Are you sleeping and eating well? Getting enough play and R&R time? Are your performances at work and your relationships at home all that they can be, or are you suffering from anxiety, explosive angry outbursts, or the symptoms associated with depression? Then these, among many other behaviours, are likely the result of living a life ‘emotionally dysregulated‘. So, what’s to do?
Emotions keep us safe!
We need emotions in order for us to make decisions, and to keep us safe. Imagine if a dangerous situation was developing – and you ‘felt’ nothing! The ‘fight, flight or play dead’ reaction wouldn’t be available before we could even think with our intellectual brain.
You see, the emotional brain is faster than the thinking brain, and that’s necessary for survival. No use wondering if while being chased by a lion whether its breath will smell, or if you’ll get an infection when he tries to eat you! So that’s where the emotional brain evolved. To remove the thinking that might otherwise slow us down in time-critical situations.
The same is true today but instead of a Lion, it might be we mindlessly step into the road before jumping back to safety; we didn’t even have time to think about anything else.
So, the emotional brain IS faster than the thinking brain. But here’s the rub!
How many times today will you truly experience a life or death situation? Hopefully, none! Yet, if you are not fully dialled in, awake and aware of thoughts in each moment, your emotions will be activating your body’s defence mechanism’s time after time after time. And that is exhausting if we wish to enjoy a healthy, balanced life!
So why and how do we become dysregulated emotionally?
It’s all about the ‘inner child’.
We form our core belief systems which inform us about our place in this world in the early stages of life. The stages of psychological growth that are found within the three stages of childhood development.
If all is well and we are obviously and appropriately loved, nurtured, shown affection, attention, and acceptance, as a unique and valued individual in our own right, our chances of suffering psychological distress as adults are significantly reduced.
In most other cases, suffering emotional neglect, abuse or trauma in childhood will leave a great many opportunities for the emotional brain to make so many mistakes, activating inappropriately by way of powerful attempts to protect you – from cognitions of a time long since passed!
Our emotional resilience to the impermanence of everyday life can be optimal and available so that although we become aware of the significance of powerful events and words external to us, we can acknowledge these as they arise and dissolve, finding eventual acceptance for what is, rather than events and words or actions external to us defining ‘who’ we think we are.
The boss will see you now.
So, the boss calls us into the office. What are your thoughts, what do you imagine, as an emotionally well-balanced person? “That’s interesting, perhaps the boss wants me to help with something.”
“Sh*t, what have I done now? Cr*p, hope she isn’t going to fire me!”
The second example is a result of emotions hijacking the person called to the office, leading to negative ruminations around the purpose of the request – or, negative thoughts preceding emotions that may be concerned with anxiety.
For the emotionally unregulated, a hijacking of the senses is only a moment away. From the moment we wake, there is a necessity to be present. But how often do we awake and complain about aches and pains, feeling tired, the day ahead, (the day just passed) and the injustice of it all?
Now, when the toast gets burnt, or I spill the milk, I’m already in a state of heightened negativity and will be less likely to be accepting of each ‘event’.
How we talk to ourselves (and others) IS important.
Most of us wouldn’t dream of saying the hurtful and derogatory comments we make in our heads about ourselves – to another person. So why do we continue, and who ARE we talking and listening to?
Returning to the emotions…
Can you smell something burning?
When I burn the toast I can be kind to myself. (Isn’t it enough that I’ve made a mistake?)
I can recognise that I was being less than mindful and awake and it’s fine. Now, if I choose, I can let go of any negative emotions of anger about that small event.
“No use crying over spilt milk!”
Now, when I spill the milk, I can perhaps smile inwardly and gently remind myself that I might like to wake up even more! But here is the thing. Now, the emotions associated with the second ‘mistake’ are purely those for that moment! We’re not bringing the ‘burnt toast’ emotions along to ‘gang-up’ with the milk episode!
Now all we have to do is repeat and practice.
For guidance around your specific life-story and any overwhelming emotions – call or write for your free assessment from me. I provide services to improve your emotional wellbeing and these are available online – or in person. Do explore this website for more, and send any questions.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).