Regulating Emotions

Regulating Emotions

How many emotions can you name?

Emotions can be grouped into primary (basic) and secondary (complex)3. American psychologist Paul Ekman believes in 61 basic emotions and they are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Psychologist Robert Plutchik created the well-known “wheel of emotion”, where he cites 82 basic emotions and pairs them as opposites; where there are anger and fear, anticipation and trust, joy and sadness, and disgust and surprise.

How well do you know each of them, and what can you do with them?

Part of personal development is to be able to manage our emotions. More often than not, people who struggle to manage their emotions attempt to convince themselves and others that they are “fine” or that they are “numb” and “emotionless”. These are avoidant tactics when a person lacks a good understanding of their emotions or is not quite equipped with the necessary tools in order to handle their emotions. Hence, they opt for the basic “fight, flight or freeze” defense mechanisms in the hope of answering to their emotions.

For example, a person is experiencing anger and is prone to punching walls and, sometimes, people around them. Despite seeing the pain their behaviour causes themselves and their loved ones, they feel stuck and unable to use other coping mechanisms that are yet to be known to them. They repeat the vicious cycle and trap themselves even further. Coupled with their stress, frustration and aggression, their anger escalates and takes on a drastic turn.

What can you do then, to manage your emotions better? Below are some suggestions:

  1. Find out more about them! Go beyond what you have learnt so far about them and look up various literature that study emotions. Get a friend to join you in this as it can be fun learning together.
  2. Observe yourself or get someone to observe the way you express your emotions.
  3. Discuss these observations and make an action plan on what you’d ideally like to do when you experience the emotions that you want to work on.

It does take time, discipline, commitment and willingness to implement the action plan that you create for yourself. Find a way to hold yourself accountable or a professional to help you with that.



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