Emotion Regulation: Graphic & Lesson

Skill-Emotion Regulation-Knob
Skill-Emotion Regulation-Knob

I made this graphic today after talking with someone I love dearly.

The LIE: “People and situations ‘make’ you feel __________.” Subtext: “You are weak, powerless, a victim and are at the the mercy of others, fate and luck.”

The TRUTH: “I make me.” Subtext: “I am strong, powerful, an agent and while the winds of life may blow this way or that, I steer my course.” How does this relate to you? Please share...

Note on the nifty neato chemicals in our brain:

  • Adrenaline: We all know about this one. This is the "fight or flight" reaction. It keys us up, fills us with tension/coils us like a spring so we can react quickly at a moments notice. This is great when physical survival is needed. It's crappy when we're relating...
  • Cortisol: This is the stress hormone, which gives quick burst of energy for survival reasons, gives a burst of increased immunity, and decreases sensitivity to pain. Again, this is great for physical survival and crappy in relationships.
  • Endorphins: This is a naturally occurring narcotic similar in chemical composition to morphine and heroin, except that it's legal, doesn't stone us off our #$%S, and has zero negative side-effects. It's primary job is to ease pain and make us feel better.
  • Oxytocin: This is the "love drug" that helps us connect with others and makes us feel great when we do.


I first posted this on Facebook and a mom said,

I would love ideas on how to teach children this concept! Mama is tired of the 'she made me do it' mindset. Or the "I hit her because she was being a brat" syndrome..."

Anyone else? Can she get a witness?! ;-)

My reply:

Emotion regulation doesn't need to be a "high level" concept. It's as simple and basic as understanding how to operate any other mechanical device—which, kids by the way, excel at. So teach them how to operate their own bio-machinery they live in each and every day. Of course, it helps the teaching if we as the adults actually model it for them...

The good news is the above graphic/concept is so simple kids can totally get it. Why?

  1. They love learning about their bodies and brains,
  2. This gives THEM control over how they feel instead of their jerk brother/sister controlling how they feel,
  3. And here's the real selling point: The kid(s) who "get" this will be the ones who when a squabble comes up get the praise for their self-control while their sibling gets their butt in trouble... ah, sweet revenge! ;-)

How to teach this to children:

  1. Print that graphic for your reference and then
  2. Gather the kiddos around for a "Brain Lesson."
  3. Draw out the chart bit by bit starting with a big knob in the center.
  4. Ask them what "regulation" means--examples could be regulating the speed of a car with the gas and brake pedals, or regulating the temperature of the stove with the temperature knob, or increasing or decreasing the volume of their iPods.
  5. Start from the top with "Decision Point" and do the right side first of Assumption & Impatience and go down item by item... Discuss and listen to their ideas.
  6. Do the other side of Understanding and Patience. Discuss and listen.

I've found that kids, teens and adults get this and like it because it's never been explained WHY we should be patient, understanding and compassionate, just that we SHOULD. This explains the MECHANICS of WHY and more importantly of HOW they can control themselves in a way that WORKS FOR THEM vs. just because they should. It would be nice if everyone did the right thing just because it was right, but let's be honest--most people run off of WIIFM? (What's in it for me?).

Hope that helps! :-) I'd love to hear YOUR ideas below... Thanks! Also, read more comments on it on on Facebook here.