Definition: Emotional dysregulation occurs when your nervous system maxes out its capacity to move through an emotional issue.
In contrast to a “dysregulated” nervous system, a healthy “regulated” nervous system can manage the arousal pattern associated with a trigger. You may feel a slight charge associated with an issue, but you settle down pretty soon afterwards.
We all have our “stuff”
It is impossible to get through life without bumping up against our insecurities, our issues…our “stuff”. We are all the same in this respect.
You don’t have to be crazy, maladjusted, weird or uncool to go to counseling.
You go because you want to get more fun out of life, understand yourself better, feel more in tune with yourself and others, be more spiritual, or feel more connected to your community.
Keep in mind that our “stuff” may be a little off-putting or strange to others. We might even find it a bit too much to bear at times ourselves. (I certainly know I have.) Ironically, once we accept our “stuff” (which doesn’t mean we have to like it) tomorrow may appear lighter and more hopeful.
Many people can benefit from therapy, not because they are “abnormal”, but because no one grows up without some developmental gaps.
No one has ever had, nor ever will have, perfect parents.
A good chunk of our “stuff” comes from what happened or didn’t happen, between us and our parents especially in the early, formative years.
Mom or dad could not always be there for us, even when they wanted to. Remember: they had “imperfect” parents too. This emotional debt gets carried forward. That’s how they got their “stuff”!
These experiences created gaps in our development that showed up later as ‘character flaws’. They cause problems in our relationships and rigidity in our response to life.
This “rigidity” is referred to as emotional dysregulation. Basically, your nervous system gets maxed around an emotional issue.
Not your fault!
We’re responsible for our “stuff” but we didn’t create it.
People often take their “stuff” to be part of who they are – as if the unwanted behavior, feeling, or thought is fixed in their personality. Only when the offensive aspect disappears do we realize that it was “just part of my stuff” all along.
Most of us try to deny or hide our “stuff”. Ordinarily we just want to stay connected with others, and figure that our “stuff” will only get in the way. “We’re more human than otherwise,” as Harry Stack Sullivan was known to say.
I like the no nonsense, practical approach Leah McLaren, a journalist with the national Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail (Feb. 26, 2005), takes in describing our responsibility:
“Screwed-up-ness, after all, is not something to be afraid of, but rather to be grudgingly accepted and dealt with, like a mess of dishes after a pleasant meal. It happens.
The important thing is to not let it sit there and rot.“
Each of us faces this challenge: how do I resolve the emotional (and perhaps spiritual) conflicts underlying my “stuff”?
Neuroscience is blurring the line between “normal” and “abnormal”.
Have you ever met a “normal” person? Has anyone ever found that person?
As we wait for the search parties to return 😉 . . . let’s consider the following facts:
Your nervous system is constantly adapting to the environment. Patterns of response that had functional significance early on (i.e. developmentally) or in reaction to an overwhelming occurrence (i.e. during a traumatic event) get imprinted into the nervous system.
These automatic or procedural patterns are resistant to conscious or intentional modification. In other words, we can’t change them by wishing them away or thinking differently. The nervous system works this way because it is an energy efficient organism and because it evolved when survival depended on instant, predetermined reactions.
Without providing the nervous system with an opportunity to reset itself (so it becomes “regulated”) these once optimal adaptations become less so in later years or in different circumstances. What was once functional no longer fits and may appear somewhat “abnormal” in a new context.
The good news is that you don’t have to live with emotional dysregulation. You can work directly with the nervous system.
I know – you probably thought it was hard-wired. Not so.
Emotional dysregulation is basically a nervous system that’s not working properly. With the right help you can change that. You can help your nervous system to become “regulated”.
That means feeling freer and happier – indeed, you feel alive!