Self-regulation in managing emotions. Using the wisdom of the body.
Written by Katalin Schonffend, Counsellor at Aspiring Futures C.I.C
Emotions can sometimes be overwhelming and we often find ourselves looking for ways to bring us back to balance, to a place where we feel in control with what happens to us. To maintain that balance we need to increase our flexibility and be comfortable with how emotions can move us.
This article explores how the body responds to emotions and how we can find new meaning and reframe experiences by being open to stay with our emotions.
“Change the music to change the dance”
Sue Johnson author of Emotionally Focused Therapy
As within a dance where the steps are practiced by both of the dancers, our bodies and our emotions are exchanging information, guiding each other.
Thus sadness and anger are not just emotions felt on the intellectual level, by naming what we feel, but also emotions our bodies are responding to, at the level of stomach, shoulders, posture.
An efficient method to manage emotions and their echoes in the body is regulating, slowing down and balancing those emotions with our capacity to respond to them.
This is what we call self-regulation: when we understand emotions and integrate them in a healthy way.
For self-regulation to happen and to feel that feelings are more bearable and manageable we need to intentionally focus the attention within, towards how the body carries emotions.
Like an upset child comforted by a loving parent who is gradually guiding the child to understand her emotions and to process them, emotions need to be heard and listened to in order to be integrated to unlock healing.
Emotions that are seen and held are not longer alien and scary and more likely they become emotions which we are willing to embrace, emotions which teach us about ourselves.
We can then begin the work: changing the music (the way we see our emotions) to change the dance (how we react to our emotions).
By tuning into the body a new language of emotions can be learned, leading to a more successful way to respond.
Self-regulation can be practiced with simple techniques such as being mindful of our bodily sensations, conscious breathing or grounding ourselves by paying attention to our five senses (hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching).
Let’s change the focus from how the body is carrying us to how are we caring for our bodies! You might be surprise to find how much wisdom is stored inside.
Susan M. Johnson (2018). Attachment and Theory in Practice: emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with individuals, couples, and family, New York: The Guilford Press;
Ken Dychtwald (1977). Bodymind, New York: Pantheon Books;
Susan McConnell (2020). Somatic Internal Family Systems Therapy: Awareness, Breath, Resonance, Movement, and Touch in Practice, California: North Atlantic Books.