Psychotherapist and author Andrea Harrn talks to Steve Nobel about how mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and positive psychology theories are woven together to create The Mood Cards.
Psychology doesn’t have to be complicated.The Mood Cards offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore your moods and emotions.
Andrea explains how she designed the cards to help teachers, psychologists, mental health professionals and hospice workers connect with, and help their clients open up about their moods and emotions. Andrea talks through a couple of cards with Steve, giving examples of the questions she may ask her client and the issues surrounding each emotion.
Listen to Andrea and Steve chat about emotions, psychotherapy and get a closer look at the emotions including Anger, Acceptance, Forgiveness and Disapointment.
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Andrea Harrn: Hello, Steve.
Steve Nobel: Can I ask you … I really think they’re brilliant, by the way. I’ve been looking through them and I can see so many applications for these. Can you say something about how you came to create these cards?
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, sure. Well, I’m working in my therapy, and I’ve been a psychotherapist for over 18 years now. I was noticing that a lot of people found it really hard to find the words to express their words and feelings and their emotions, and I was actually looking for a product myself that I could show to people with the different types of faces and expressions, and there was nothing available. So I just started to work on my own set of cards.
Andrea Harrn: In the beginning I imagined that this was something that I was just gonna use for myself. But as the idea developed it sort of grew and grew and I could see that there could a good use for this with other therapists, because if I was looking for it then I guess other people might be looking for that as well. As the idea developed, I began to realise that this could actually be a great tool for people that aren’t even in therapy, just being at home on their own and maybe struggling with how they think and feel. The idea developed over a period of time, and it eventually became the product it is now, which is a product that is suitable for adults and children and also the professionals to use, and teachers, and anyone really working with vulnerable people.
Steve Nobel: Great. I was going to ask you that actually, because they have these kind of very child-like faces, don’t they on these, kind of round faces with different expressions, but I guess everyone can relate to that.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, the point was I wanted to keep them very simple, so I didn’t exclude anybody. I did toy with the idea of making the faces fancier, but I just really liked that that’s not necessary, and actually simple is good, because what the faces do is they act as a mirror to whoever’s looking at them, they act as a mirror to that person. So in a way, when you’re looking at the card you’re reflecting your own impression onto the image, and the image is looking back at you. It’s that simple form that helps people to open up, because there’s no barriers there.
Andrea Harrn: Well, I think that it is something that is very important, because if you look at the way society is and other societies are [inaudible 00:03:23] in a way to think certain ways or believe in certain ideologies, or religions or ways of doing things. Even in families, families are built up with certain structures. Actually it’s quite hard for people to break away from that, and sometimes you feel that you can’t be who you are because you’re born into a certain society or to a certain culture.
Andrea Harrn: What the mood cards does is it helps you to think for yourself. So they can actually be quite challenging to a person using them, because as it gets you to really think things through, and it might go against what you’ve believed or to avoid in the way that you’ve seen life or thought about life, and really understanding it through emotions is a great way to do it, because emotions is what drives us. When we drive with our emotions our moods influence the way we behave, and of course, having emotional intelligence can help us to understand who we are, and have better relationships with people. If we can understand, especially when things go wrong, if we can understand what it was that happened to us in that process of things if things go wrong or maybe go right, then we can look at how to make things better in relationships, or having better connections with people, more understanding.
Andrea Harrn: So yeah emotional intelligence also opens up self-awareness, and it opens up empathy, and deeper connection. That has to be a good thing for societies.
Steve Nobel: Yeah, no, I come from an averagely neurotic British family, that’s my background. Certain emotions felt almost like taboos. There were certain feelings that just would not seem to be allowed. Do you think that’s kind of a general thing for a lot of families?
Andrea Harrn: I think that sometimes people aren’t given the opportunity to express themselves and feel that they’re being listened to. For example, if you are feeling a certain way and you are wanting to express that, but you weren’t given that space to express it, and you don’t feel like you’re being listened to. In the end you just begin to clam up and hold all those emotions in. That’s why people have problems in mental health, because they’re not able to express themselves properly, they’re not able to be heard, and to use other people to bounce ideas off. It can feel for some people that there’s no point in telling anybody how they feel, or if they do tell somebody that they’re gonna be talked over or told that they’re wrong.
