What is emotion regulation?
Emotion regulation is an ability or skill whereby a person manages to keep strong or extreme emotions in check so that they do not become overwhelming. Emotions may still be felt very strongly at times, but the person is able to respond in constructive ways.
Most individuals learn to regulate their emotions in childhood through guidance from parents, and this ability improves through adolescence and into adulthood. We learn that getting our needs met while also getting on with other people is more likely to happen if expression of emotions is moderate and considerate of others. Feedback from parents and significant others helps us to become aware of our emotional expressions and how they are interpreted by others. Clear, predictable and respectful feedback from others helps us learn methods of expressing emotion that enable us to get our needs met while respecting the needs of others.
A person may not develop the skills to regulate emotions if childhood environments do not provide adequate learning opportunities. Young people with poor emotion regulation often experience chaotic family situations in which adults demonstrate poor emotion regulation themselves and do not provide clear, predictable and respectful feedback.
Interventions to enhance emotion regulation provide alternative learning opportunities in which individuals can acquire the skills involved in emotion regulation. In addition to providing clear, predictable and respectful feedback in response to expressions of emotion, explicit instruction and guided practice is offered in order to enhance conscious awareness and proactively build new skills.