Have you ever heard the saying that nobody can make you angry? Are you someone who questions this and thinks, “Not true! People make me mad all the time!!” If so, perhaps you are one of the many who have not mastered emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation is something that fewer and fewer people have in our society. Human nature is to blame other people for the way we feel when we really need to be exploring our own emotions and uncovering the real meaning behind why we feel the way we feel. It is easier and more comfortable to blame other people.
There are three steps to learning effective emotional regulation.
Step 1: Identify the true emotion. Proper identification of the emotion you are feeling is the first step to learning emotional regulation. Sometimes what comes across as anger is really masking feelings like hurt, fear, or worry. Some people just lack the vocabulary to properly identify an emotion. There are various emotion charts and lists of emotion words that can be found with a quick internet search that might help. Really boiling down to what you are truly feeling can take some time, education, and self-reflection to master this step.
Step 2: Accept the feeling for what it is. Taking personal responsibility for how you feel is the second most important thing that you can do to learn emotional regulation. YOU are in control of your feelings! Nobody else can force you to feel a certain way, and blaming others for how you feel is not going to help you master emotional regulation any faster. Accept your feeling for what it is and express it to those around you. Instead of saying, “You’re making me mad,” try saying, “I’m really frustrated right now,” or “I am really hurt.” Stating your feelings by using the word “I” as the subject takes the blame off other people and is a way that you can learn to take responsibility for how you feel.
Step 3: Identify the true cause of your feelings. Perhaps you aren’t really mad at your teenager for coming in after curfew, but you’re really worried because of the friends he or she was with. Where does that worry come from? Is it remnants of a bad experience in the past with your child? Or perhaps it is memories of what you did at that age and you are worried that your teen might make the same mistakes you did at that age? Really identifying WHY you feel the way you do is sometimes painful and may require you seeking out professional help in learning to understand the true WHY of your feelings. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Sometimes it is just easier for someone else to point out other possibilities for why you may feel the way you feel than it is for you to recognize it yourself.
After you have gone through all three of these steps, you are well on your way to mastering emotional regulation! Once you can learn to identify emotions, take responsibility for those emotions, and understand the why behind them, you can learn to regulate your feelings and change those feelings. You can identify irrational feelings and change them to more rational ones along the way. You will stop blaming other people for how you feel and be able to express yourself in a better, more emotionally adjusted manner. Life will be easier, things will bother you less, and you will be a happier person for learning emotional regulation.