Emotion Regulation: NOT Emotion Suppression

Emotions are an extremely important part of our lives, and they profoundly affect our actions, even though we’re not always aware of them. Skillful understanding and balancing of emotions is called Emotion Regulation. Emotion regulation is a general term that encompasses several component parts, which include being aware of and paying direct attention to emotions, understanding and labeling emotions, allowing emotions to occur without necessarily acting on them, and managing or modifying emotional reactions so as to meet important goals.

Emotion regulation skills develop over the course of infancy and childhood and continue to mature during adolescence. These skills are critical to mental health, academic achievement, and good social relationships. Poor emotion regulation skill (called emotional dysregulation) is viewed as a core feature of emotional problems and maladjustment. Such dysregulation has been linked to problems like depression, substance abuse, cutting, poor performance and aggressive behavior, to name a few.

Emotions can feel “out of control” when adolescents experience acute or long-term stress. Under stress, humans cope in a variety of ways. One coping tendency is to avoid or suppress difficult emotions, such as anger, jealousy or fear. Behaviors that may reinforce this emotional avoidance, like substance abuse, can become a preferred way to cope because they temporarily and artificially reduce the intensity of difficult feelings. An opposing tendency is to become preoccupied with emotions, for example, by constantly worrying or ruminating about problems. This coping style can lead to heightened anxiety and depression. Over-reliance on either extreme, or cycling between both, can prevent adolescents from developing the balance and flexibility which is the hallmark of healthy emotion regulation.

Emotion regulation IS NOT emotion suppression. In addition to helping participants learn about their emotional experience and allow it to be as it is without needing to react, L2B cultivates wholesome emotions such as compassion for self and others and gratitude.