Andrea Harrn: So yeah, it’s good to be able to express yourself and to give a person the chance to listen to you and you to listen to them. That’s really what I wanted to create the cards, because I wanted to bring an easy way really for people to look at how they’re feeling, and to have conversations with others. For example, if you’re using the cards with a friend or with your partner, or maybe for a parent using it with child, the questions on the cards actually allow people to open up, because it’s not the person asking the question it’s the card that asks the question. So it does allow people to open and answer in an honest way and hopefully be listened to.
Andrea Harrn: Well, I mean both of them are temporary so nothing is permanent. For example, if you wake up and you’re feeling angry when you first wake up, by lunch time you may feel quite happy because your day’s gone well. So I would say that you could wake up in a bad mood, but you can be in a good mood later on in the day, something good happened. Emotional thinking is more instinctual. It might be when somebody does something and you immediately go into a feeling of hurt or disappointment, and you feel that in your body. So it’s more of an instinctual biological response. To be honest moods and emotions there’s a crossover in both of them. More or less they’re both really doing the same thing, except that I would say that a mood can be longer lasting, and emotions tend to come and go.
Steve Nobel: Yeah. Now your cards are based on CBT, mindfulness and positive psychology. Can you say something about how all of this works together? How have you woven all these different things together?
Andrea Harrn: Okay well it would really be, the cards are a reflection of how I work as a therapist. So I’m an integrative therapist and many therapists will be working in an integrative way. So you know lots of models and study to become a therapist and a counsellor, but you never just stick to one model anyway, because life’s not like that and people aren’t black and white, so it won’t work that way. So really what I’ve done in the cards is the cards are reflection of how I work.
Andrea Harrn: For example with the mindfulness, it’s really about paying attention to the mood or the emotion that you feel, not trying to push it away, but just looking at it and sitting with it for a while, and being able to accept yes this me, this is how I feel. And that’s really important to do that because if you don’t do that then you’re just burying it and pushing it down or fighting it or resisting it.
Andrea Harrn: Then CBT, which is cognitive therapy, is a really useful way to break down problems, and look at how your thinking might be affecting the situation. For example, some people have what I call a negative script, everything about them tends to be, it might be nothing’s going to work, people don’t like me, I’ve got no friends, I’ll never get that job, things don’t go my way, that would be a typical negative script. So what CBT aims to do is look at how a person thinks about a problem, and then break it down and see is that actually true, is there evidence for that, okay if that is the case what can you do to move forward from that. So it’s quite a structured process. CBT is quite structured by it aims to move somebody from thinking negatively about a situation, to be able to see a different perspective, and hopefully to come out seeing a brighter side or a learning that you can take forward.
Andrea Harrn: Then the positive psychology is more to do with changing mindset, having positive thoughts, thinking about life in a more positive way. That also includes, well on the cards it is about the affirmations, and being able to give yourself positive statements. The thought is just a message that we give ourselves, and it’s just as easy to give ourselves a nice little or a helpful thought than it is to give ourselves a bad thought or a negative thought. But it does take practise to learn how to do that.
Andrea Harrn: I have separated the cards out into three different areas of working on the cards, and usually what I would suggest is people start with the mindfulness, which is looking at the image. And then also the statements and the words on the front and the image which you can work with as well. Then moving on to the three questions which is the CBT moving on to the affirmation. So why I’ve done in that way is I’ve found that a lot of my clients were looking at positive affirmations, and saying that they didn’t work for them because they hadn’t really moved to that point where they could say a positive affirmation. There was still work to do, there was resentment, or hurt, or disappointment or trauma that hadn’t been worked through. So if you could imagine if you’d been through a trauma or something really difficult, say something like I really love myself, it’s like sticking a plaster on top of a huge wound. So you work through the wounds and the injury before you can come out and give yourself the positive affirmation and actually feel, yeah this feels right for me now.
