What is Emotional Self-Regulation? Models of Emotional Self-Regulation

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Emotional self-regulation or emotional regulation is a complex ability that is based on the ability of people to manage their own emotions.

It is the faculty that allows us to respond to the demands of our context on an emotional level in a way that is socially accepted. It also has to be flexible to be able to adapt to each specific situation, to experience spontaneous reactions and to delay these reactions when it is also needed.

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It is a process in charge of evaluating, observing, transforming and modifying emotions and feelings, both our own and those of others, thus forming a very important and indispensable function for people.

This capacity that we have allows us to adapt to the demands of the environment and adapt to specific demands, modifying our behavior when necessary.

Many studies have focused on the investigation of this self-regulation by its intervention in social functioning.

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What is Emotional Self-Regulation? Models of Emotional Self-Regulation

Characteristics of emotional self-regulation

Emotional regulation refers to the ability that we bring practically as a series, to modify our emotions according to the events that unfold around us, both positive and negative.

It is a form of control, of managing emotions that allows us to adapt to our environment. By activating regulation strategies we manage to modify emotions produced by external reasons that alter our habitual mood.

This regulation is necessary both in the face of negative and positive emotions, providing us with the ability to adapt depending on the situation that occurs.

To understand what it is, Gross and Thompson (2007) proposed a model to explain it based on a process composed of four factors.

The first would be the relevant situation that gives rise to the emotion, which can be external due to events that occur in our environment, or internal due to mental representations that we make. The second would be the attention and importance we give to the most relevant aspects of the event. The third factor would be the evaluation that is performed in each situation, and the fourth would be the emotional response that arises due to the situation or event that occurs in our environment.

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In addition, for some self-regulation is a cognitive exercise of control that can be reached through two mechanisms associated with different aspects of emotional experience.

On the one hand, we would find the mechanism of re-evaluation or cognitive modification, which is responsible for modifying a negative emotional experience making it beneficial for the individual.

On the other hand, we find the second mechanism called suppression, which is a control mechanism or strategy that is responsible for inhibiting the emotional response.

Gross and Thompson explain that self-regulation can be carried out at several levels. That is, these emotions can be regulated by modifying the situations that trigger them, transforming them or avoiding them.

They are also regulated by modifying the attention and shifting the focus to another action, or performing behaviors to distract themselves, by reassessing the situation that triggers a specific type of emotional reactions or by suppressing the response that appears before those situations.

They define self-regulation as a process that can be both external and internal and that allows us to evaluate and modify our behaviors, exerting an influence on emotions, on how and when we experience them.

In addition, self-regulation would be an element that clearly influences the performance of elements necessary for learning, as well as attention, memory, planning and problem solving.

For its evaluation and measurement, various parameters have been used, such as self-reported reports, physiological measures or behavioral indexes, focusing on the interest in the timing of the regulation throughout the emotional process.

Gross also differentiates between early-onset or background strategies, such as context and meaning attributed to the situation, and late-onset strategies focused on the individual’s response and on their somatic changes.

Models of emotional self-regulation

Model by Russell Barkley (1998)

Barkley defines self-regulation as the responses that alter the likelihood of an expected response to a given event.

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From this model, deficits in the inhibition of responses are proposed, affecting certain self-regulation actions called executive functions, which are nonverbal and verbal working memory, self-control of activation, motivation and affection, and reconstitution. or representation of elements, characteristics and facts of the environment.

Self-regulatory model of the emotional experiences of Higgins, Grant & Shah (1999)

The main idea of ​​this model is that people prefer some states more than others and that self-regulation favors the appearance of these. In addition, people depending on self-regulation experience a kind of pleasure or discomfort.

Indicate three fundamental principles that are involved, which are the regulatory anticipation based on previous experience, regulatory reference based on the positive or negative point of view depending on the moment, and the regulatory approach, in the case of the final statements to those that you want to reach such as aspirations and self-realization.

Sequential model of emotional self-regulation by Bonano (2001)

This model proposes that we all have emotional intelligence that, in order for it to be used effectively, it must learn to self-regulate, proposing three general categories.

The first would be the regulation of control that is the regulation presented through automatic behaviors, the second category would be the anticipatory regulation for future emotional events highlighting laughter, writing, looking for people nearby, avoiding certain situations, etc. The third category would be exploratory regulation to obtain new resources due to the appearance of possible changes in the future.

Cybernetic model by Larsen (2000)

It raises the application of the general model of cybernetic control-regulation, which begins according to the state of mind you want to reach and where you are at that moment.

Processes are activated that can be automatic but also controlled, to reduce those differences between both psychic states, through mechanisms that can be directed to the interior as distraction, or directed to the exterior as the resolution of problems.

Mood regulation model based on the social adaptation of Erber, Wegner & Therriault (1996)

It is based on the adaptation of the mood to the concrete event, either positive or negative. In addition, they affirm that our desirable emotional states vary depending on the social context in which we find ourselves.

Model of self-regulation processes of Barret and Gross (2001)

From this model, they understand emotions as the result of the interaction produced between explicit and implicit processes.

