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Moving beyond Emotional Regulation - what does it take?

Updated: Jun 22


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So far in parts one and two of this series on emotional development, we started by covering the differences between emotional management (self-regulation) and emotional development. And we continued by reviewing the benefits of emotional self-regulation, as well as some signs that can indicate that it may be time to take the extra step to refine and differentiate your emotional response. So now that we're all mulling those concepts over in our heads, what does that 'extra step' really look like? What would it entail if we did decide to move beyond regulating, or managing our emotions, and actually worked on developing our emotional state as well? Let's dive in.


So what does it take?


There are many strategies, styles, languages and techniques out there, that describe and can take you through a foundational, emotional development process. And there are different parts of the process that clinicians with different backgrounds, will address with different tools. From cognitive and dialectical-behavior-therapy to somatic processing... from 12-step programs and shamanism to energy-healing and tapping... from EMDR, hypnosis and 'coherence' work to the simple reconditioning, strengthening and whole-brain development that the Human Infusion Project teaches…. there are many names, tools and techniques that different practitioners use to guide you in getting what most of us are looking for:


...long-term relief from internal conflict (inner peace), and a mental-emotional state that serves as a consistent, enjoyable and reliable foundation for whatever we want our life to look like.

Many types of helping-field practitioners

Yet at the moment, we may have to combine the skills of several practitioners in order to cover everything that's needed to get that. (And of course, do most of the work on our own, in between those sessions) People tend to specialize in the one tool, strategy or management technique that gave them relief. Gratefully, that’s rapidly evolving as more and more clinicians are rounding out their practices. More traditional therapists are expanding their skills to areas such as attachment neurobiology, coaching, somatic healing and hypnosis. And more and more life-coaches and mental wellness practitioners are taking the time to expand their knowledge in areas like brain and body science, trauma recovery, human psychology and even spiritual ideology. In the meantime, you may have to simply try out an approach and see what it does for you. Then use what works and keep learning from someone else as needed. That's pretty much what I did.


But over the course of all my education, therapy and personal trial-and-error, I've found that any long-term, systemic-level process that aims to develop the emotional response system itself includes... (in addition to teaching the use of temporary emotional self-management practices) skills, tools and practices that:


  • Identify, interrupt, challenge and diversify some of our unconscious thinking patterns


  • Refine and differentiate the body’s stress response so it aligns with and supports your current environment.


  • And strengthen the brain as a whole.


Woman gaining strength
Emotional development is just like any other strengthening workout

The benefits of emotional development


Working in these three areas has both personal and relational benefits because it not only manages the emotional activation state that you currently have, but it also develops it more fully. But how? Although different practitioners may use different tools to get you there, I've found that any process that takes you through the three areas I listed above, will include...


  • guiding you through self-inquiry to discover the roots of what really matters to you and to identify any old, habitual thinking-patterns that may need updating to support the life you have or want now.


  • helping your brain organize, consolidate and integrate memories that may have been left fragmented by trauma, or by any key event that you may not have had help to understand at the time it happened.


  • building and strengthening new neural pathways with new associations that your emotional activation centers can learn to reference.


  • learning how to use 'triggers' in your favor - ie. how to use over-activating emotions to galvanize new pathways instead of old ones.


  • learning techniques that raise your emotional activation threshold so it doesn't fire as quickly, or as intensely, for situations that are not life-threatening.


  • increasing your interoceptive (body-sensing) abilities so you can recognize the nuances of different levels and combinations of emotional activation.


  • strengthening sensory-creative brain pathways that will support relationships, while continuing to optimize your intellect. And of course....


  • learning the emotional vocabulary and relational skills that many of us never learned growing up: how to express and respond to needs, how to repair relational upheaval, how to (re)build trust, how to set and uphold boundaries, how to develop a healthy interpersonal connection that goes beyond what shared interests or our intellect provides, and how to integrate your individuality into a relationship, but without losing what defines you as an individual.


As you work through all of that, our default emotional state becomes more centered, the need for emotional regulation or 'management' slowly decreases, our relational competence increases and that 'mystical' work-life balance we're all seeking... becomes a lot easier to obtain.


positive mindset
Positive Mindset is quickly being replaced by Flexible Thinking and Mental Contrasting

What sometimes gets left out


Emotional development is a comprehensive approach that has several parts and pieces. And you may be already doing some of them. Yet some of the pieces do get left out. Many well-intending practitioners will focus on addressing the unconscious thinking patterns, without diversifying the strength and use of the brain. Or they leave out showing you what needs to be done to make it physiologically stick. Many mindset coaches have been taught that everything else sort of 'falls into place' if you start with your thoughts. I say both 'yes' and 'no' to this concept.


Yes, thought-pattern change can begin in a moment. And although modalities like hypnosis are still gaining support through consistent, larger-sample research, my sense is that its role in new-thought introduction is still only one step in a process and not a stand-alone solution. It's simply the way our brains work. In order for our brain to let go of long-standing, deeply-rooted beliefs and adapt and adopt our new foundational thought-patterns as it’s default way of operatingand for those thought-patterns to then have consistent influence on our emotional physiology... takes a lot of time and repetition. Maybe that will change one day. And of course, there are always exceptions. But at the moment, that's what it takes for the majority of us to see long-lasting change. And from my personal experience, lasting change happens a lot faster when you don’t deny the comprehensive reality of what it means to be human along the way. Meaning..


