In Times of Emotional Dysregulation
In 1964, a famous rhythm and blues
quartet named Little Anthony and the Imperials recorded a
song which came to be one of their greatest hits, entitled Goin’
Out Of My Head. It was a love song written about a shy young
man trying to get the attention of a girl, who doesn’t even know he
exists. I am quite certain the song’s composers (Teddy Randazzo and
Bobby Weinstein) did not realize their song title would appear on a
psychologist’s web page forty-five years later as the suggested key
instruction for people to remember when their emotions are running
When your emotions are
dysregulated – meaning very strong and
temporarily not under
your control, remember that you are too much into your head,
your mind, your thoughts. Remember that song title and you’ll
always remember that goin’out of your head is the necessary
response to learning how to soothe yourself and get through a tough
period of emotional dysregulation. Detach from your doing mind (the part of you that is trying to find logical solutions to your
current conflict) and enter your being mind - (the part of you
that just focuses on this
moment and how you can be in just this moment without having
to do anything else. When you return to a more regulated emotional
state, you can always return to thinking about solutions.
For now, give yourself a break from doing anything and just
try to be. Some suggestions…
REMEMBER that our thoughts are just
thoughts. They are what our minds create naturally. THOUGHTS ARE
NOT ALWAYS ACCURATE PICTURES OF REALITY. ESPECIALLY IN TIMES OF
CRISIS, OUR THOUGHTS BECOME DISTORTED AND OUR SENSE OF REALITY
BECOMES UNRELIABLE. MAKE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT NOT TO RESPOND TO YOUR
SO… what should you do if thoughts
keep popping into your mind that you do not want to dwell on?
1. DON’T TRY TO STOP THE THOUGHTS
FROM COMING. Sometimes when we try to make them stop, they just get
stronger. Just say to yourself, “Oh, there are those thoughts that
come up when I am really hurting. They are thoughts that I’ve had a
hundred times before. Just because I’m having them does not mean
that I am really in any danger. They will come and go, just like a
zillion other thoughts do. Let them be.”
2. DISTRACT YOURSELF…redirect your
attention to your senses and what your senses can do to help you in
Listen to your favorite songs.
Do five minutes of slow
breathing and just focus on the sensations of your breath.
SLOWLY drink a favorite drink
and really concentrate of the taste of it.
Hold an ice cube in your hand
and feel the sensations of coldness.
Take a cold (or hot) shower.
Read a favorite story or
Find something that has a
pleasurable scent (for example, cut an orange in half or
find a fresh flower, a bar of soap, a cup of coffee or tea),
hold it under your nose and SLOWLY inhale the fragrance.
Take a walk outside.
Surf some web sites on your
computer…try some of the ones on my Dedication page or check
out some U-Tube favorites!
Watch a favorite movie, look
at the clouds in the sky, watch a sunset, draw or paint
something. Find a visually pleasant scene in your mind and
just dwell in that scene.
3. REACH OUT AND CALL SOMEONE YOU
TRUST. Who that is will be up to you (best friend, parent,
grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor, therapist). The hotlines
on my Useful Links page are always there too, and they will NOT ask
your name. Share your emotions with them and ask them to just
listen. The intensity of your feelings-- no matter how strong --
will slowly lessen in time… ALWAYS!!!! That may be minutes,
hours, or longer, depending on what pain is hurting you. Finding
someone to be with you until your feelings do change can be just the
thing to help you when all else has failed. Most important…believe
that this too shall pass.
© 2009 by Anthony Pantaleno,