On the one hand, they highlight the importance of our mental representations about our own emotions and in which the cognitive resources on emotions, the access to those resources and the motivation of each one intervene. On the other hand, we find the how and when to regulate those emotions.

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In addition, they create five strategies of self-regulation such as the selection of the situation, modification of the situation, attention deployment, cognitive change and modulation of the response.

Cybernetic model by Larsen (2000)

It raises the application of the general model of cybernetic control-regulation, which begins according to the state of mind you want to reach and where you are at that moment.

Processes are activated that can be automatic but also controlled, to reduce those differences between both psychic states, through mechanisms that can be directed to the interior as distraction, or directed to the exterior as the resolution of problems.

Mood regulation model based on the social adaptation of Erber, Wegner & Therriault (1996)

It is based on the adaptation of the mood to the concrete event, either positive or negative. In addition, they affirm that our desirable emotional states vary depending on the social context in which we find ourselves.

Model of self-regulation processes of Barret and Gross (2001)

From this model, they understand emotions as the result of the interaction produced between explicit and implicit processes.

On the one hand, they highlight the importance of our mental representations about our own emotions and in which the cognitive resources on emotions, the access to those resources and the motivation of each one intervene. On the other hand, we find the how and when to regulate those emotions.

In addition, they create five strategies of self-regulation such as the selection of the situation, modification of the situation, attention deployment, cognitive change and modulation of the response.

Forgas homeostatic model (2000)

This model tries to explain the effect that moods exert on cognitive and social processes, proposing that the state of mind revolves around something concrete that activates mechanisms of regulation as we move away from that point.

According to this emotional self-regulation is a homeostatic process that is regulated automatically.

Emotional regulation and psychopathology

Studies and research affirm that many of the problematic behaviors that originate in people are due to problems in the process of regulating their emotions, leading to a negative effect on the general health of the person.

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For example, people whose style of regulation is suppressed are more prone to suffer from alterations due to the decrease of their affective expressivity, resulting in a decrease in the communication of the internal states of the person and presenting an activation of the system nice. In addition, they generate negative affects in others by having a more reduced emotional expression, and are perceived as not very stimulating when faced with conflictive situations.

The ability to control emotions depends on the ability, the ability to distinguish internal states, getting better handle their emotional states. The problem appears when that skill is deficient, since these people are not able to communicate about their internal states.

Many of the problematic behaviors such as the consumption of substances or self-injurious behaviors can be the consequence of a notable deficiency in the process of emotional regulation.

Thus, the efforts we make to modify our emotional states are adaptive and functional, but they can also be dysfunctional and adverse for the individual.

Many authors understand emotional self-regulation as a continuum that extends to two opposite poles that would occupy the extremes.

On the one hand, people with little emotional self-regulation or affective deregulation would find themselves in a pole that would lead to excessive emotional lability. And in the other pole we find people with excessive emotional self-control that have associated high levels of anxiety, emotional reactivity and depression.

Emotional regulation and affective neuroscience

For a long time, the nucleus or center of study of emotions has been the limbic system.

Subsequently, attention has been focused on cortical aspects of emotional processing, and studies have revealed that the cerebral cortex, especially the prefrontal cortex, has a role and participation in emotions.

Limbic system

Two main parts of the nervous system are involved in emotions. One of them would be the autonomic nervous system and another fundamental part, the limbic system.
This system is composed of complex structures such as the amygdala, the hypothalamus, the hippocampus and other nearby areas located on both sides of the thalamus. All play a key role in our emotions and are also involved in the formation of memories.

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The amygdala plays a key role in emotions, both in humans and in other animals. This brain structure is closely related to pleasure responses, as well as fear responses.

The hippocampus plays a key role in memory processes. A person will not be able to build new memories if it is damaged. Participates in the storage of information in long-term memory, including knowledge and past experiences.

The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating functions such as hunger, thirst, the response to pain, pleasure, sexual satisfaction, anger and aggressive behavior, among others. It also regulates the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, regulating the pulse, blood pressure, breathing and arousal in response to emotional circumstances.

The other related areas connected to this system would be the cingulate gyrus, which provides the pathway through which the thalamus and the hippocampus connect. It is related in the association of memories to pain or odors and in the focus of attention towards events with great emotional content.

Another area would be the ventral tegmental area, whose neurons are emitted thanks to the dopamine, the neurotransmitter that produces sensations of pleasure in our organism, so that people who suffer damage in this area have difficulties in obtaining pleasure.

The basal ganglia are responsible for the rewarding experiences, the focus of the attention and the repetitive behaviors.

Pre-frontal cortex

It is a part of the frontal lobe that is closely linked to the limbic system. It is an area involved in the realization of long-term plans, planning of complex cognitive behavior, decision making, in the adoption of measures, in thinking about the future, in the moderation of social behavior and in the expression of personality ( relationship between personality and functions of the prefrontal cortex).

The basic activity of this region is the realization of actions according to the thoughts, according to internal objectives.

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