Emotional Regulation Strategies
Let’s face it. Narcissistic Abuse creates a heap of emotions. Most of them negative. Many of us weren’t taught specific coping techniques to regulate our own emotions in response to trauma.
Below are a number of strategies that you may already be employing; some positive, some negative.
Strategies Situation selection
Situation selection involves choosing to avoid or approach an emotionally relevant situation. If a person selects to avoid or disengage from an emotionally relevant situation, he or she is decreasing the likelihood of experiencing an emotion. Alternatively, if a person selects to approach or engage with an emotionally relevant situation, he or she is increasing the likelihood of experiencing an emotion.
Typical examples of situation selection may be seen interpersonally, such as when a parent removes his or her child from an emotionally unpleasant situation. Use of situation selection maybe also be seen in psychopathology. For example, avoidance of social situations to regulate emotions is particularly pronounced for those with social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder.
Effective situation selection is not always an easy task. For instance, humans display difficulties predicting their emotional responses to future events. Therefore, they may have trouble making accurate and appropriate decisions about which emotionally relevant situations to approach or to avoid.
Situation modification involves efforts to modify a situation so as to change its emotional impact. Situation modification refers specifically to altering one’s external, physical environment. Altering one’s “internal” environment to regulate emotion is called cognitive change.
Examples of situation modification may include injecting humor into a speech to elicit laughter or extending the physical distance between him or herself and another person.
Attentional deployment involves directing one’s attention towards or away from an emotional situation.
Distraction, an example of attentional deployment, is an early selection strategy, which involves diverting one’s attention away from an emotional stimulus and towards other content.
Distraction has been shown to reduce the intensity of painful and emotional experiences, to decrease facial responding associated with emotion, as well as to alleviate emotional distress. As opposed to reappraisal, individuals show a relative preference to engage in distraction when facing stimuli of high negative emotional intensity. This is because distraction easily filters out high-intensity emotional content, which would otherwise be relatively difficult to appraise and process.
Rumination, an example of attentional deployment,is defined as the passive and repetitive focusing of one’s attention on one’s symptoms of distress and the causes and consequences of these symptoms. Rumination is generally considered to be a maladaptive emotion regulation strategy, as it tends to exacerbate emotional distress. It has also been implicated in a host of disorders including major depression.
Worry, an example of attentional deployment, involves directing attention to thoughts and images concerned with potentially negative events in the future. By focusing on these events, worrying serves to aid in the downregulation of intense negative emotion and physiological activity. While worry may sometimes involve problem solving, incessant worry is generally considered maladaptive, being a common feature of anxiety disorders, particularly generalized anxiety disorder.
Thought suppression, an example of attentional deployment, involves efforts to redirect one’s attention from specific thoughts and mental images to other content so as to modify one’s emotional state. Although thought suppression may provide temporary relief from undesirable thoughts, it may ironically end up spurring the production of even more unwanted thoughts. This strategy is generally considered maladaptive, being most associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cognitive change involves changing how one appraises a situation so as to alter its emotional meaning.
Reappraisal, an example of cognitive change, is a late selection strategy, which involves reinterpreting the meaning of an event so as to alter its emotional impact. For example, this might involve reinterpreting an event by broadening one’s perspective to see “the bigger picture.” Reappraisal has been shown to effectively reduce physiological, subjective, and neural emotional responding. As opposed to distraction, individuals show a relative preference to engage in reappraisal when facing stimuli of low negative emotional intensity because these stimuli are relatively easy to appraise and process.
Reappraisal is generally considered to be an adaptive emotion-regulation strategy. Compared to suppression, it is correlated negatively with many psychological disorders, associated with better interpersonal outcomes, and positively related to wellbeing. However, some researchers argue that context is important when evaluating the adaptiveness of a strategy, suggesting that in some contexts reappraisal may be maladaptive.
Distancing, an example of cognitive change, involves taking on an independent, third-person perspective when evaluating an emotional event. Distancing has been shown to be an adaptive form of self-reflection, facilitating the emotional processing of negatively-valenced stimuli, reducing emotional and cardiovascular reactivity to negative stimuli, and increasing problem-solving behavior.
Humor, an example of cognitive change, has been shown to be an effective emotion regulation strategy. Specifically, positive, good-natured humor has been shown to effectively upregulate positive emotion and downregulate negative emotion. On the other hand, negative, mean-spirited humor is less effective in this regard.
Response modulation involves attempts to directly influence experiential, behavioral, and physiological response systems.
Expressive suppression, an example of response modulation, involves inhibiting emotional expressions. It has been shown to effectively reduce facial expressivity, subjective feelings of positive emotion, heart rate, and sympathetic activation. However, the research is mixed regarding whether this strategy is effective for downregulating negative emotion. Research has also shown that expressive suppression may have negative social consequences, correlating with reduced personal connections and greater difficulties forming relationships.
Expressive suppression is generally considered to be a maladaptive emotion-regulation strategy. Compared to reappraisal, it is correlated positively with many psychological disorders, associated with worse interpersonal outcomes, is negatively related to wellbeing, and requires the mobilization of a relatively substantial amount of cognitive resources. However, some researchers argue that context is important when evaluating the adaptiveness of a strategy, suggesting that in some contexts suppression may be adaptive.
Drug use, an example of response modulation, can be a way to alter emotion-associated physiological responses. For example, alcohol can produce sedative and anxiolytic effects and beta blockers can affect sympathetic activation.
Exercise, an example of response modulation, can be used to regulate the physiological and experiential effects of negative emotions. Regular physical activity has also been shown to reduce emotional distress and improve emotional control.
For further reading you might enjoy this Stanford.Edu document.