Emotions are a fundamental component of our daily lives. As human beings we are capable of experiencing a wide array of them, however sometimes it can be painful to experience certain emotions, that we tend find way to dysregulate ourselves. When someone is experiencing emotional dysregulation, they may exhibit increased rage or outbursts, anxiety, social isolation, substance abuse, low mood, suicidal thoughts, or even self-harm behaviours. Over time, this response may interfere with your quality of life, social interactions, and relationships at home, work, or school.
Dysfunctional behaviours such as substance use, binge eating, emotional suppression, self-harm, and increased interpersonal conflict are often behavioural solutions to intense and undesirable emotions. If we are continuously unable to regulate our emotions in an effective way, it can be a challenging skill to learn and requires ongoing practice to become a habit. Learning and/or strengthening emotional regulation skills can be especially beneficial for those with high emotional sensitivity, high emotional intensity, or who are frequently in emotional distress.
Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) defines emotional regulation as “the ability to control or influence which emotions you have, when you have them, and how you experience and express them” In order to regulate our emotions it is important to first be able to recognize and understand them. This can include actively labelling your emotions and understand how they came to surface. Effective emotional regulation can help you decrease your vulnerability to acting solely on your emotions in an impulsive manner and instead be able to integrate a rational component of ourselves as we express them. Ultimately, this can lead to a decrease in emotional suffering.
To achieve effective emotional regulation, a mental health professional can help you reduce extreme reactions to emotional stimulants by teaching you observation, awareness, and greater control to harness your emotional expression in a healthy way. Forms of therapy including DBT, which has been proven effective across a wide range of emotional disorders can be helpful in the development of skill-building contributing towards strengthened emotional stability.
Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. The guilford Press.
Rolston, A., & Lloyd-Richardson, E. Cornell Research Program on Self-injury and Recovery. ().What is emotional regulation and how do we do it? http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/perch/resources/what-is-emotion-regulationsinfo-brief.pdf
Thompson, R. A. (1991). Emotional regulation and emotional development. Educational psychology review, 3(4), 269-307.