..instead bypassing the hard stuff by relying on Positive Mindset alone, we also acknowledge that not everything in life is 'rainbows and roses'. And when you actually develop an emotional state that's more centered at its baseline, you'll come to realize that it doesn't always have to be.

So why don’t more practitioners tell you all this stuff?


Well I can't say for sure. So here's a few of my guesses:


1) The pace of our learning is so rapid now, maybe it's hard to keep up with it everything. Ever since advances in technology allowed us to look into our brain, our growth in understanding has really surged in the last few decades. I'm still catching up myself.


2) As I mentioned earlier, even skilled practitioners can get relief for a long time, from using management or regulation strategies. So that's what they understandably teach to others.


3) Plus, it's only been recently that this knowledge has been shared in 'regular-person' language. It sometimes takes a while for overly-academic language to become 'water-cooler' conversation. That's part of why I do what I do.


But another reason why we're not told a lot of these details... is because in a fast-paced world focused on fast-results and efficiency, many people are convinced that they don’t have the time. So, they look for quick fixes or temporary relief... instead of lasting and transferable change and development. The 'Personal Growth' industry makes billions of dollars from selling quick-fix management strategies. But if you really think about it, we humans also waste a lot of time in worry, recovering from exhaustion or redoing tasks because we're distracted, stressed out or can't focus. Not to mention the time we spend on illness, zoning out on TV, or recovering from burnout or relational breakups. Sorry to be blunt. But we have the time. It's a matter of how we use it.


stress, illness and relational struggle

Moving forward


So recognizing that, is part of why I’m not shy about sharing honestly what it takes to develop a stable, sustainable, transferable emotional state. I also believe that most people are smarter than they give themselves credit for. And if you're reading this post, you're obviously someone who takes their well-being and relationships seriously. And as I see it, people with that combination are quite capable of doing hard things and succeeding at challenges. So I’m not going to stop short by only sharing a 'quick fix'. Because I know people are capable of doing more – And when someone is ready and willing, that capability is what will get the sustainable, integrative and transferrable results that so many of us are really looking for. In other words, I don’t need to use 'kid-gloves' or package the realities of growth-work in a lot of fluff. I’m simply writing to an audience of smart, capable adults who care about their well-being and relationships.. and giving it to you as simply, but as straight-forwardly as I can.


friends

Wrapping it up


So I hope this post series has you at least considering the options we all have for working with experiences like anxiety, emotional 'unrest' or outcome-inconsistency of any kind. And for those of you whose spiritual development is as equal in importance as their emotional development, I'm with you and agree. We are energetic, beautiful beings at our core. Yet, we can't forget that we're also encased in this flesh and blood body. And I’ve found that by starting with what’s already familiar to me and by getting that neurophysiological piece 'dialed in' and working closer to its design, that my ability to access that other part of my life experience has only increased.


Whether you choose to manage or also develop your life experience really is a personal choice. And sometimes, we have to run something to the ground, or it has to just stop working, or stop working consistently and really interfere with getting what we do want....before we seriously consider doing additional work, or more specific work and doing that work consistently. I get it.


However if you're at that point, or getting close to it, start looking for support in the areas above by looking into therapists, coaches or practitioners who resonate with you, that you personally connect with, and who are living and experiencing the results that you want for yourself. There's no wrong place to begin. Just begin.


And if that includes my own style, approach and experience, please stay connected to our community. I am in the process of finishing up our last class of this series - an easy-to-implement 'guide' of sorts - that will include all the research-supported strategies that I’ve used to develop my own emotional response, to overcome high-functioning anxiety, to widen my range of enjoyable emotion, and to enrich my relationships across many sectors. And I was able to do it it all without sacrificing what I love to do for work, or how I serve others.


It is possible to experience peaceful success both at work and in our personal life. You only have to decide when you're ready to begin.


 

If you're interested in what we do here, an easy place to begin or catchup is by....

1) Checking out the Whole-Brain Relationships class


2) Taking the free Emotional Needs class and then...


3) Rounding out your 'prep' work with the What's Stopping You? beliefs class.

4) and then pick up a new skill and reconnect to what you value in our Meditation for Beginners class and our Core Values class - both of which are free!


These five classes not only show you a few new self-management strategies to add to your collection, but they're designed to set you up with the foundational knowledge and the preliminary ‘self-discovery’ answers that you’ll use in the longer-term, development process that the next class (and book) will describe. So use them to complement any therapeutic work that you're already doing, or use them to get ready and set yourself up for success in our program!


I look forward to seeing you in class.

Jen


Jen Stover - The Human Infusion Project

 

The Human Infusion Project is a grassroots, not-for-profit personal development platform that draws from the combined fields of modern brain science, applied psychology and spiritual philosophy. Our mission aims to augment and supplement the work of professional practitioners in simplified, practical ways, and to give clients an affordable home program they can use in between sessions. 100% of all online class profit funds the Wellness Assistance Grant. If financial constraints limit your participation, please contact me and we'll work something out.

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