The Truth About Emotional Regulation

None of us are regulated. We are predominantly in a heightened state of fear almost constantly that’s keeping us trapped in our minds and unable to tune into what is actually happening inside us. Emotional Regulation or Self-Regulation is a term used often in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and behavioral health. Emotional regulation is the capacity to regulate our level of arousal in relationship to the environment around us, especially in moments of stress. 

Often in this profession, we think we are regulated and helping others regulate. The human species is dysregulated. Only in moments of real peace and calm can we actually find the balance which we seek. For many of us, this only happens when we are out in nature or in a meditative state. Many more of us never find peace from the brain’s unrelenting attempt to cope with the stresses of living. Heart-Centered ABA works out of peace and balance at its core foundation. 


Peace is the Natural State

When we are relaxed and at ease, we feel natural. When we are on the beach listening to the waves, or out watching the stars, we can rest in this state of peace. We can decide with a clear mind and see possibilities. Peace is ideal for every activity we pursue. Even when we get excited, it’s good to have peace at the core or foundation of our excitement. When peace is at the core of everything we do, all we do comes from deep self-regulation. 

Peace is the center point; it is ground zero. Peace is what emotional regulation really means. How do we return to a state of peace and equilibrium when we get thrown off or dysregulated? We do this most effectively by centering in our heart where we can find deeper and deeper layers of peace. The dance of regulation is to find peace, lose it, and then find it at an even deeper level by assimilating the experiences that threw us off balance. For more on peace, here’s another article I wrote.


Fear Dysregulates Us All

Fear is our favorite dysregulation. It’s very hard to think clearly when you are afraid. This is why Douglas Adam’s put so much emphasis in Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the line “Don’t Panic,” which are in giant letters across the cover. It’s excellent advice for the human race. The sky may be falling, as Chicken Little in the European folk tale thought it was, in the sense that disaster may be just around the corner. But here we are and what are we going to do about it? Chicken Little chose to freak out and make something out of nothing. When we stay calm in the face of danger, we have more options. By accepting the sensations of fear in our body, we naturally regulate. For more on Evolving Through Fear, click here.


Self Regulation Happens in the Nervous System

When we are in a state of stress, our sympathetic nervous system takes over. This results in the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn (going along with it even though it doesn’t feel right) responses to stress. The more centered approach to dealing with stress comes from the parasympathetic nervous system that regulates sleep and digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. The parasympathetic nervous system triggers the relaxation response. This relaxation response is vital for emotional regulation. 

Systema is a Russian martial art dedicated to training the parasympathetic nervous system’s response to states of stress. In systema we train by triggering stress responses such as getting hit (at an intensity level you can handle) and learning to relax and stay calm in the face of the stressor. This training helps prepare you to meet so many challenges. I cannot speak highly enough about the many benefits of this wonderful martial arts system as it applies to life. Here’s a link to a great school in this art. And Ethan Minor is a great local teacher in Sebastopol in systema. It assists with not only emotional regulation, but problem solving, spiritual understanding, and a practical ability to respond to the difficult moments of life with ease, grace, and resilience. 


The Heart is the Regulator

Heart-Centered ABA hinges on the heart. When we center in our hearts, we learn to accept whatever we feel. Acceptance makes everything calm down to a state of peace. We don’t have to like it or enjoy it. We do have to accept it. When we accept it, we naturally regulate. The heart is not biased. It doesn’t discriminate against feelings or people. Only the mind is capable of discrimination. The heart is like a small child who loves everyone. When we center in our hearts, we naturally love everything we feel and become calm, peaceful, and centered.


Loving Fear

The key to emotional regulation is learning to love fear. In general, fear is what gets us stressed. When we have problems with anger, shame, or grief, it’s really the fear of all these other feelings that gets in the way. If we have no fear of our feelings, we have acceptance. We have to learn to bring love to the fear to most effectively regulate our emotions. 

Anytime we are experiencing difficulty with life situations, it’s typically the fear of what we are dealing with that makes it difficult to face. When we are not afraid, we naturally bring love to whatever we face and deal with it as best we can. When we are afraid we tend to avoid things and we can get stuck in unconscious patterns.


Emotional Regulation Is a Never Ending Journey

As we realize learning to emotionally regulate is a never ending journey, we can keep finding deeper and deeper levels of regulation. Just like learning to relax our body, we can always find new places of tension and new ways to deepen our relaxation physically. It doesn’t matter what level of enlightenment or self-mastery we’ve attained, there are always higher levels of presence, peace, and love that are possible to feel the more connected we are. Many get lost on this spiritual journey thinking there’s a final destination at which to arrive. Even death, as I understand it, is just a process along the way that we continue to evolve through. There’s no end point to this great journey we are on. Opening to learning and growth makes us more resilient at dealing with the challenges we face in life. We are on the path of ever deepening self regulation as we learn and grow to greater capacities of peace and love. 

We hope you liked this article and it helped you get a deeper understanding of Bridging Worlds Behavioral Services and how we work. You can find more articles about us on our blog.

Bridging Worlds operates using Heart-Centered ABA and the Heart-Centered Operating System (HCOS), developed in partnership with Heart-Centered Revolutions (HCR), a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to forging a world that works for everyone. 

For more information about HCOS, please read these HCR articles and find out how you can schedule an HCOS consultation and training for your business or organization on our website. Heart-Centered Revolutions has helped us grow and flourish and they can do the same for you.

Join our mailing list and like us on Facebook for more updates.

For example: 

If the client is nonverbal we might work on expanding their communication skills to include gestures or pictures.

If the client is overstimulated in the grocery store, goals might include short trips to the store with ways to self-regulate.