Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Value of Emotional Regulation





How do you handle each emotion? Are you afraid of these emotions, or do you feel like you have a pretty good grasp on your everyday emotional state? Emotional Regulation, as most counselors or psychologists call it, is actually a fairly difficult term to define. Dr. Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault prefers a broad definition which includes the following aspects: 1) The ability to recognize and understand emotional responses, 2) the ability to accept emotions rather than reject, suppress or fear them, 3) the ability to engage in strategies that help reduce or modify the intensity of a certain emotion, 4) the ability to control impulsive behaviors when upset.

The above definition gives a pretty good idea of what Emotional Regulation looks like, but how can one begin to implement such skills?

I'm glad you asked.

Dr. Salters-Pedneault recommends at least three exercises (though there are plenty more). First, one can work on reducing his/her emotional vulnerability by getting plenty of rest, having a regular diet with plenty of exercise, and by practicing good self-care. One can also increase emotional maturity by practicing mindfulness. This exercise involves placing all of your attention on the on the present and experiencing each of your senses. Lastly, Dr. Salters-Pedneault recommends emotional acceptance, which actually goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness. After you have tuned into the moment, you may then begin to observe and accept (but not evaluate) your emotions.

I personally found this article very helpful and would encourage any reader the follow the link above to the web page, as the site is replete with information on a number of topics related to emotion regulation.


  1. I enjoyed reading your post. It made me think more about how I personally handle my emotions. I've found that sleep is a major key. Also, spending time in silence - whether that is in a prayer walk, or laying down in the grass for a bit or by exercising through riding horses.

  2. To tie in this post with your other one, one article that I read mentioned that children living in abusive situations have poor emotional control. This is proven by the fact that their sympathetic nervous system, the part of our nervous system that calms us down, does not activate when the child is upset. The child also has higher levels of stress hormones. Your story of the little boy would not be unusual then because they have not learned how to control their emotions.

  3. Interesting post Ryan. I remember learning about something similar in my 506 class and I was thrilled to learn the principles of mindfulness. For the longest time I thought that if I work hard, keep myself awake late at night to do more work or run on high-adrenaline rushes all day long, I would be able to accomplish much. Once I burned out I realized that was not the way I was created to function. More precisely, God has created the Sabbath so that I can rest and recuperate. However I still remember the time when I would belittle the importance of rest and augment the importance of hard continuous work. It is great to be able to enjoy life for what it is, with it's work but also simple and small joys.

  4. Really interesting! Dr. Salters-Pedneault seems to strike a common chord with Dr. Hart on the need for rest, relaxation, and self-care in order to experience and regulate emotions in a healthy way. It's amazing to me to see how this runs so much against the grain of most "Christian" teaching we get from the pulpit or from our friends. Learning more about the complex inter-connectedness of the immaterial and material man in this class, it totally makes sense that our experience of emotion, God, and life are all closely connected. I never before realized that taking a nap or going for a walk or sitting in silence might actually be obeying God by caring for my body, his temple!


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