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When we are confronted with difficult emotions like anxiety, depression, stress, grief, anger, or loneliness, we are quick to search for the off-button on our emotional dashboard instead of taking in the messages they contain.

Steven C. Hayes, Ph.DThe Shortest Guide to Dealing with Emotions


But emotions are not the problem. They are merely messengers. And the messages they carry deserve at least to be heard. They often contain important lessons, and can call us to helpful actions. Often they show us opportunities.


When emotions arise, you can ask yourself: “What am I feeling right now?” and “Where can I feel it?” and “What does my emotion ask me to do?” and “What does this suggest I am yearning for?”


We like feeling this way, and never want it to stop, and so we cling onto this pleasant feeling, in the hopes of never losing it. Or we detune so it won’t be noticed when it stops, as if being numb is the definition of happiness. We dislike feeling this way, so we push it away as if feelings are the enemy.


Feelings are not just about like and dislike. They are how our past and present impact us. They help train our ability to notice what is present, based on what we’ve experienced in the past.


Allowing emotions to be there when they occur, to listen closely to their message, to feel them fully with neither clinging nor needless defense, allows them to serve their proper role.



Emotion regulation is the ability to exert control over one’s own emotional state. It may involve behaviors such as rethinking a challenging situation to reduce anger or anxiety, hiding visible signs of sadness or fear, or focusing on reasons to feel happy or calm.

Psychology Today Staff – Emotion Regulation


emotion regulation often involves what experts call “down-regulation,” or reducing the intensity of emotions. A grieving person might down-regulate his sadness by recalling something amusing. An anxious person may cope by distracting herself from the thought that is causing her anxiety. Emotion regulation can also include “up-regulation,” or amping up one’s emotions, which can be useful when an imminent danger or challenge calls for a healthy dose of anxiety or excitement.


The process model of emotion regulation proposed by psychologist James Gross emphasizes that people can act to control their emotions at different points in time—including before they feel an emotion (“antecedent-focused emotion regulation”) and after they have already begun to react emotionally (“response-focused emotion regulation”).


Emotion dysregulation is a component of certain forms of mental illness. Over time, it could have a negative impact on one’s personal well-being and social relationships.


Certain ways of regulating emotion regulation, such as regularly bottling them in, may also be associated with lower well-being and satisfaction with relationships.



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