Andrea Harrn: When I first created the cards, I didn’t really know, I sort of did it intuitively, I went through the process of creation of them, and I hoped that they would reach the right people. My intention was these cards will reach the people that need these cards. I couldn’t have imagined at the time how wide this would reach, it’s actually amazing and the publishers have done an amazing job of also making sales of the cards. I think they’re in about 14 languages already, just in three years, which is incredible. I know from the feedback I get from people that they are being used at the moment I know that they’re being used by therapists, psychologists, counsellors. They’re being used in hospices, they’re being used in children’s homes, they’re being used in youth projects, the kids that are on probation, or kids that are getting into trouble, they’re being used in schools, they’re being used by mental health workers.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, there’s lots of cases and at junior schools and primary schools. I am really happy that they’re reaching into schools as well, because that’s such a good place to be teaching children about emotions. When schools talk about results, you know SATs results, and other results, well you know so many kids don’t do well at school because there’s so many emotional problems going on. I think especially nowadays with so many children coming from difficult backgrounds, poverty, and chaotic family life, refugees. There’s a whole array and reasons why kids can’t do well at school, and these are emotional reasons, so it’s actually, I feel really happy that they’re getting into schools now.
Andrea Harrn: It’s so simple to use the cards as well that they can be used by children from about three or four upwards. So yeah they’re being used in lots of places, and of course by individuals buying them just for themselves to use for their own self-awareness and their own self development. They’re being used by couples as well to help to understand each other, because quite often you can be with somebody for twenty years and not really know what makes them tic. But somehow using the cards, the questions on those cards gets people to open up in a way that they might have ever opened up before. It does deepen connections.
Andrea Harrn: Yes sure. Well you’re right, anger is something we all feel isn’t it? I know that I felt angry a few days ago, and it did take me awhile to process that. But what I noticed in my own anger is that it was me that was really suffering. So the meaning of the card is to actually help people to see, well what is it that’s actually causing you to feel angry. When we talk about what it is that’s made you feel angry sometimes you can even laugh about what made you feel angry, because it doesn’t always sound that serious when you speak it out. So the first question, “What is causing you to feel angry?” To actually pinpoint what is the problem here. Is it something simple like somebody pushed in front of you in a queue, or is it something more of an anger that somebody’s done something terrible to you? So it’s about putting things into perspective.
Andrea Harrn: The second question on the card is, “How is your anger affecting you and those around you?” I think that’s an important question because when we hold on to anger it’s us that suffers isn’t it, Steve. We’re the ones that are feeling knotted inside. So also thinking about that question, how is it affecting you, how does it affect you physically? Are there knots in your stomach, are you clenching, are you getting hot? Also, what’s your behaviour like, because when you’re angry it might be affecting others around you. So it gets you to think through actually what is happening when I’m angry and how many people are affected by my anger. Then it asks, “what could you do differently?” So that will help you to just think, well maybe I should just walk away or go for a walk and do some deep breathing, something like that.
Andrea Harrn: Also, the third question, “Are there possible explanations?” So that question helps people to look at maybe see the other side of things, look at things from other people’s point of view, or perhaps just check out that you’re not making assumptions. Then the affirmation is about being aware of the anger and knowing that that will pass, so it’s not a permanent state.
Andrea Harrn: So should I do this card for you, Steve, and that might help you, yeah? So I am just wondering the first question that I might ask you is why you chose this card, acceptance?
Steve Nobel: Well, it seems to be a nice follow on from the anger. I chose kind of a difficult one and the a nice easy one, and acceptance to me seemed one of those things, something that I work on a lot. There just really are some things you can’t change. Of course there are some things that you can do things about. So this card really for me is about self-acceptance and accepting external things, around me which I might not like particularly.
Andrea Harrn: Okay, so the first question on the back is, “What does acceptance mean to you?” It will mean something different to everybody I’ve asked, but what does it mean to you, Steve? Acceptance as a concept, what does it mean to you?
Steve Nobel: It means accepting the parts of myself I might not like very much. For example, my vulnerability, I might not like feeling vulnerable. But it’s accepting that I do have these different aspects of myself, and to love all of those parts or to accept all those parts of myself. Also, accepting what I consider I would say difficult people. Trying to accept them, that that’s the way they are, rather trying to change them. It actually leaves me feeling much happier during the day doing this kind of practise.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, so that would be the second question, “How does it feel inside?” So when you come to that point in acceptance what does that feel like for you inside of you?”
