3 Ways to Regulate Your Emotions
We do a lot with our emotions, other than just feel them. John Milton wrote of the kingly merits of “reigning” over them. Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray wished to “use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them,” while Vincent van Gogh spoke of “obeying” them like they were the captains of our lives.Indeed, as if the sheer experience of emotions wasn’t enough—the crushing weight of sadness, the maddening of anger, the solace of serenity and the grace of gratitude—we tend to spend a lot of resources on the pre- and post-production of our emotional storylines.
We pick our favorites (joy) and seek all chances of running into them. We also have our foes, penciled in ominous red (fear), to be avoided at all costs. And when these foes inevitably show up at our doors, we do everything to turn them away. We resist them. We deny them. We fight them. We reason with them. We redirect and reshape them. But they loiter and linger, watching us labor with their aftermaths. Until, suddenly, they tip their hats to their ill-mannered hosts and leave.
“Reappraisal is cognitive in nature, which means that it involves how people think about and reframe emotional situations. It’s considered to be a positive type of emotion regulation because it is flexible and because it transforms the whole emotion, rather than just one piece of it. Reappraisal is associated with lower levels of depression and greater levels of well-being.
Suppression, in contrast, is basically still experiencing the emotion, but inhibiting its behavioral expressions. It is considered to be a more negative type of emotion regulation. One reason is that the experience part of the emotion still persists. Another reason is more transactional in nature. It creates an asymmetry between how a person feels and what other people see, and that’s thought to be related to negative social processes.”
“Emotional acceptance is a stance of perceiving that one is emotional, but deciding not to do anything about it, i.e., not to alter the emotion. Somewhat paradoxically, emotional acceptance is related to decreased negative emotions, as well as resilience. Thus, the absence of emotion regulation can sometimes have the best emotion regulatory function. For example, people who accept their negative emotions when they are stressed out, experience less negative emotions than people who don’t accept their emotions. It’s one of the core processes of mindfulness, which involves a number of different psychological processes. One of them is aware of your emotional and psychological states, and the other one is non-reactance or acceptance, which could also be thought of as the absence of emotion regulation. That might seem contradictory at first glance, but perhaps it’s the combination of both that you really want: a stance of emotional acceptance – acknowledging your emotions and not being threatened by them – and the knowledge that you can, if you want to, cognitively transform them.”