Currently in vogue is a type of therapy geared toward emotional regulation. Such treatment aims for management of human emotions. It has come about because of the idea that people suffer with emotional dyscontrol. Children are instructed to hit a pillow when angry or to run around the block. Adults are advised to his golf balls, go for a physical workout, listen to music, read, cook, meditate, practice mindfulness, or do various other activities that distract them from or diminish their anger or other emotions they may have. Does this make sense to attempt regulation of our emotions?
When I work with children in my practice we talk about how all children and adults feel emotions every day – anger, sadness, happiness, anxiety, frustration and so on. These emotions are part of being human and it is not wrong to feel any one of them. This often surprises children (and many adults) for they have come to expect that their feeling of anger, for example, is taboo in their home. What I next do with my child (and adult) patients is explore the spectrum of emotions they have in order to understand what provokes these emotions and when they take place. Then we assess whether the emotions are reasonable or unreasonable for the circumstance they pop up in. We also explore how they learned any unreasonable emotions.
Once we do this together each patient better understands the context of his feelings or emotions, rather than trying to diminish them or be distracted from them. This is not only more successful but also healthier because it leads to enhanced self-understanding.
When the ceiling of your home leaks water, do you just drywall it over or put a bucket underneath it and forget about it? Or, do you investigate the source and reason for the leak to understand why it is happening? Do you evaluate what you need to do to remedy the problem and not just put a band-aid on it?
How does it work for you? Does distraction or diminishing sadness, anxiety, or anger bring good results? How about exploring your emotions to understand not only when and why they happen but how reasonable they are for the situation in the moment the emotion takes place? Does this help you any better?