By: Chris Anderson Psy.D

The fine art of mastering emotions does not come easily or naturally, as you can see at your local grocery store where you can routinely find a two-year kicking and screaming on the floor because they can’t get some gum at the checkout line. We certainly feel for the parents and thank god it’s not our kid, but quickly overlook how difficult it was for all of us at one time to manage and regulate our feelings. If you are still doubting, just ask your parents and I’m sure they will be delighted to recount the time you cried for 3 days when your goldfish died, how you were so mad at your brother when he won monopoly that you took a swing at him, or how you refused to sleep in your bed for a week because you were terrified of the boogeyman.

If all goes well over the first 15-20 years of our life, you had good role models, and supportive family and friends; you slowly learned to regulate and manage your emotions, despite the gasoline that puberty dumps on our emotional fires. Unfortunately, for many of us, we may not have weathered the storm unscathed and continue to find ourselves wrestling to manage our feelings.

Emotional Regulation

When it comes to emotional regulation, it’s important to be able to both experience feelings internally as well as express them outwardly in a healthy controlled manner. This represents a nice healthy middle ground, however, we certainly see people on both ends of the extremes. On one end, we see folks who have little or no control over feelings. They are routinely overwhelmed by emotions, are often filled with regret for spewing emotions all over people, and frankly, this can be an exhausting and turbulent way to live life. Conversely, on the other end of the spectrum, we get many people (especially men) who over-control emotions by stuffing, ignoring, and suppressing them. Unfortunately, this tends to cause feelings to build up inside and lead to periodic explosions, or just eats them up from the inside out. Many of these folks wake up one day after 15-30 years of suppression and can’t figure out why they are struggling with depression and anxiety.

If you identify with living on either end of the extreme, you are probably aware of the impact and toll it takes on your life, relationships, and career. No one taught us how to do emotions in school, so don’t feel like you are supposed to magically know how to regulate feelings. That notwithstanding, they are your emotions and you are responsible for them. You owe it to yourself and those around you to learn the skills necessary to better regulate your emotions. Consider coming in today to learn how.

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