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What Is Emotional Regulation & How Do We Develop It?

In this video, I explore the very interesting subject of emotional regulation and emotional dysregulation, and how our capacity to emotionally regulate is developed.

Let’s first address the question what is emotional regulation or self- regulation – as it is sometimes called. When well developed, emotional regulation allows us to manage, to balance, and to direct our feelings, thoughts, and our behaviours – in the face of triggers, challenges, and demands that daily life brings to us.

The capacity to self-regulate is core to our ability to navigate life on a daily basis. We all know that being emotional, having emotions and feelings is core to the human experience. We also know that our emotions can get very intense at times and turbulent. It is not at all easy to stabilise them.

What then is emotional dysregulation? When we are emotionally- dysregulated, we feel overwhelmed by our experience, by our feelings. Alternatively, we experience an emotional disconnect, when there is no connection anymore to our feeling world.

The reality is that we all become emotionally dysregulated. That’s part of being human.

What matters is how long do we spend in an emotionally dysregulated state? How many hours of the day, or how many days of the week are we feeling dysregulated? And, how long does it take us to get back to a more emotionally-regulated, balanced, stabilised way of being?

For example, depression, anxiety, regular outbursts of anger, self-harm, chronic stress – are all signs that a person has developed  established patterns of emotional dysregulation. And that’s often what leads people to therapy.

The good news is that emotional regulation can be facilitated, can be learned, can be developed, can be strengthened. Psychological therapy can really help you with that. There are also things we can do outside of therapy – to balance our feelings and to work with our thoughts –  to help us get into a more balanced, regulated state.

What we really want to achieve is that there is a connection between our emotional brain and our thinking brain, when they are both connected and work together well, we feel emotionally-balanced and stable and we are well-regulated.

So how do we develop emotional regulation? It is really interesting. Emotional regulation is an innate human capacity. We all have the capacity to develop it. It is akin to a musical capacity. We all are able to learn an instrument or sing. If we grew up, let’s say in a musical family, and the family sings together, goes to concerts, plays musical instruments, we would automatically and naturally unfold our musical capacity. Is very similar with our emotional regulation capacity.

If it is facilitated within the family culture, then we will naturally unfold it. Within a family culture, which is marked by open-mindedness, by attention to each others’ feeling states and thoughts, allowing different perspectives, mutual respect for feelings – we naturally unfold our capacity to self-regulate because we are regulated by the family culture, by the relationships within the family.

Most of us haven’t grown up and don’t grow up in this kind of ‘perfect’ family. Families who struggle with trauma, alcoholism, drug abuse, or mental illness will find it harder to facilitate emotional regulation in their children.

If you are struggling with emotional regulation and are ready to work on strengthening your self-regulation capacity, please get in touch and book your FREE, 20-minute consultation. This will give us a chance to talk about your struggles, what you want to change and how we can best work together. I am looking forward to connecting with you.


I have trained and worked as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist for over 25 years, and specialise in Depression Therapy, PTSD counselling, Group Therapy, and BPD Therapy.

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