Sunday, 20 January 2008

Thoughts on emotional regulation

I've been reading around this a lot recently. One of the things I am increasingly noticing is that I "regress" into child mode in certain situations. On particular occasions, this has been quite pronounced and obvious. So I've been reading to try to work out why this might be and what I might be able to do to change this. It's not a conscious decision, it's much more instant and automatic and out of control than that. It scares me, it's inappropriate and it's something I want and need to change.

One of the first quotes that grabbed my attention was this one:
From birth the key to psychological growth is the abilty to master control over your emotional and behavioural states. Initially the child learns how their carers comfort them when upset. Then they discover that when their carer isn't around, they can comfort themselves. Initially these will be physical methods (rocking, sucking their thumb, humming, stroking their hair), but later there will be cogntive strategies. If these skills are not developed then when a crisis occurs the person will feel helpless and out of control.
So the ability to self-soothe is clearly something developed young. I know I use the physical methods at times. So what needs to happen for a child to develop the cognitive strategies, and what are these cognitive strategies?
Another quote from the same site suggested that,
At times of crisis most young people can draw on an internalised representation of a parent to comfort them, and that Many people who self harm have difficulty with attachment and separation.
Well, I know that I have problems with attachment and separation. I certainly don't have a memory of my parents comforting me - quite the opposite in fact; I was more likely to be criticised for upsetting my mother by being upset, or to hear that my father had told my brother I was a cry baby. So maybe one clue is that my parents did not provide the emotional comfort I needed as a young child.
This is backed up by comments in this paper that
"insecure” infants did not receive consistently sensitive and responsive caregiving and reliable distress-alleviation, and they tend to hold negatively valenced views of self and others.
A reinforcement of the importance of parental modelling is provided in the same paper, where the authors explain that,
the degree to which a child’s family regularly seeks and expresses positive experiences and emotions in the face of negative events might prove particularly important early in development, when children begin to solidify their strategies for distress regulation
and that "emotion coaching parents"
actively communicate understanding and empathy and help their children to confront distress and frightening experiences with a sense of control and optimism.
So from all this it seems likely that my childhood didn't provide me with experiences and examples of how to approach problems optimistically. My memories back this up. I suspect I also didn't experience the closeness I needed in order to feel secure. There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but I don't feel that attempting to delve into them (or my past) further is going to help. What I need now is a way of redressing that past history, learning those skills I missed. More to think on. Suggestions welcomed.


MMP said...

these tend to kick in with alaring force inmy life, don't know about yours.
I'd just love a "pause" button for my life.....

Disillusioned said...

Or maybe a Fast Forward

Mostly what I would like to be able to to is to re-record and replace the old messages with more helpful ones.

MMP said...

oh, that would be helpful!

Hey ho.....back to sorting and sifting what we have now eh?

mandy lifeboats appeal said...

Hi C

Feel like I have come back on to some more solid ground today, now that Dad is safe (at least for time being) so how do we learn new skills or re-learn old ones that got over-ridden by other needs or needs of others?

I remember one thing that struck me. From psycho-therapy many moons ago. One of the few things I remember that was of any use.

It was about self comfort. Not sure what you, or others, think but us Brits aren't good at self comfort. I think, as a nation, we think that being attached to emotions is a bad thing. That stiff upper lip, keep it all under wraps cobblers approach to life.

The other extreme is to be totally dominated by emotions.

The battle, itself, seems to be between logic and emotions. In its rawest sense. Well, it is for me.

I can link most of my problems to the onset, and then degenerativ nature of, my mum's illnesses.

Is like I never got time to be an adolescent and get to grips with growing up. In fact I feel like my childhood and adolescence are missing. The memory of most of it is deffo lost.

So..the therapy I was advised to hug myself...if not physically but mentally.

Now...from a starting from scratch point that is not easiest thing to do. But you know, with a bit of perseverance and giving myself permission to comfort myself it has helped. It wasn't the answer to everything but it helped me deal with grief a bit better. It also helped me realise that it is okay to give comfort (to provide love) to myself (or selves cos there are different characters in me).

Maybe it sounds like a load of old tosh and maybe it is...but it works a bit and I think it takes a combination of little things to build up a tool kit to cope with life and the rubbish it chucks at us.

At some point soon, I am going to open my toolbox and have a look at what is missing (as well as what is there)

Enough prattling. I need cake.


Disillusioned said...

mmp _ guess so. The sorting and sifting and deciding what to do with it all is a bit like unpacking the holiday suitcase at the moment - a rather mind-lowering task.

Mandy - glad things are better for your Dad.
Love the idea of hugging yourself - actually something I have been encouraged to do in the past, so thank you for the reminder of that. Finding self comforting strategies may be one of the keys to this for me. I suspect another is for me to be better at recognising my own emotions - I'm very bad at that.