Updated: Aug 22
We all have bad days. Sometimes we can respond with grace when things don't go our way, and sometimes we react like the toddler we saw writhing on the ground in the middle of the grocery store. It can feel like our circumstances, or people around us, dictate our behavior, but in fact, it is our ability to emotionally regulate that determines our behavioral outcome.
Emotional regulation is a multi-faceted process that involves monitoring, managing, and adjusting our internal states and behaviors in response to emotionally activating events. It's a facet of the term self-awareness. Our ability to emotionally regulate is taught to us, beginning as early as infancy. Some people learn easily through healthy modeled behavior, and some need more overt coaching. Some kiddos did not have a healthy environment where they could absorb emotional regulation skills because their caregivers lacked these skills themselves. When we are children we have to learn how to integrate our logical left brain with our emotional right brain. When this is not achieved, emotional dysregulation results.
People who struggle with emotional regulation issues have fairly predictable patterns of behavior.
People with emotional regulation struggles often seek treatment when relationships begin to fall apart, or a partner/friend/coworker gives an ultimatum in relation to ongoing dysfunctional behavioral patterns. The way we interpret situations is the number one predictor for how we will respond- with anger, grief, violence, manipulation, grace, compassion, or otherwise. Our ability to believe we can change, our willingness to intentionally engage in doing hard work, and our dedication to practicing healthier responses to life events, creates change. You're never too old to learn new ways of living more authentically and joyfully. Therapy can help you sort through your own distorted interpretations to reality and learn ways to stay mindfully present in stressful situations, emotionally regulate yourself regardless of circumstances, and take charge of your life.