Emotional Regulation Therapy in Madison, WI
Do you sometimes feel that you are on an emotional roller coaster? Happy and joyous one moment, despairing and disappointed the next? People sometimes pathologize this experience, casually referring to it as manic depressive or bi-polar, but the truth is, we are all subject to sudden swings of feeling and state. It can be very unsettling to feel you do not have control over your emotions and reactions, and are subject to random events and intense shifts in feeling or mood. Every day, we encounter situations and people that can evoke strong reactions and rapid fire actions. Our ability to note and monitor events, the feelings and thoughts that emerge in response to events, and how we respond to those feeling and thoughts, constitutes emotional regulation.
Many times, our reactions to people and situations are instant and unmodulated. For example, when someone cuts in front of you while driving, a sudden surge of rage is a common response that might lead to recklessness, rude hand gestures, or cursing and swearing. None of these responses is effective or helpful, and can alienate others, inflame situations, and create danger. A person practicing emotional regulation would feel the initial reaction, but would then take steps to calm him or herself, making it possible to make a conscious choice to dismiss the event as insignificant, diffuse the situation with humor, or use one of any number of adaptive responses.
To throw up your hands and deem yourself “moody,” or mercurial,” is to shirk your responsibility to become knowledgeable about and skillful at being yourself. Maybe some of your reactivity is rooted in obsolete defense mechanisms, or the outdated belief that you do not have the power to change your circumstances. Maybe some of your rapid shifting has to do with an unconscious effort to synchronize with or please others who have power in your life. Understanding these habits and assumptions will give you power to choose what truly works for you, and what you can let go of in service of more effective, nuanced strategies.
Let us help you learn more about yourself. Let us show you your feelings are tethered to your experiences, unconscious interpretations, and patterns of perception. Once you learn how to track your own reactivity, you will become much more effective in responding to it. You will know when to take time out to move into relaxation, allowing the anxiety or agitation to sweep harmlessly through you, and when to heed your response as important information that needs to be taken into account for decision making and navigation. All of your feelings are legitimate and real, but not all of them are useful in terms of making decisions or functioning in a relationship or at work. People who have difficulty regulating emotions often have response patterns are at odds with their goals and priorities. There is a significant association between emotional dysregulation and depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and substance abuse. Let us help you align your responses to the way you want to be in Madison and in the world.