Emotionally Reactive vs. Emotionally Regulated - Part II
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Last week’s blog post discussed the downside of emotional reactivity. Topics that trigger people, such as the election of 2020, conflict in marriage, work relationships, and more will often cause us pain. And then we emotionally react to that pain, which is our coping mechanism.
This is what happens if we ever say something sarcastic or biting in response to our spouse ignoring us. Or if we yell at our teenager for being disrespectful. Or when blood rushes through our veins after getting cut off in traffic.
We also know that our emotional reactivity rarely leads us to the result we are hoping for. Or, if we do get the result, we won’t necessarily feel good about the means that were used. What we really want is to be able to be emotionally regulated, where we can choose how we want to interact with ourselves and others. Emotional regulation provides us with more internal peace.
So…how can we be emotional regulated? How can we reach a place of emotional peace? Dr. Terry Hargrave provides us with a framework to get us to be at peace with our emotions. Those steps again are to:
So here are some tips to help you regulate your emotions:
Tip #1 — Recognize Your Pain:
What kind of messages do you typically receive about yourself when in conflict or hurt by someone? Is it that you’re not good enough? That you are a failure? That you are alone or that no one cares about you? Pay attention to those messages and emotions.
Then ask yourself the question, “How do I typically react when I feel those painful emotions?”
Tip #2 — Find What is True:
The painful messages we receive about ourselves is not usually the truth about who we are. At best, it is a distortion of the truth. But we often allow these painful emotions to dictate our actions. As an example, if you feel like a failure, you might withdraw from people or sulk. So, ask yourself a question in the broadest sense: It may be true that you have failed in a task or challenge, but are you, as a human being, a failure?
You might be married. Perhaps you have acquired a few degrees. You have been given responsibility over others in your place of employment, either as a supervisor, a volunteer coordinator, or even as a babysitter. Is it your experience that people who are failures as human beings are given the opportunity to have such responsibilities?
The truth is that only people who are trusted and have demonstrated success in the past usually get those types of responsibilities. The truth is, in this hypothetical, that you are good enough, measure up to others, and are successful.
So, what is your pain? Ask yourself if the message you receive from that pain is true. If you feel alone, is it true that you are totally, completely alone? If you feel unloved, is it true that you are totally, completely unloved? Whatever it may, find what is true.
Tip #3 — Replace the Pain with Peace:
Start by simply saying “When I feel _____, I typically cope by being _____.” It could look like, “When I feel unappreciated, I typically cope by getting angry.” From here, you’ll want to state what is the truth, which in this scenario is that you are "appreciated." Now, what do you want to do in light of this truth? If the truth is that you are appreciated, do you want to react by being angry? Or is there another way you like to intentionally choose to act? If you are, in truth, appreciated by others around you, maybe you want to go and appreciate those other people, too.
And that is usually far more personally fulling for people to act in appreciation than to react in anger.
When following these three tips, you’ll find that, rather than allowing circumstances to dictate our emotions and behaviors, we are better able to be emotionally regulated. This improves our emotional intelligence, and we can better communicate with our partner, spouse, children, employer, family members, and social media friends.
And we can find peace from anxiety, depression, stress, and volatile communication.
Wellspace Counseling is located in Tualatin, Oregon and serves Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Tigard, and the Greater Portland Metro Area. To find more information about Wellspace Counseling, visit the at www.wellspacepdx.com.