Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

Emotion coaching for adults?

Edited by Jill Wright,

I'd scarcely had time to digest the excellent advice Sharae Coughlan provided in her post (below) on parents becoming "emotion coaches" for children, before an article in the Harvard Business Review popped into my email Inbox which shows just how important attitudes to emotional setbacks can be in adult life too.

That article reflects on work by social psychologist Lauren Howe and one of her professors, Carol Dweck, on the psychological mechanisms that cause some people to recover more quickly from painful rejection. 

Dweck is a pioneer in implicit personality theory, which suggests that there are marked differences in the ways people approach their social world.  While some people have "growth mindsets", others have "fixed mindsets".

As the article points out, "People with fixed mindsets (also called entity theorists), chronically judge themselves and tend to see their outcomes as evidence of who they are and what they're capable of. So, for example, getting a bad grade on a test leads them to think they're not smart. People with growth mindsets (incremental theorists) see outcomes not as evidence of who they are but as evidence of what they could improve in the future and what challenges they could overcome."

If your mindset is fixed, you're likely to take, say, a romantic rebuff as evidence that you're flawed and undesirable, rather than understanding that it just isn't smart to cut your own cloth by someone else's measurements. That invaluable insight made them much less susceptible to negative emotions such as shame, embarrassment, anger and frustration that could dog their less flexible counterparts for years.

What struck me was the thought that a child who had received a dose of emotion coaching was far less likely to emerge with a punishing fixed mindset. 

And if you're an adult and continually find yourself too often burdened with emotional baggage from romantic and social rejection, it could be time you chatted to one of Psychology Melbourne's professional "emotion coaches" ... which is one way of describing some of the work psychologists do.

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.