Although emotions and feelings are something each one of us has, it doesn’t mean that they are easy to handle or manage. For some people, they generally don’t cause too many problems, unless there is a major challenge in their life.
And then there are other people who find it incredibly difficult to cope with their emotions. It is then irrelevant as to what is or what is not going on in their life; as the consequences are the same. Here one can end up being completely controlled by them and feel forever at their mercy.
Now, if these emotions were ‘positive’ and uplifting, then there is not going to much concern as to whether one is controlled by them or not. This would be something that one is likely to embrace and not resist. What makes this a challenge is when these emotions are far from pleasant and are what could be labelled as destructive.
In the first example, one is generally able to regulate how they feel. And so they have a reasonable degree of emotional control. But when it comes to next example, this ability doesn’t exist. Or if it does, it is not developed enough for them to handle their emotions.
So there is going to be people who have the ability and this allows them to minimize any emotional turbulence that they may experience in life. And then there are others who feel completely powerless when they do experience any kind of emotional unrest.
There will then be people who are more or less in between the two. So it’s not too much of a challenge that they feel out of out of control, but they won’t exactly feel in control either. In this instance, it can relate to someone who has become numb.
But to stick with the two extremes here, it would appear that one person has something the other person doesn’t have. Both are human and are biologically the same and yet emotionally they are very different.
This gives one the ability to do at least two things. On one side it makes it possible for one to just be with whatever emotions arise in most cases. So they don’t have to deny how they are feeling and therefore repress them.
And on the other side, it means one won’t necessarily have to act on how they feel all the time. They will be able to resist the urge to direct them externally and onto people or animals for instance, who are innocent and have no part to play in their emotional experience.
One is soothing themselves from the inside; just like how a mother would settle her crying baby down. If this was not possible, then one might seek the assistance of a trusted friend or their partner to hold the space for them. The main thing is that they are comfortable enough with their emotions to either sooth themselves and if that’s not possible, then they will ask for support from others.
The Missing Ability
If this ability was the norm, then it is likely that a lot of things in this world would be different. In reality, this ability is something that few people posses and this leads to all kinds of consequences. Some of these can be overlooked and played down, and others are unmissable and create clear destruction.
To deny and cover up how one feels, could lead to: dysfunctional relationships, illness, physical pain and depression, amongst other things. And to get caught up in how one feels, could lead to reactive and impulsive behaviour.
So one could end up buying things they don’t need; getting into relationships that are dysfunctional; and saying and doing things they will later come to regret. Drugs, sex, food and alcohol could all be used as a way to regulate how one feels.
Now, to be human means that one is imperfect and that is normal and part of the human experience; it is not something to feel ashamed of. To deny how one feels or to act in a way that is destructive, is going to happen from time to time.
When one is experiencing intense stress due to a job coming to an end, the loss of someone close to them or relationship coming to an end, then emotional regulation can give way to internal repression and external destruction. But this will be a short time challenge and not a way of life.
The challenge is when this is the only way that one knows and has no idea how to regulate themselves. Denying how they feel or relying on external things to feel better, could be the only approach they know.
This is like having car, but not having a place to park the car. In this case one has emotions, what they don’t have is a way to deal with them. So something is missing and although it might have always been this way for someone, there is reason for it.
And how one was cared for by their primary caregiver, as a baby and then as a child, will typically define if one can emotionally regulate themselves or not.
Empathic And Unempathic
The ideal caregiver is one who is empathic and emotionally in tune with themselves. This will allow them to mirror, sooth and validate what their child is feeling. At this age, the child has not developed the ability regulate how they feel, so the mother figure provides this until the child has developed this ability.
Through this process taking place many, many times, the child will gradually internalise the mothers responses. And as a result of this, they will develop the ability to regulate themselves and feel comfortable enough to ask another for emotional support.
If the mother is unempathic and out of tune with her own emotions, then the child is going to pay the price; unless someone else fulfils this role instead. So they would then have to just sit in their own emotions and feelings and at an age when they were not ready to do so.
And unless something is done during their adult years, this ability might never be developed. So as a result of their mother figure not providing this, one can end up looking outside for their entire lives.
There is the potential for this ability to be developed in later life, if the commitment and support is there. What can stop one from being able to soothe themselves and to just be with their emotions, is when one has trapped feelings and emotions in their body. And if one has never had the ability to regulate their emotions, then it is inevitable that they will have built up.
These will need to be released in order for one to settle down. And working with a therapist or healer can enable one to gradually release them. This will allow one be more emotionally balance.
A therapist or a healer can provide the mirroring and attunement that one didn’t get as a child, and as this happens, one can develop the ability to regulate themselves.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.