Get a Hold of Yourself!

Or “Get a Hold of Yourself!”


EMOTIONAL SELF-REGULATION (= ESR) is about managing feelings as they come up in reaction to events or thoughts. ESR is a process that includes four aspects of our being: thoughts, feelings, and consequently behaviors and physical processes (e.g. heart rate, hormones).

SELF-SOOTHING mechanisms are in place to return to a comfortable relaxed state – a positive thought or attitude can re-establish a friendly internal feeling state after a disruptive event (be it experienced or imagined).


“I had a knot in my chest that only alcohol dissolved”
– quote, AA speaker

EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION refers to insufficient self-regulation. It is problematic on a number of levels. Living on constant overdrive, driven by unpredictable mood swings, at the mercy of people and events, people tend to behave in a dysfunctional manner. Such irrational and erratic behaviors are tiring and irritating for everybody involved. A list of diagnoses categorizes MOOD DISORDERS or PERSONALITY DISORDERS, as well as other disorders. Underlying DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, and MOOD SWINGS can make it tricky and often undesirable to live a “normal” life. Some people SELF-MEDICATE such an unpleasant internal climate with ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCES or PROCESS ADDICTIONS (i.e. addictive attachment to people, food, or activities). That doesn’t usually work out well.

Some of us can go through an emotional surge without any external event happening, triggered by a thought or remembered experience. It can even be the memory of a distorted perception. Consequently one can get stuck on anxiety, anger, or depression as “default mode” for no current reason at all. For people who lack the ability to express their truth in a functional manner, where they remain habitually overwhelmed with emotional pain, AFFECT can be blunted (or flat), and it appears like they are indifferent, while a variety of physiological changes are activated (i.e. rise in blood pressure, migraine due to increased tension).

The human community requires inhibitory functions - there are times when it’s not considered appropriate to act out on impulse. A mature adult is expected to respect boundaries, postpone gratification, refrain from expressing needs and desires impulsively, and withhold (angry) outbursts. If one’s system is over-active, this can become a trigger for compulsive behaviors in an unconscious attempt to RELIEVE TENSION.

ETIOLOGY (= what causes it):

“You are not going to get out of the human condition, whether you’re loaded or not” – quote, AA speaker

GENETIC PREDISPOSITION probably plays an important part, and some of us are born with a hypersensitivity to life (and substances). Childhood experiences are crucial, and the process of SOCIALIZATION teaches human conduct within our culture. Everything we hear, experience, and think is recorded in our mental I-pod, making up our stream of consciousness. We integrate it and we grow up… somehow. Meanwhile we are supposed to put together a functional personality in order to establish a good place in human society. Good parenting provides such modeling and guidance for learning useful behaviors and dealing with our inner reality.

If children are neglected or abused, they develop a VICTIM identity, where they give up hope. Such children never learn how to self-soothe and self-distract efficiently. Instead they assume a negative mental set and residual tension. This type of person deals with a chronic undercurrent of discomfort and expresses these excessive frustrations in a variety of SYMPTOMS. Feeling overwhelmed, she can’t reliably SELF-REGULATE feelings. Such strong emotions may distract her from attention to her mental process and so she can’t stay focused and think clearly, (i.e. ADD). She may act out with COMPULSIVE DISCLOSURE, where she forgets to use “restraint of tongue, pen, and email”, or find it impossible to protect career and marriage from irresistible acts of sex or anger - while onlookers wonder, “What is wrong with her?” The truth is, she struggles with intense and chronic discomfort and therefore her impulse control mechanism is not sufficient - she can’t deliberate properly before acting. Events, which “normal” people take in stride, throw her for a loop. What does not seem like a big deal to some, may appear like an insurmountable obstacle to her. She sees life as a difficult and exhausting hurdle race and continues to manifest chaos and misery.


“You need your mind to solve your problems” – quote, AA speaker

A series of techniques or MENTAL HYGIENE TOOLS are offered to downward regulate emotional distress, if practiced on a daily basis, such as MEDITATION, VISUALIZATION, BREATHING EXERCISES, AFFIRMATIONS, PRAYER, as well as REGULAR EXERCISE, MUSIC, DANCE, and other artistic expressions. These methods have been shown to alter brain chemistry, decreasing tension and agitation, while increasing a sense of wellbeing.

TWELVE-STEP WORK can be used to change one’s approach to life, where distorted perceptions can be adjusted through a psychic change toward awareness and kindness, and a general attitude of gratitude and acceptance. Through taking responsibility personal power can be reclaimed. The paradoxical method of SURRENDER to a SPIRITUAL SOLUTION disables hopelessness. Focus on the solution replaces dwelling on shame and blame – you listen, share, read, write, learn, and gradually your mental climate becomes more friendly. BEING OF SERVICE is considered the number 1 tool to “get out of self” – where making yourself useful interrupts self-obsession. Inadvertently the burden of self is lifted.

In PSYCHOTHERAPY you can process life experiences, unburden old emotional baggage, and heal from TRAUMA. As you unravel your knots you can weave your spirit into life in such a way that you express your personality rather than (compulsively) revealing your problems.

It’s hard to deal with emotional dysregulation and this is why many addicts don’t stay sober, but our mental I-pod can be reprogrammed through daily techniques that gradually replace aggravating mental content with something better. Recovery can be like a rebirth – it guides you to “reboot” your mental computer – and you stop acting out and creating more problems. As you attend to your inner truth on a daily basis your EMOTIONAL CLIMATE gradually mellows to a pleasant temperature.

MINDFULNESS allows the path (out of confusion and suffering) to appear. Once you can do this prayer you know you’re on your way:

Please also see my book:
for explanations and details on the solution,
as well as blogpost "Thoughts on 51st Sutra"

AFFECT refers to the current feeling state and how it is expressed.
Example, I was feeling O.K. until I spoke to my mom. She annoyed me. Now I’m upset. I suffer from depression, but when something triggers me, I jump to aggression (“fight-or-flight response”); sometimes I do that without any (external) reason at all.
ATTITUDE is a habitual mental set, established through previous experience, thought, perception, and mood. Attitude in turn influences affect and behavior.
Example: “This is (not) going to be useful.”
BRAIN: during times of high emotional charge the part of the brain where consciousness, reasoning, abstract thought and language is located, is underactive. In other words, when you’re very angry or anxious, you can’t think clearly and you have trouble expressing yourself verbally.
MOOD refers to the emotional climate.
Example: I feel depressed most of the time (depression is a mood disorder).
PERCEPTION refers to our interpretation and understanding of a situation.
Example: I think people like me - I go to a party – I like the people I meet here.
Or - I think people don’t like me – I go to a party – I feel like people are not welcoming to me, I feel uncomfortable – next time I may not even want to go at all.
PHYSIOLOGY: internal processes reflect the emotional climate, as well as the current feeling state, especially sudden high-intensity events. Chronic flooding with adrenaline can cause psychosomatic disorders to manifest, such as ulcers, heart attack, or stroke. The body is just not equipped to handle such chronic stress on a continuous basis.
THOUGHT is a bite of the ongoing mental process, influenced by memory and learning.
THOUGHT PATTERNS are habitual thinking themes. If they are negative they can create a feedback loop of misery.
Example: “Life is good/bad.” – “I love/hate people.” – “Things will (not) work out for me.” You can easily see how such thoughts influence the way you feel.