Emotional control

What is emotional control?

Emotional control is the ability to identify and regulate your emotions and respond in a socially tolerable and flexible way and also have a certain level of control over spontaneous reactions. Emotional control encompasses both positive and negative emotions, however, it usually refers to attempts by an individual to manage the generation, expression or experience of particularly disruptive emotions and impulses that can have negative consequences. This is thought to be done through the use of cognitive or behavioural strategies.


We are all exposed to stimuli that can bring about various emotions throughout the day. If we react inappropriately or extremely to these stimuli it can have negative consequences on our ability to fit well in a social environment. Therefore, we all need to exercise some level of emotional control almost all the time. Being able to manage our emotions can:

  • help you to deal with problematic events and difficult situations and come to reasonable solutions
  • allow you to better identify your emotions and learn how to deal with them
  • allow you to control your feelings and emotions instead of letting them take control of you
  • react appropriately and safely to dangerous situations
  • strengthen your self-esteem
  • can give you a sense of autonomy and security
  • encourage and strengthen your interpersonal relationships
  • boost your performance in certain areas of your life, such as work and school


What does emotional control consist of?

When a person is exposed to a stimulus or an emotional trigger, a certain emotion is generated. The psychological regulatory process often involves three components:

  • Initiating actions
  • Inhibiting actions
  • Modulating responses


Emotional control can be seen as a modifier. It helps us filter the most important information and allows us to attend or interact with it in a way that doesn’t provoke negative emotions, like stress. Researchers believe that the way we feel and interpret our emotions affects the way we think, our decision-making skills and how we generally co-ordinate our day-to-day lives. A well-regulated individual is likely to have better balance, judgement and control over their emotions and therefore their actions. They will be able to more accurately judge which situations to embrace and which to avoid.


What happens if someone doesn’t regulate their emotions well?

If a person has difficulties regulating their emotions, it means they find it hard to control the influence of emotional arousal and their quality of thoughts, actions and interactions. Usually, those who are emotionally dysregulated show behavioural responses that don't match the demands of their social environment.


Is emotional control linked to other disorders?

Many studies suggest there is a significant link between emotional control and certain mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. People with higher levels of anxiety, tend to exhibit lower levels of emotional control and social intelligence and vice versa.


How can we practice better emotional control?

Taking time to reflect on situations, in-between feeling and reacting, is one way to begin improving your emotional control. There are many ways to be more aware of your emotions and reactions and some of these include:

  • Becoming more self-aware
  • Practising mindful approaches and exercises
  • Altering the way we think and being more flexible
  • Being more adaptable to change by employing effective coping mechanisms
  • Being more positive and compassionate towards yourself
  • Getting the right emotional support around you


To get more information and advice about emotion control, you can read through Top Doctors’ medical articles which are written by some of the leading psychologists in the UK.

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