Emotional Regulation … what is it good for?

Don’t assume that your emotions are facts! 

They are real, they are happening, and you should pay attention to them, however, don’t assume that they are cold hard FACT.

FELT SENSE of emotion does not equal FACT in reality.

For example, you can feel one way internally, however, the meaning you attach to it could be completely false. That meaning can then lead you to self-sabotaging behaviors, harmful thoughts, and put you into a negative feedback cycle. 

Say you walk into a café and don’t get the reception from the barista that you wanted. Your feelings of being ignored, ashamed, and unwanted are triggered. You make up that this is proof and fact that you are worthless, a piece-of-crap, and shouldn’t ever bother making efforts in your life. Your feelings are real, however, the meaning attached to them is not accurate.

The meanings that we attach to our emotions are informed by our life experience, handed down to us from parents, or misinformation from peers. Meaning making can be habitual, impulsive, and misinformed. 

Emotions are hardwired into our system for informational and survival purposes. If we never felt afraid, we may be dead by now. We need survival instincts to kick in, and act fast when we are in danger. 

When we are feeling afraid, however, from asking someone out on a date, or being seen in a vulnerable way, our body is sending the fear signal to our brain in a “false alarm” manner. We most likely are not in physical danger in that moment. We are, however, getting fight, flight, freeze and danger signals being sent to our brain and interpreting it as panic.

We have to learn how to check the facts, slow down, orient and ground in stressful situations. We have to learn to interpret healthier meanings from our automatic signals.

The process of interpreting our feelings is what needs to change. Most people don’t spend time processing their emotions. They simply act on instinct, behave impulsively, or are quick to jump to conclusions. A lot of people also numb out or are afraid of feeling their feelings. We are never going to stop feeling feelings, and that is a good thing. They are biologically designed for survival, reproduction, and pleasure. Where we can start to heal and improve is in our emotional processing and regulation.

We have a strong drive to seek pleasure, joy and connection, so sometimes wires get crossed and we don’t meet those needs in the healthiest ways. These are the times to take a look at what exactly we are feeling, the meaning we are attaching to it, the way that meaning reflects on our self-image, and what behaviors follow. 

Ways to regulate emotion and attach healthier meaning:

*Check the Facts (pause and explore in detail what is happening in the moment)

*Get Feedback from reputable/healthy sources (therapist, coach, family, friends)

*Ground (place both feet on the ground and take a few deep breaths)

*Body Scan (take a mental note of your body from head to toe. Notice any tension or discomfort)

*Create mindful awareness of the moment (look around and see what you see, hear, smell, touch, taste)

*Scan your mind for past similar emotions/triggers/meaning making (when/where/how have you felt like this before?)

*Re-Frame with a more hopeful and healthier outlook (look for alternative meanings that are not so closely tied to an emotional reaction)

*Empowerment (think of fictional or real characters/people who embody strength and clarity of mind. See if you can channel some of their energy)

These skills are invaluable to practice in order to repair and heal our emotional regulation capabilities. Without it, we will live a life of emotional dysregulation, unhealthy coping habits, poor physical and mental health, and unhealthy relationships. 

Comment below and let me know what skills you are willing and ready to try today!

Keep an eye out for later this month, when I provide an interactive worksheet to help walk you through these steps and help you regulate your emotional resiliency.