The Art of Emotional Regulation

The holiday season for many of us is now fully underway.   Another year coming to a close and a time to get together with family and friends to celebrate and reflect upon the year behind us and plan for what lies ahead in 2020.    


With holidays can sometimes come increased emotions, both good and bad.  

  • As many of us celebrate old traditions, there are others that are creating new ones while having a sense of nostalgia for the past.  
  • As many of us are grateful and thankful for what life has given us, there are others that are mourning a recent loss and wondering if the holidays will ever be the same.  
  • As many of us appreciate and enjoy the family and friends that surround us, there are others that struggle with the relationships around them and look forward to getting back to a normal routine.  
  • As many of us enjoy the conversations, there are others that can not relate to the points of view and feel misplaced or even lonely around those they love.

Whatever your situation, different emotions are probably all around you.  Many of us just get through it every year with the good and the bad.  However, wouldn't it be great if we had a strategy that allowed us to be more aware of ourselves and those around us when dealing with challenging emotions? 


With clients, I like to use three words to help navigate emotionally challenging situations:  Avoid, Amplify, Acknowledge 




It is sometimes easier to just avoid a challenging emotion and not cause problems, right?  To push it down into the depths of our being. Just grin and bear it to keep the peace.  And while many of us think this is the best option, it may rear its ugly head in some other form at a later point in time.  We may become resentful.  Or the emotion may build up to a point where we can't contain it any longer and lash out at someone or sob uncontrollably.  Or in some cases, the long - suppressed emotions can lead us to get physical symptoms or we can even get very ill.  



So we need to just get it out then, right?   We experience the emotion and don't want to avoid or push it away.  We need to deal with it!   However, before we know it we are fully immersed in it.  Not letting it go and leaning in fully.  Lashing out at someone for having a different point of view or being passive aggressive while passing the potatoes.  Storming out of the room or making a comment to put someone down.  Leaving pain, debris and damage in our tracks and feeling a sense of shame or guilt after it is all over.



The emotion is here and I choose to acknowledge and accept it for what it is.   In this case, we don't avoid it or amplify it.  We feel the emotion for what it is.  We notice that we are heating up or getting angered by someone's action.  We notice that we are sad when we hear the song playing.  We notice that when that a certain person or behavior triggers something in us.  


For example, I am feeling agitated every time this person talks about their point of view on topic X.   Take yourself out of the situation and look at it from a 10,000 foot view.  What is it about their point of view that is different? What do you so strongly believe in or value deeply that is being challenged by their statements?  Have they had different experiences in their life that has led to this difference in point of view? More than likely, YES!  Get curious....


Notice  ..... observe ......acknowledge.  


This is sometimes not easy. It requires us to be tuned in to our emotional system. It requires us to have an open mind and be not so quick to judge.  It requires us to be able to feel and recognize what happens around us and within us.


This is how we can start on the path of emotional regulation.  


Next time you find yourself in front of the emotional dial,  you can think of these three A's.  While we do not always have the strength to tune in to our systems, we can try our best to choose a path that will lead to inner peace.  For those around us... but most importantly for ourselves.



emOcean Coaching & Consulting, LLC