Updated: Feb 14, 2020
There is so much talk about emotional regulation. We hear it in schools, at work, for children, adults, everyone is working on emotional regulation, but what is it? And more importantly, why does it matter?
In essence, emotional regulation is the idea that:
We all are entitled to feel an array of emotions, from anger to happiness, sadness to frustration and everything in between.
We need to know how to express those feelings in a way that is healthy and acceptable. Just because we are allowed to feel any way we want, it doesn’t mean that we can act in any way. In order to be part of society and community, there are norms of conduct.
Emotional regulation in practicality is the ability to understand that:
There are different intensities for each emotion. If someone makes a hurtful comment, you have the right to feel sad, but would you feel just as sad if someone in your family was diagnosed with an illness? No. Each experience will cause a different level of feeling.
Our reactions have to be congruent with the intensity of the emotion. Are you regulating your emotions if someone hands you a lollipop and you jump up and down and dance in the middle of the street? Probably not. But would that reaction be acceptable if you won the lottery? Yes. This might seem obvious to an adult, but some children have a harder time with it. A child who cries for 15 min because he lost a several month tournament but then cries just as much after losing a pickup game with his or her friend is not regulating his emotions.
The ability to emotionally regulate your feelings is the capacity to manage the feeling, the intensity and the reaction of situation. Emotional regulation might come naturally to some, while harder for others. However, emotional regulation is definitely something that can be learned with the appropriate guidance!