Principles of Purpose:  Regulate Emotions

Tentatively titled Principles of Purpose: A Guide To Living Wisely, is an ongoing draft of a concept I might one day publish a book on. It’s essentially 30 Principles that I think are essential to living life wisely. Some are principles that I wished I had learned much earlier in life. Many are principles that I only learned in recovery in 2016-2017. Still other principles were ones I had applied off and on during my 56 years.

PrefaceIntroductionTrusting Your GutUse Good Judgement
ListenRegulate Emotions
Regulate Emotions

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

Daniel Goleman
My Background With Emotions:

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Emotion regulation is a process by which you control your emotions, particularly in situations where it is likely that you may have a strong emotional response. Regulating your emotions requires a degree of skill and maturity.

Some of you may be very good at regulating your emotions. You avoid flying off the handle. You don’t fall in love too quickly. Your reactions to common situations are not too dramatic or intense.

You may be particularly good at situation assessments–examining a situation you are in and choosing a healthy response, before an unhealthy response chooses you.

Or, you may be very good at being able to respond to your surroundings with a high degree of maturity. But many factors can throw off even the most even-keeled of us.

Traumatic Childhood and Emotional Dysregulation

There are many different circumstances or situations that can affect your ability to regulate your emotions. Based upon my own life-experience, a traumatic childhood negatively impacted my ability to regulate my emotions. I believe that because I grew up in a loveless home, where I wasn’t allowed to really express any emotions, severely impacted my ability to assess situations maturely.

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Not only that, but I also have been unable to pick up on social cues, so vital in being able to direct my emotions appropriately. It is during childhood when we are taught what is appropriate and what is not; particularly when it comes to our emotional responses to the environment and others.

Emotions that are continually repressed were bound to appear later in life as overreactions. This applies to my life in experiences both negative and positive.

Anyone who has experienced trauma, or abuse, is likely to respond to situations with their emotions out of whack. Our self-awareness is convoluted. We have an inability to manage both the intensity and duration of negative emotions.

Our expectations are generally unrealistic in light of circumstances that any so-called normal person would find common. Our self-esteem having been deeply affected, we either expect the worse out of a situation, overreact to stressful situations and even positive emotional situations.

Substance or Alcohol Abuse
Negative Impact On Emotions

Using drugs and/or alcohol negatively affects your ability to respond appropriately to emotions. When you are high or intoxicated senses are either heightened or dulled. Emotional responses to external stimuli and circumstances may become overly exaggerated, often with negative outcomes and results.

Under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, your ability to process the correct situational data and to select the appropriate emotional response is diminished. You may be the type to fly off the handle, to engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors, to inflict harm to yourself or others.

Perhaps you become promiscuous. As a former alcoholic, I certainly engaged in a variety of behaviors that stemmed from dysregulation of emotions on thousands of occasions.

H.A.L.T.

H.A.L.T. is an acronym used in treatment to help those in recovery from substance abuse issues maintain situational awareness. It stands for situations that can lead to a relapse, but it is also useful in recognizing when you may not be in the best state to handle stressful or challenging life situations:

HUNGRY ANGRY LONELY TIRED

I certainly don’t need to go into any lengthy discussion about H.A.L.T. We all can think of situations when we have been affected by one or more of these conditions, and how it affected our game.

Mental Health Issues and Conditions

As you can see from the chart below, there are many mental health conditions and issues that affect your ability to respond or react appropriately to a variety of situations. If you think that you or a loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition–such as those listed below–seek professional help.

ConditionCharacteristics
Borderline Personality Disorder>distorted self-image
>risky behavior
>self-harm
Bipolar Disorder>risky behavior
>elevated mood
>intrusive thought
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder>emotional detachment
>intrusive thought
>lack of pleasure
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder>excitability
>boredom
>mood swing
Oppositional Disorder>self-harm
>anti-social behavior
>impulsivity
The Process Model of Emotion Regulation

There are, of course, hundreds of other variables than can affect our ability to regulate our emotions. However, moving forward, I’d like to present to you the Process Model of Emotion Regulation as defined by James Gross, an emotion researcher at Stanford University.

Gross views emotions as brief responses affecting both behavior as well as the body that are generated during events with the potential to present challenges or opportunities (Gross, 1998a).  Most importantly, Gross (1998a) believes that emotions can be modulated or changed, and modulation is what determines the final emotional response.

Emotion regulation concerns this modulation of emotion in order to alter what emotions are experienced as well as when and how they are experienced.  The process model of emotion regulation pioneered by Gross (1998a) details five major points of focus during emotion regulation: situation selection, situation modification, attentional deployment, cognitive change, & response modification. Illustrated in the chart above.

D.B.T.

I have written quite a bit about the benefits of D.B.T. (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). It has has a dramatic affect on my life. It has provided me with the skills I was missing, in order to better regulate my emotions. It has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of regulating emotions. I highly recommend that you study if further.

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Now matter how you slice it, regulating emotions can be tough business for many. However, having good situational awareness and taking a moment to interpret where you are physically and emotionally, can help you establish an appropriate response.

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