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Effective Emotional Regulation: Learning to Go With the Flow

Are you a victim of your emotions, getting upset and allowing negative feelings to linger all day long, or worse, allowing them to influence your decisions, conversations, work, and how you interact with others for days or weeks? What if you could effectively control your emotions, learn from them and then direct that energy to benefit you rather than inhibit or debilitate you? You would probably make fewer mistakes regarding important decisions, have more successful relationships with solid depth and meaning and view everything, including yourself, with greater clarity.

What Are Emotions?

According to psychologists, the primary emotions include anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, and anger. They talk about collections of these basic emotions which create 'combined emotions' and which include optimism, love, submission, awe, disapproval, remorse, contempt, and aggressiveness.

The part of our mind that involves feeling is an area into which neurologists and psychologists have gone with limited success, and brain scans show different values of heat occurring during different emotional states.

The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for fight or flight, decides whether you’re going to panic and run or stick it out and fight. This served the caveman well, but today we’re more likely to find ourselves sitting in traffic and panicking over not getting to a meeting on time. We can’t get out of the car and attack the driver in front of us, so unlike the caveman who could physically fight or run, modern man often has no outlet for his anger, rage or other debilitating emotions. How you respond to people and situations that make your blood boil determines your emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is about what’s happening right now; how you react on the spot to what you or someone else is feeling. It’s the ability to manage what you’re feeling while still being sensitive to those around you so you can function well throughout your daily life. This is a key to maturing as a human being.

The intensity level and duration of debilitative emotions such as fear, hate, and anger play a role in how draining an emotion will become. Learn to cope with irrational or distorted views by stepping back.

Look at the event in question.

  • What is your belief regarding that event?
  • Is your reaction to that event based on what you believe is going to happen?
  • Is your reaction based on a negative bias toward someone?

At the biological level, when you’re enraged or upset, your body produces cortisol, a steroid hormone that functions in part to help the body gear up during fight or flight. But when there’s no outlet for anger or rage, cortisol is stored and can cause physical problems.

Step back from an emotional situation. Ask yourself if your reaction was distorted or overblown based on a previous event or person, whether related or not. Sometimes, just ‘having a bad day’ can cause us to overreact.
  • Don’t tie your emotion to any person or event.
  • Don’t repress your emotions to the point that they cause physical and psychological harm.
  • Do try empathizing or showing compassion toward another person who may have triggered this emotion.
  • Do apply reason to the situation to buy yourself time to later analyze your reaction in private.

What is Social Intelligence?

While emotional intelligence involves managing emotions in the moment, social intelligence is the ability to interact within social situations based on your experience, your beliefs and attitudes. It’s more about understanding how to deal with complex social situations – understanding the personalities and behaviors of people in your social sphere. In other words, it’s about getting along with others.

Why is Social Intelligence Important?

Most of us must interact, more or less, with others simply because we have families, go to work or school, shop, and attend social functions for our own enjoyment. We have an obligation to ourselves to be able to fit into society. As children and then young adults, we learn through our experiences how to do that. We learn manners and decorum, we learn what is and is not acceptable behavior.

Emotional Choices

Emotions are complex and are usually a subjective response, as in love or fear. You can choose to not love or trust a person, but the appearance of any emotion is always an unconscious physiological change in response to some subjective sensibility. Emotions are, therefore, conscious decisions to take a stand or action.

If we choose to not love or trust someone, must our physiological makeup replace love with fear, anger, or pensiveness? The mind can never be completely stilled so theoretically there must always be some emotional state of consciousness, whether evident of not, and this is where you get to choose. Bringing your emotions to the forefront of consciousness allows you to manage them effectively in the same way you control your thoughts by becoming aware of them.

Emotions for a Better World

The question of the existence and power of collective consciousness is one which has been around for thousands of years. As it relates to emotional and social intelligence, if laughter and joy, sadness, hate, and even indifference are ‘contagious’, if we learn by example and redundancy, if we can sense how another person is feeling, we can use emotions to bring relationships into a better place, and each person will pay it forward. In this way, we can make a better world by the power of conscious emotion.

Further Reading:

Reduce Stress by Living in the Moment: 7 Steps to Greater Mindfulness

The Struggle for Power: Understanding Control Dramas

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