The essence of regulating emotions is to control/regulate behavioral reactions for our emotional situation. Most of the people already in kindergarten age are able to reflect consciously for different emotions and they know which they would like to express and which ones don’t. However nobody teaches us which emotional regulation techniques/methods are advantageous or disadvantageous.
In some situations we do everything to express, prolong and intensify different emotions of course depending on if they are negative or positive emotions. For instance when we have a good time with our friends we try to prolong to end it and leave. Or when we are a disappointed customer we try to maintain our anger to complain.
In other cases we try to make blunt or destroy our emotions. Like if we got into a university but our best friend didn’t, we try to make blunt our happiness in front of our friend. Most of us try to get rid of negative emotions (sadness, frustration) to feel better and not being a “problem” to someone else. Sometimes we make an effort to maintain or stop negative emotions but the main question is how we do it?
We are able to keep our emotional reactions under mental control on a several different ways. For instance: if we become very angry or upset with our partner after an argument, we can try to cool down our mind simply with focusing onto another more positive thing, like a good book. It’s called distraction. We also can try to re-evaluate the situation, using a more objective view on it or finally trying to discuss in detail with our partner, we might be able to resolve the conflict together.
These techniques can be used together and also make sense if we use these techniques step by step. Might be the best strategy to use distraction as long as we feel angry and just after cooling down re-evaluate the situation and after have a discussion in detail with our partner to find solution. To choose our emotional regulation methods is not always conscious but our affective answers are intuitive and automatic.
What is the consequence to use each emotion regulation strategy?
Let’s suppose that, our grandmother gives us a very old style pullover but made by her for our birthday. She is able to detect if we are happy about the gift or not by checking reactions on our face. So we can try to control our emotion like hiding our disappointment or dislike with a smile (suppression). There is also another method as well, re-evaluating the original situation, re-interpret and change it. Like as our parents said all the time “Not the gift, the intention is important!” and according to this we can re-evaluate the situation reminding ourselves that, not so common to get a handmade gift, and also she made so much effort and spent time to make this pullover. After this short internal monologue our smile on our face is going to be more honest and not feigned. There is a way to be happy about an old-stylish pullover and not hurting our grandmother’s feeling. This is called re-framing technique.
Of course both of these methods is going to make our grandmother feeling satisfied about the success of the gift but the forced facial expression can make us uncomfortable and this uncomfortable feeling appears not just in the suppressive person, also in another. However the re-framing technique has not this “psychological price” because we don’t suppress our emotional but transform it. Some research results suggest that there is a price to be paid for suppressing our facial expression in our cognitive processes.
Re-interpret those situations which produce actual emotions is called deep acting seems/is a better solution than superficially manipulating our mimicking which called surface acting. In a short term distraction also seems better than chaffing about the situation. Chaffing forces us to re-think our negative emotion’s preliminaries and consequences continuously but watching a good movie or doing physical training for instance can calm down our negative whirling emotions. After eliminating the uncomfortable condition, solving the problem calmly can be more successful.
And you? How is your emotional regulation? Are you able to control and properly handling them? If you would like to get closer to yourself, to your desires and to your emotions, I have a good news for you. It’s learnable and available.
Source: Smith, E. E., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Fredrickson, B. L., & Loftus, G. R. (2005). Atkinson & Hilgard Psychology.