Think about the most mature and likable person you know. They are probably flexible, highly skillful, and self-aware in the area of emotions and relationships. She or he will genuinely and with confidence increase happiness and excitement as well as calm shame and anger inside her or himself.
It is like a thermostat inside of us. A system of balancing our inner and outer worlds. Sometimes, this system works very well, increasing our joy, desire, excitement at the best times. Our anger, sadness, and fear will decrease as needed when this emotional system works well. When this emotional system is not functioning well, we have trouble with our relationships and getting things done, like homework or tasks at work.
In the book, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” JK Rowling writes: “Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. . .You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” Experiencing a dementor seems to be like being depressed.
Harry Potter learns to concentrate, with all his might, on a single, very happy memory. This frees Harry Potter from the haunting clutches of dementors. Great writers and directors of movies, like J.K. Rowling, William Shakespeare, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, know how to change the emotions of readers or moviegoers.
In order to have healthy, satisfying relationships and learn and work productively, we need to influence our emotions internally. We can try to use external methods such as food, movies, alcohol, drugs, sex, computer games, or controlling others to calm our upsetting emotions, but they eventually fail to soothe us.
Yet we can also regulate our emotions internally by changing our breathing, physical exercise, self-talk, and focusing on an images of safety, affirmation, and validation. With healthy emotional regulation, the goal is to be aware of your body and calm unpleasant emotions, not feel numb. Unfortunately, a vast majority of men have difficulty even sensing the emotions in their bodies and describing them in words.
Emotional regulation is a skill we can learn with practice. Over time, it begins to happen naturally, just like learning to tie your shoes. Do you think about it when you tie your shoes? Put simply, healthy emotional self-regulation is responding to challenges of a situation with a level emotion allowing mature actions. Affect Centered Therapy teaches us the skills to calm our sadness or fear.
John Omaha, Ph.D., MFT, the creator of Affect Centered Therapy and author of the book, “Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Emotional Regulation: EMDR and Bilateral Stimulation for Affect Management,” is in private practice in Santa Rosa, California in the United States of America. In this video, John demonstrates the important skill of down regulating emotion.
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