For this blog I’m talking to Stephanie Cooke here and I’m just going to ask her a few questions. So the title of this blog is How Do We Actually Self-Regulate our emotions as adults if we’ve actually not had that modelling from our early caretaker figures. So how do we actually soothe ourselves in times of emotional stress? So, that’s the first question I’ll ask Stephanie and she’s going to give us a few tips here on how we can as adults self-regulate our emotions if we haven’t had those messages from our processes, models as a child. Ok, over to you Stephanie.
S: There’s a few things you can do to help support you while you are working therapeutically on learning how to self-regulate. One of the things you can do is you can take a transitional object from your therapist which is something maybe out of the room that you work with in the therapy and you can remind yourself when you take it out of the therapy room, every time you can stressed, you can remind yourself of some of the things that you may have discussed with your therapist like for example, it’s ok to have your feelings, it’s ok for you to be distressed and get support while you are distressed. The transitional object is a reminder really of the work you’re doing. A bit like when a child carries around a favourite teddy bear or a blanket or a dummy, it’s just to remind you that there is a significant other around that can really take care of you.
So, it seems to me Steph that there’s good tips. So can you just give us a few words for this blog on what’s the deficit then? What didn’t happen for this person as a child in terms of modelling, of how to emotionally regulate?
S: Ok, well let’s talk about what happens normally between a mother and child. When a child gets distressed, what the mother does is help that child to cope with that stress by validating it and validating their feelings. So the mother will respond immediately to the baby or the young child, hold them, contain them, talk to them, stroke them, nurture them and help them to feel better, and while that’s happening that child will be releasing first of all stress hormones and as they are being soothed and contained, those stress hormones will turn into a different chemical which will then help relax them and help make them feel better. So the most important thing for that child is for the mother to validate how they feel and to respond and it’s the response that’s really important. Now, if that doesn’t happen and the mother doesn’t respond, what will happen is the child will continue to produce a stress hormone and get more and more anxious to the point where they’ll become despairing and extremely distressed, and in some cases what happens is that stress hormone will then become destructive to some of the neurones and pathways in the brain so what happens in that process is that they then become destructive so the child will actually not learn how to self-regulate themselves.
Right Stephanie, that’s a really good description of the deficits when we’re talking about emotional regulation. Of course the good part of this while I listen to you and that’s really good tips by the way, is the modern research now is showing that we have plastic brains. In other words there’s a level of plasticity in our brains and we can mould them and change them, so none of this can’t be repaired. So thank you, I really like the tips for the blog and thank you again.