Steve Nobel: Yeah, a lot more relaxation, less fighting, less struggling, more going with things, more helped me put my energy towards things which are probably more constructive.
Andrea Harrn: So in the future, thinking about acceptance, how can that take you forward if you keep going with this sort of acceptance, how do you think that can help you in moving forward in life?”
Steve Nobel: Less worrying, less struggle, less putting energy into things which is a bit pointless in putting into. So it makes me more productive in a way, because I’m actually choosing to my energy into things which can be moved forward, rather on stuff that’s just almost like banging my head against the wall.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, wasted energy.
Steve Nobel: Yeah, totally.
Andrea Harrn: So do you want to say the affirmation?
Steve Nobel: Yeah. I gratefully accept all that comes my way as an opportunity for personal growth and learning. That’s nice, I like that one, very nice.
Andrea Harrn: So with the affirmations, they’re not always gonna feel like the right affirmation for people, but I offer that opportunity for people to think about the affirmation, and then maybe if it doesn’t feel quite right to make their own affirmation or change the affirmation slightly that’s fine. It’s not a fixed affirmation that has to be your affirmation. It’s a suggestion of an affirmation. When I’m working with clients I find that they really like the affirmations, they don’t want to change them. It seems to work quite well.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, so that’s something that causes a lot of problems for people, is disappointment with others, and it’s about expectations. People have their expectations quite high. A lot of people have high expectations than others, and other people can’t make them because they don’t know what they are. So unless it’s a specific agreement that you have with someone, if I do this for you you’ll do that for me. It’s specific, people don’t know what is expected of them. So where expectations are too high, that just leads to disappointment. But nevertheless when people are feeling disappointed, it’s important for them to be able to express it and not just to have the answer that I shouldn’t expect so much, because if you’re feeling disappointed you’re feeling disappointed. It’s important to be able to express why.
Andrea Harrn: So the first question is, “Why are you feeling let down, why are you disappointed?” And that gives people the opportunity to just express it, whatever it is, however much it might seem a big thing or a small thing, however it may seem to somebody else, to the person that’s disappointed it’s real, and it’s hurtful, and it’s affecting them. So the first question gives people the opportunity to talk about the disappointment. Who’s let you how do you feel, and also be empathic if you are working with somebody else on this, let them express themselves, be empathic, be kind, be compassionate, this person hurts and they’re disappointed.
Andrea Harrn: So and then it talked about that, then you can talk about expectations. Where your expectations realistic, did you expect that to happen? That gives people that opportunity to think, well actually maybe I was just hoping for something that was never going to happen anyway, or perhaps that this is just typical that this person always does this so why am I surprised, you see what I mean? It helps people put it in perspective.
Andrea Harrn: Then the third question is, “What can we do to make sure that you no longer let events or behaviour of others affect you?” So in that way it might be well, I know this person always cancels me at the last minute when we have arrangements. So what can you do to no longer let that affect you. Well, I won’t make arrangements with that person, or I will do this or I will do that. So it’s quite a logical practical step that people can begin to take, because it’s about empowerment really as well. Empowering yourself and not being let down by others but actually being in control of the situation, deciding how you are going to manage it, and how you’re going to be in control so you don’t have to be let down by anybody.
Andrea Harrn: It is. Would you like me to do this one with you, Steve, and ask you the questions?
Steve Nobel: Sure, okay.
Andrea Harrn: Okay, so do you believe that we all make mistakes?
Steve Nobel: Yes, totally.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah. So the first question is, “How easy or hard is it to find forgiveness in your heart?”
Steve Nobel: Well to answer this one, being in the spiritual world I should say, it’s very easy, but I’m not going to say it is always very easy. I’ve noticed in myself actually I need to feel everything in myself completely, before I can ever come to a point I could let it go or forgive it. I can’t do it immediately, it sometimes takes me a day or two if it’s very strong to just process all the stuff inside of me to come to a point where I know, okay I’ve felt it all fully. I need to feel it fully, what’s going on and then, not necessarily express it without feeling it. When I’ve come to a point of neutrality, then I find it’s okay, but I have to go through the process first.
