People who act as black holes of emotional energy often have difficulty with emotional regulation. In fact, they have a tendency to emotional lability. This means they experience fluctuating, intense, and rapid changes in their state of mind, due to the mismanagement of their emotions. Consequently, the chaos in the feelings they experience can reach unbearable heights.
Emotional regulation refers to a whole range of tools and processes that allow you to redirect your emotions in an adapted way, depending on your needs. Unsurprisingly, if you’re around individuals who have problems regulating their emotions, you might feel exhausted due to their emotional volatility.
“Through emotional regulation processes, people influence the emotions we have, when we have them, and how we experience and express them.”
Black holes of emotional energy
What are the most devastating emotions? What characteristics do they have? How can they be identified?
To address these questions, we first need to define affectivity. This is an umbrella term, under which emotions, feelings, desires, and motivations are grouped, as well as our states of mind (Belloch, 2022). Among the emotions that take up the most energy and cause the most chaos, are the following:
“I’m feeling anxious about the future”. “What’s going to happen if I do that?”. Anxiety is a future-oriented emotion. In effect, its nature is to anticipate potential harm (real or imagined) that may occur. Therefore, it’s an extremely adaptive emotion. However, when reproduced at unbelievable speeds, it ends up sapping your ability to cope and weakens and consumes you.
“We will only speak of pathological anxiety when this reaction is disproportionate in intensity and duration in relation to the magnitude of the danger or threat.”
Irritability, anger, and hostility
“I feel irritable”. “My body’s really tense and stiff”. “I react badly to the slightest comment”. Do you identify with any of these statements? These kinds of emotions of irritability, anger, and hostility are consistently associated with the perception of being upset.
However, they’re normal emotions. Everyone experiences them and no doubt you’ve felt them on more than one occasion. That said, they cause discomfort when they occur more frequently than they should. Or, when they’re disproportionate to the stimulus that causes them, and you become unable to control and stop them.
“Irascibility manifests itself in feelings of tension and irritability, associated with easy provocation of disgust or anger.”
Joy and euphoria
Paradoxically, these two emotions can also constitute veritable black holes of emotional energy. This occurs when they’re excessive. In psychiatric terminology, it’s known as elation or mood expansion. Moreover, it’s a symptom that occurs in bipolar disorder.
Although the affected individual may project an image to others of vitality, joy, warmth, and enthusiasm, they react with anger, irritability, and annoyance when they feel upset. In effect, from a position of extremely high emotional intensity, their energy suddenly becomes depleted. Consequently, they find themselves in an emotional black hole.
“The types of positive emotions that provide us with feelings of well-being can sometimes be maladaptive when they are inappropriate to the person’s circumstances.”
The keys to better emotional regulation
Berking et al’s model of adaptive coping with emotions (Belloch, 2022), proposed various emotional regulation strategies along with an instrument for evaluating them.
For these authors, emotional regulation depends on the situation in which the individual finds themselves. They proposed a total of seven skills for emotional regulation. They’re a good alternative to the chaos of feeling like you’re a black hole of emotional energy.
The seven skills
- Be aware of your emotions. Be conscious of the fact that you’re feeling ‘something’ and want to figure out what it is. This is a good starting point.
- Identify your emotions. Name them. The goal is to be able to distinguish between similar emotions, but with different nuances. Try using Plutchik’s wheel of emotions. Ideally, you should be able to label them. For example, recognizing that what you’re experiencing right now is called frustration.
- Identify where the emotion comes from. What’s reinforcing it? Information about the stimuli that make you feel a certain way is key. It allows you to access the meaning of the experience, even if it’s of negative emotional valence.
- Change it. If this is impossible, accept it. You can try to modify its intensity or its duration through different strategies, such as distraction or relaxation. This means your perception of your effectiveness in managing your emotions will improve.
- Accept and tolerate your negative emotions. When you lack the time or the strength to change and modulate your emotions, it’s better to accept that they’re there, making themselves known. However, you can be certain that there’ll come a time when you’ll regain the strength to face them.
- Face the situations that produce these emotions in you. In fact, unpleasant situations are often ways of achieving significant goals, both in the short, medium, and long term.
- Self-support. Provide calm and encouragement for yourself.
“Self-encouragement is a motivating force that encourages the person to take self-help action by empathically validating the emotional reaction, offering support, and reminding one that emotions have been successfully overcome in the past.”
Don’t feed the black hole
As we mentioned earlier, the inability to regulate your emotions, both positive and negative, is the energy that feeds the black holes of emotions. It’s a perfect breeding ground for chaos, both in your personal world and in your relationships with other people. First, you must understand what you feel, how you feel it, and why. Then, you can start to regulate it.
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