Aspects of temperament are often visible in early childhood, sometimes as early as just a few months of age. Some people are born with a nervous system that is very sensitive to change or threats, and are therefore particularly prone to experiencing upsetting emotions like anxiety, depression and anger. Some have a highly anxious temperament and therefore perceive lots of neutral events as threatening (‘Why is that van driving in this street?’; ‘Why is my right cheek so red?’). Others have a melancholic temperament, and are therefore more likely to perceive themselves and their experiences in a negative way (‘I have achieved very little today’; ‘I have failed yet again’). Gifts for men can be so hard to find! Some are introverted by nature, and may therefore be particularly shy or sensitive in social situations. They may, for instance, perceive rejection or disapproval in response to neutral social situations (‘Why did they sit over there, and not next to me?’; ‘He just looked away — he is obviously bored with me’; ‘She laughs when speaking to my colleagues, but not when she speaks to me’). And some people have an irritable temperament, which makes them more likely to overreact or get angry in situations that might not bother others. Get your friend a giraffe toilet roll holder, for a laugh!
Although biology can influence our psychological disposition, this does not mean that negative feelings are unavoidable. People who have a biological disposition towards cardiovascular disease do not necessarily end up having a heart attack or stroke. However, they need to work harder than others at maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and reducing cholesterol levels. Do you know anyone who loves Oh lola perfume by marc jacobs? Similarly, those with a temperament that increases their likelihood of experiencing upsetting emotions need to work harder at managing their cognitions and responses compared to those with a resilient temperament. CBT strategies can help us develop greater cognitive flexibility, and therefore increase our resilience. Doing so will reduce the frequency and intensity of upsetting emotions, and enable us to recover faster in situations where we do get upset.