Emotion Regulation

The goal of Emotion Regulation training is not to take your emotions away; they are a natural response, but to reduce the emotional suffering.

It helps you to:
-Identify (observing and describing) emotions and understand what emotions do for you.
-Decrease your vulnerability to negative emotions (emotional mind)
-Increase positive emotions
-Let go of painful emotions through the use of mindfulness
-Challenge and change painful emotions through opposite action

Observing and describing emotions

There is a prompting event for an emotion, an interpretation of that prompt, experience, expression of that emotion and after effects.
So let’s use the emotion Love.

A prompting event for Love – spending a lot of time with a person, sharing a special experience, a person offers or gives you something you want, need or desire.

Interpretation that prompt the emotion Love – believing that the person feels the same way, finding a person physically attractive as well as their personality.

Experiencing the emotion Love – when with someone or thinking about someone: feeling excited, full of energy, fast heartbeat, acting self confident, feeling invulnerable, and feeling happy, secure, relaxed and calm. Wanting the best for the person, wanting to see and spend time with the person, wanting to spend the rest of your life with the person, wanting physical closeness or sex.

Expressing the emotion Love – saying “I Love You”, expressing positive feelings to a person, eye contact, mutual gaze, touching, petting, hugging, holding, cuddling, and smiling. Sharing time and experiences with someone.

After effects of Love – Only seeing the person’s positive side. Feeling forgetful or distracted. Feeling openness and trust, remembering and imagining other positive events.

What good are emotions?

Emotions communicate and influence others
– Facial expressions are a hard wired part of emotions, they communicate like words.
-When it is important to us to communicate with others it can be very difficult for us to change our emotions.
-Whether intended or not the communication of emotions influence others.

Emotions motivate and organise action
-Emotions motivate our behaviour feeling good can encourage us to clean or do something good for ourselves. Emotions prepare us for action
-Emotions save time in getting us to act in important situations.
-Strong emotions help us to overcome obstacles in our mind and in the environment

Emotions can be self validating
-Our emotional reactions to other people and to events can give us information about the situation; emotions can be signals or alarms that something is happening.
-When this is carried to the extreme emotions are treated as facts “if I feel incompetent then I am” “if I get depressed when I’m left alone, I shouldn’t be left alone” “if I feel something is right then it is right”

Reducing vulnerability to negative emotions – How to stay out of emotional mind

A way to remember these skills is to use this phrase “PLEASE MASTER”

Treat            PhysicaL Illness
Balance         Eating
Avoid mood   Altering drugs
Balance         Sleep
Get              Exercise
Build             MASTERy

Treat PhysicaL Illness
-Take care of your body see your doctor if needed and take prescribed medication

Balance Eating
-Eat healthy balanced diet and stay away from foods that are likely to affect you emotionally

Avoid mood Altering drugs
-Stay away from recreational/non prescribed drugs and alcohol – If you are going to have a drink be mindful of how it affects you and limit how much you drink

Balance Sleep
-Try to get the right amount of sleep for you to function well. Get into a good sleep routine so your body knows when it is tired.

Get Exercise
-Do some sort of exercise a day, soft and gentle to start off with and then build up to more vigorous exercise
-Cyber skipping – standing on the spot with a pretend skipping rope and skipping
-Take a walk to the local shops, go for a stroll around some woodland, find somewhere tranquil, find a duck pond and feed some ducks

-Try to do one thing a day to make yourself feel competent and in control

Steps for increasing positive emotions

Build positive experiences

Short Term
-Increase pleasant events that prompt positive emotions
-Do one thing each day from the Adult Pleasant Events Schedule

Long Term
-Make changes in your life so that the positive events will occur more often “Build a life worth living”
-Work towards goals – accumulate positives – make a list of positive events you want – list small steps towards that goal – take the first step
-Attend to relationships
-Repair old relationships
-Reach out for new relationships
-Work on current relationships
-Avoid avoiding – Avoid giving up

Be mindful of positive experiences
-Focus attention on positive events that can happen
-Refocus when your mind wanders to the negative

Be unmindful of worries
Distract from
-Thinking about when the positive experience will end
-Thinking about whether you deserve this positive experience
-Thinking about how much more might be expected of you now

Letting go of Emotional Suffering

Mindfulness of your current emotion

-Note its presence
-Step back
-Get unstuck from the emotion

Experience Your Emotion
-As a wave coming and going
-As a scale – rising and peaking then dropping
-Try not to block emotion
-Try not to suppress emotion
-Don’t push it away
-Don’t try to keep the emotion around
-Don’t hold onto it
-Don’t amplify it

Remember You Are Not Your Emotion
-Do not necessarily act on the emotion
-Remember times when you have felt different

Practice Loving Your Emotion
-Don’t judge your emotion
-Practice willingness
-Radically accept your emotion

Changing Emotions by Acting Opposite to the Current Emotion

-Do what you’re afraid of over and over
-Approach events, places, people you are afraid of
-Do things to give yourself a sense of control
-When overwhelmed, make a list of small steps you can do then do the first thing on the list

Guilt or Shame
(When the guilt or shame is justified – the emotion fits in with your wise mind values)
-Repair the transgression
-Say you’re sorry, apologise
-Make things better – do something nice for that person
-Commit to avoiding that mistake in the future
-Accept the consequences gracefully
-Then let it go

When the guilt or shame is unjustified (the emotion does not fit your wise mind values)
-Do what makes you feel guilty or ashamed over and over
-Approach don’t avoid

Sadness or Depression
-Get active, approach don’t avoid
-Do things that make you feel competent and self confident

-Gently avoid the person you are angry with rather than attacking (avoid thinking about the person rather than ruminating)
-Do something nice rather than mean or attacking
-Imaging sympathy and empathy for the other person rather than blame


Linehan, M. Skills training manual for treating borderline personality disorder. 1st. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 1994. Print.

McKay, M., J. C. Wood, and J. Brantley. The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook, practical dbt exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation &. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Pubns Inc, 2007. Print.

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