One of the main characteristics of emotions is that they began to exist long before reason. All vertebrate animals express a repertoire of actions that can be identified with different states of mind , whether or not they have a developed capacity for reasoning, and the same is true of our ancestors, the first hominids.

This is what makes the great passions and emotions have power over rationalizations. Once they begin to spread through our bodies, it becomes impossible to act as if they were not there.

However, that does not mean that we are not able to influence our moods in any way. In this article we will see what emotional regulation is and how we can benefit from it if we develop it in an appropriate way.

What is emotional regulation?

A first definition of the concept of emotional regulation can be the following: our ability to influence the intensity, type and temporality of our own emotions . That is, when we do our part to mitigate or intensify an emotion in terms of duration and intensity, or make it derive into another one in an intentional way, we are making use of emotional regulation.

In most cases it is understood that emotional regulation is focused on specific objectives, such as maintaining composure in a public appearance or not getting discouraged when experiencing difficulties in an exercise. That is why it is an ability related to Emotional Intelligence, a potential often ignored.

The importance of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is a set of skills that has to do with the ability to adapt our thoughts and actions to the circumstances we live in so that this fit influences our emotional state. After all, if our emotions have an effect on the results we obtain in various facets of our lives, we are interested in being able to regulate them according to our interests .

On the other hand, EQ is a phenomenon that has been studied relatively recently, since it is far from our traditional conception of what intelligence is. However, it is known that the mental processes related to emotional regulation are relatively independent from those that carry out cognitive tasks associated with “normal” intelligence.

Thus, those people who not only try to seek answers through reason but also learn to modulate their emotional state have a much wider, richer and more effective repertoire of options to reach their goals.

Some competencies linked to emotional regulation

These are skills that are associated with emotional regulation, although none of them explains this phenomenon separately.

1. Ability to concentrate on the here and now

A good part of the effectiveness of emotional regulation consists of carrying out correct management of attention focus . When it comes to experiencing emotions, it is very frequent that we let ourselves be carried away by feelings that refer to past moments, or even that we take for granted the future perspective that is presented to us at that moment.

For example, when faced with an offensive comment directed at us, we may think that we will never be socially accepted, or that we will remember other past humiliations.

That is why it is important to be able to distance ourselves a little from what is happening and to analyse the present from what is happening in that context.

2. Ability to recognize each emotion and its implications

Another competence linked to emotional regulation has to do with the ability we show when it comes to discriminating between emotions. In this way it is easier to predict what effects these states have on the actions we are going to perform , and what we can expect from our behaviour.

3. Tolerance of ambiguity

As much as we are good at differentiating between emotions, it is impossible to have a complete understanding of what goes on in our minds. That is why the management of uncertainty is as important as the management of the emotions on which it is based.

4. Mental agility

Emotional regulation is a skill that is always applied to what is happening . That is why we have to find out which aspects of the context can be used to intervene on our emotions.

The simplest example is the possibility of using an elastic ball to exercise the arm muscles, or using a recording of environmental sounds to relax and escape for a moment. In fact, many of the most effective strategies for influencing emotions do not involve tasks based on introspection, but rather interaction with the environment.

5. Ability to look for a positive reading of situations

Every event offers several interpretations, and many of them, moreover, have the particularity that they are reasonable, as they fit well with reality .

Bearing in mind that there is never a single one of these readings whose superiority over the others is evident, we have a margin of maneuver to base our experiences on those explanations that fit better with our experiences and what we know about life.

6. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity, and is therefore closely linked to emotional regulation. To be clear that behind emotional regulation there is the goal of enjoying a better quality of life and greater exposure to happiness leads us to surpass ourselves.