Andrea Harrn: Yeah, I think that that’s quite understandable and normal and perfectly acceptable to do that, because we’re human aren’t we and if we’re hurt by someone, then to just forgive somebody straight away, I don’t know, it might happen, but I guess it depends by how hurt you by someone, or what they’ve actually done to think about forgiveness straight away. Would that be saying that well that didn’t matter or you weren’t bothered if you weren’t bothered that it wouldn’t hurt you that much, but if you are bothered than yeah, it’s normal to want to take that time to process.
Andrea Harrn: But forgiveness isn’t forgetting, there’s a difference between forgiving someone and forgetting what they … you know still remember what somebody’s done, but you might reach that point when you can forgive them. Actually forgiveness helps you. When you do forgive how do you find that it helps you when you can forgive someone?
Steve Nobel: Well, I like the saying, “Forgive but not forget.” I think as you said I think it’s important because there are lessons in life that we can learn from even difficult experiences, rather than just go ah forget about it. So I think what’s the learning and this, how can I learn and grow, and forgiveness kind of lets go of the hard edges of it, lets go of the kind of angst all the story of it. So for me forgiveness is letting go of the story, but absorbing the lessons. I’ve found in my life that I’ve learned so much from the hard knocks as much as from the lovely hugs you know. You do learn from hugs. I think it’s letting of the story of it that keeps us bound in the patented or maybe recreating it.
Andrea Harrn: Also, I think it’s similar to the anger card as well. When you’re not forgiving somebody what you’re holding onto is anger or resentment or hurt. All of those negative emotions. You’re the one that suffers when you’re not forgiving. When you can forgive and let it go, actually it frees you up, it frees your energy up for better things and more important things. It’s sort of letting go it’s a cleansing isn’t it, forgiveness?
Steve Nobel: Totally. It really feels like a weight is gone.
Andrea Harrn: Exactly, exactly. It moves you out of conflict because when you’re not forgiving it there’s a level of conflict there isn’t there?
Steve Nobel: Yeah I’ve got a fair amount of scorpio’s on my chart, so I can understand the power of this card. Scorpio’s don’t find it easy, I’m not scorpios I haven’t got a lot in there, so I have to really feel the angst of it and then I’m okay, then it’s gone then it’s fine.
Steve Nobel: I guess that makes them more powerful doesn’t it?
Andrea Harrn: It was really powerful, it was powerful. It was, I had to go through everything myself. That’s why it took a long time to create them. I’ve let them go now. It took me a long time to know that I could let them go, and now I’ve let them go emotionally, and they’re just doing what they need to be doing, they’re out there in the world.
Steve Nobel: Well, I highly recommend people to check these cards out. The Mood Cards published by Edison books. Andrea thank you so much for speaking with me.
Andrea Harrn: Thank you.
The Mood Cards
Make sense of your moods and emotions for clarity, confidence and well-being
Psychology doesn’t have to be complicated. Based on cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and positive psychology, The Mood Cards offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore your moods and emotions.
Each card includes guided questions for self-exploration plus an affirmation for positive thinking. Whether to help you manage difficult moods, approach relationships more skilfully, become more sensitive to the needs of others, or simply be able to communicate and listen effectively, using the cards will encourage you to be con dent in who you are, expand your emotional intelligence and help you move forward in a positive way.
Understand deep emotions
Explore more complex emotions and behaviours for healing, happiness and inner peace.
Based on mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy and positive psychology, this pack demystifies psychology and mental-health labels, and offers a fun and accessible way to help you identify and explore moods, feelings and emotions.
Following the success of the original bestselling MOOD CARDS box, this new, stand-alone volume offers 50 cards to help you work with more complex emotions and behaviours, so that you can embark on a deeper journey of self-discovery. Learn more about your issues and obstacles, and how you operate in relationships and work situations, and gain new insights and perspectives that will take you forward to success and a healthy work/life balance. Each card includes guided questions for self-exploration plus an affirmation for positive thinking, and the pack is suitable for personal and professional use alike.