 42, 913-928.
- Holmes, D. H. (1982). Program design for summer vouth training. New York, NY: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 216 184)
- Linehan, M.M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: Guilford.
- Lloyd, M. A. (1985). Adolescence. New York: Harper &Row, Publishers.
- Maslow, A. H. (1966). The psychology of science.New York: Harper Row, Publishers.
- Mazen,R.(1981). The encyclopedia of psychology.Guilford,CT: DPG Reference Publishing, Inc.
- McManus, M. C.(1987).Youth in transition project.Portland State University. Oregon Regional Research Institute for Human Services. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 291 228)
- Rottenberg, J., & Gross, J.J. (2003). When emotion goes wrong: Realizing the promise of affective science. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 227-232.
- Sisson, L. H. (1985, Spring). Reaching students through computers: A new therapy for learning and playing. Journal of Reading. Writing, and Learning Disabilities International. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 321 055)
- Zaenglein,J.(1989). Project best.Mainstream.p. 3.