Emotional self-regulation

Some studies consider that adults with self-regulation difficulties since childhood present a high risk of social maladjustment. The process of acquiring the self-regulation emotional It begins in the first months of life and lasts until adulthood.

To achieve emotional maturity each child follows his own course: what some get quickly, others achieve it with more effort. The fundamental thing is to persevere and help them.

The ability to handle emotions and feelings

The emotional self-regulation it is the capacity to experience emotions (positive or negative) in a moderate and flexible way, as well as the ability to handle them. Owning it implies that the person is aware of their own emotions, expresses them adequately and knows how to control them when they are no longer necessary. It is one of the most important components of emotional intelligence.


This quality is acquired through internal and external factors, which will determine the impact of our emotional reactions on ourselves. Temperament is one of the main internal factors and refers, on the one hand, to our sensitivity to experience emotions and, on the other, to the intensity with which we react to them.

Emotional self-regulation is mainly characterized by neurophysiological elements and has an important hereditary component. Temperament is a determining factor when regulating emotions during the first months of life in children. Thus, there will be babies with greater sensitivity and intensity to emotions -such as discomfort- that will be more difficult to calm, while other babies, under the same circumstances, will react more moderately and will calm down more easily.


External factors of emotional self-regulation

1. LearningThe most important has to do with educational aspects and refers to the role of parents as guides to facilitate the acquisition of self-regulation in children.

As the child grows, he tries to harmonize both groups of factors through learning, experience, the environment that surrounds him, and the models of self-regulation that he observes in his attachment figures. The emotional maturity will be the result of this exciting task, beginning in the first months of life and lasting until adulthood.

2. Tolerance to frustration. Emotional self-regulation is receiving increasing attention from clinical psychology due to the high demand for children and adolescents (including adults) with problems in this area. These are patients who can not tolerate a no response, act through tantrums difficult to contain, use aggression as the only resource to manage anger and frustration and have serious problems in daily coexistence. One of the most disabling consequences, the result of this lack, is the difficulty they have to set goals that imply tolerating some discomfort along the way. "Over-react" to the frustration in such a way that they end up overflowing, refusing to make future beneficial decisions because it generates emotional costs.


3. Social adaptation. Some studies consider that adults with self-regulation difficulties since childhood present a high risk of social maladjustment. This is manifested through greater couple conflicts, incompetence in the education of children in emotional aspects or problems in the workplace and social relations. On the contrary, emotional maturity is a protective factor against mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

4. The character. Positive psychology has also been greatly interested in this quality. So much so that it has been included as one of the twenty-four character strengths of the human being. Along with three other strengths (ability to forgive, humility and prudence) are part of the virtue of moderation.

Evolutionary aspects in childhood

The process of acquisition of emotional self-regulation begins in the first months of life and lasts until adulthood. The emergence of different strategies for the self-control of the child is parallel to its evolutionary development.

1. During the first months of life, Babies base their self-regulation with passive strategies and still very little elaborated. Of all of them, the most important is based on the search for its source of security (its figure of attachment). When the baby suffers from discomfort, in addition to needing to cover his basic needs, he asks for the warmth and safety of his parents until he becomes calm.

Contrary to what some currents say, it is discouraging to take a baby too much in his arms, because if ... it is "badly accustomed", the reality is that a baby needs to develop an external regulation first - the one provided by the parents grabbing him, caressing him, etc. - to subsequently initiate an internal regulation.Without the first, the subsequent acquisition of autonomous strategies of self-regulation would not be possible. Already classic studies demonstrate a clear relationship between the prolonged absence of an affective bond of the baby with an attachment figure and a type of depression called anaclitic depression, which, in its most severe form, can lead to marasmus and death of the baby.

2. A second evolutionary change occurs after the child acquires greater psychomotor skills (pick up objects, crawl, direct the gaze, etc.). From then on, new more complex and complex emotional regulation strategies emerge, such as approaching the object that causes the emotional alteration, rejecting it (for example with the hands), fleeing from this source (with the crawling), refocusing the attention in another place or the use of distraction with the help of other objects (in addition to maintaining the parents' search for protection).

The fact that a child uses a certain type of strategy in these ages is influenced by the temperament and by the quality of the interaction he has with his caregivers. At this stage, the child can begin to regulate autonomously in a more effective way, even if it is still immature. It is not necessary to always go to the arms of the parents, because sometimes he is able to calm down with his own resources. It is important, however, to pay attention to the individuality of each child. Some will be more reactive and intense and will still need more external support (parents), than those that take longer to alter and do so with less intensity.

Video: Developing Emotion Self-Regulation


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