The meaning of emotional regulation

How many times have you heard “You don’t have to be sad” or “You have to find happiness”? It is very likely that several times, since our social context is full of messages of this style. All of this is the result of living in a culture in which, since we were born, We are told that we must avoid any sign of suffering as soon as possible..

In this sense, when we live in expectation of anything that can negatively affect our experiences, “under the skin,” like thoughts and emotions, is when we take action to prevent them from happening. And that’s when problems probably arise that we don’t want.

This way of working can be very logical. It is almost unthinkable to imagine that someone enjoys suffering. However, when it is very established and difficult to change and goes against what we value most, the downsides start to show up in many areas, our lives being subject to the elimination of suffering at all costs.

It’s a very common way of regulating ourselves emotionally and many people get trapped, not realizing what’s really going on or why they find it so difficult to manage their lives. In this article we will talk about emotional regulation and understand how we become trapped.

Defining emotional regulation

In general, we can say that emotional regulation consists of behaviors and skills that we implement when we want to influence the emotions we feel, when we feel them, and how we experience and express them..

Another important aspect is the role of our context and personal goals in choosing emotional regulation strategies. Thus, an adaptive way of regulating our emotions is one that takes into account the demands of our environment and our important life goals.

An example is worth a thousand words

Imagine that your work is very important to you and you have to present a project in front of many people. The bad thing about it is that you get nervous when you have to speak in public.

However, the best way to handle this situation would be to present even when you can’t wait to run away and avoid these unpleasant feelings, since your work is very important to you and makes you feel like a fulfilled person, which is worth having a bad time during this period. The good news is that if you’ve done it a few times, it might not be as hard as it used to be.

This is how you get caught…

As we’ve discussed so far, the way we regulate our emotions is problematic when we act on those socially prevalent messages that tell us “you shouldn’t think or feel this or that”, establishing a predominant and “correct but an unsuitable way of dealing with our emotions.

It is, we begin to deliberately avoid internal situations or experiences (like emotions) by trying to suppress them and changing their form and occurrence.

Thus, this way of moving in the world becomes a necessary prerequisite to be able to function effectively and, therefore, our lives are getting closer and closerbeing trapped and leaving behind everything that matters to us and that we value the most in our lives.

What can we do?

There is no magic recipe that will make our emotions go away, but we can learn to manage them adaptively without them dominating our lives. Some general guidelines are as follows.

1. Be aware and understand your emotions

It is important to know that emotions are natural. Identify what emotion you are experiencing at a given moment and what situation or event generates it. Realize that given certain circumstances, it is normal for our emotions to awaken: anxiety prepares us and pushes us to act in dangerous situations, so it is normal and adaptive to feel it in the face of a car accident for example.

2. Accept them as they are

In addition to giving meaning to emotions, they also occupy space and time. Given a particular situation, an emotion can appear, increase its intensity, and after a while, this intensity decreases again without us doing anything about it. Accept that they appear and don’t stop living your life for them.

3. Keep your precious life directions in mind

Do not forget the most important: the vital directions that are most important to you. Ask yourself if what you are doing with your emotions is preventing you from following these instructions, if they have narrowed your life and led you astray. Think about what is most important to you: if you stop feeling an unpleasant emotion or if you feel satisfied to act according to your precious instructions.

If you need more information and specific advice, at the center PsychoAlmeria, online and in person, a team of psychologists will help you in a personalized way so that you can properly regulate your emotions; they will take care of you so that you can understand and accept your emotions without limiting your personal goals.

Author: Psychologist Franco Castellá.

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