Emotions are part of being human. We can't avoid them entirely, but we can learn how to manage our emotions and work with them. Every strong emotion we experience is a chance to learn more about ourselves and how we show up in the world.
In our latest episode of Uncover The Human, hosts Cristina and Alex share their experiences with emotional regulation, tools and methods for working through challenging emotional reactions, as well as books and resources to continue learning from. Listen now to learn more about using emotions as an opportunity to respond to situations in a way that aligns with who we are and who we want to be.
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Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives,
Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, coworkers, or even ourselves.
Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.
Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni.
Alex Cullimore: This is Alex Cullimore. Let's dive in.
“Authenticity means freedom.”
“Authenticity means going with your gut.”
“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”
“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”
“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”
“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”
“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”
Alex Cullimore: Hello, welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. We are back solo today. Welcome back, Cristina. We're here.
Cristina Amigoni: We're here. Haven’t left. Still here. In the same chair.
Alex Cullimore: We wanted to give a brief one – same chair, same background, same feeling, different topic. We're going to talk briefly today to touch point on emotional regulation. What it is, what you can do with it, what that means, what it is to be attached to your intelligence about your emotions, without letting them run from your life or you run from them.
Cristina Amigoni: It's a big one. It’s not easy, emotional regulation, and we all kind of have emotional moments of outburst and then afterwards, we're like, “Okay, that was not what I expected.” Well, if there's self-reflection, we realize that if there isn't self-reflection, and we just keep doing it.
Alex Cullimore: That brings up a really good point. That reminds me of Tony Gamble's leadership, the SOAR method, the S-O-A-R, the whole blast point is self-awareness and reflection that you're getting to the point where you're reflecting back on things you've done, because you're not going to do it perfectly every time. But how are you going to learn from it, if you don't have that reflection moment? That's really, I think, especially important part of emotional regulation is not just understanding your emotions and dealing with them well but being able to reflect on times when you didn't, then what to do next time and what you'd like to do.
I think it's important to think about the change curve on that too. This is something that Randall brought up. This is something that lots of people talk about, as far as changing your psychology, changing what you want to do. If you think about how emotions come in, we all interpret all of our five senses go straight through the amygdala first. So, you interpret whether there's a threat, and if there's anything we perceive as a threat, or have documented as a threat previously, that takes an entirely different route than anything else that can bubble eventually up into our more logical, complex, critical thinking areas of our brain where we are more objective and able to deal with that.
How many times have we stepped off the path? And how many times will we do that even after we start to recognize we'd like to do this differently? It's worth noting the amount of self-forgiveness that takes to find your problem, identify it, then inevitably, when you hit it again, because you will, having some forgiveness and understanding. You saw that again, maybe you're closing the loop, and it's getting shorter between the time where you reacted how you didn't want to and understanding that changing your reaction.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah and having the humility. It is a process. It's practice, and you never get to the metal, you never get to the podium of saying like, “Okay, I have now graduated emotional regulations. I never have to worry about it again.”
Alex Cullimore: It'd be nice though if you could.
Cristina Amigoni: Here's my diploma. See, I am emotionally regulated.
Alex Cullimore: Oh, God. Oh, man. That sounds like GI improvements. Regulated. I have a certificate for it.
Cristina Amigoni: It's a journey, and it's a journey that ends when we end, to be more a bit of –
Alex Cullimore: We're getting deep right away. It's going to be a short but potent conversation today.
Cristina Amigoni: We're always going to have emotions, we're always going to react and lash out, and it doesn't have to be lashing out as a reaction. It could be passive aggressiveness; it could be becoming quiet. It could be any sort of way of reacting to something that's difficult in front of us and not addressing the trigger, and then not addressing how we reacted. It's something that we may not want to do. Or maybe it wasn't that useful for the people around us. Or maybe the people around us are no longer around us because they've kind of gotten sick of us reacting that way. Again, maybe it's not about them. Maybe there's something about us that's causing that distance.
Alex Cullimore: If you think you haven't had any of those moments, self-reflection may be the place to start for you. Because I can think of many times when I've done this, I accidentally stepped on toes, definitely run people outdoors. I was like, “Damn, that was not right. I want to do better next time.”
Cristina Amigoni: There's a quote from Ray Dalio that I read this morning on LinkedIn in one of his principles and it's something I'm going to butcher it because it was really long, but it said something like, if you're not believable people, see one thing in a certain way, and you still don't, you have bias. That's pretty much it. If you're constantly not regulating your emotion, not understanding, not doing the reflection of how people are reacting around you or responding around you after certain ways or how you respond and react in a certain way, without that self-reflection of understanding what's the trigger? Why am I being triggered? What can I do to change? And all of that, then, yeah, maybe it's not about everybody else all the time.
Alex Cullimore: Was it Dave Needham said, “If you’ve been an asshole in the morning, you might be that asshole. If you meet assholes all day long, you might be the asshole.” There are a couple things, I think, we should address up front about some of the misconceptions about emotional regulation. Because you talk about emotional regulation and not wanting to overreact. We also talked a lot about needing to be in touch with emotions and feeling your feelings and not trying to shut them down. You shut them down, they'll come out in a different way. Either it’ll get stuck, or you'll end up exploding later in a way you don't want to come out, like an overreaction.
I think it's easy to fall towards the binary where like, I just not have emotions. I just stopped all emotional reactions. I would say, “No, that's not really where you're going with this.” That's the 1960s to ‘90s/early 2000s method of work where you're like you have a work life, and that's different than your home life and keep emotions at the door. You're done here. Was that helpful? Or do you have a lot of bosses exploding still because they were raised in that?
Cristina Amigoni: That's spilling over in 2022, by the way. It didn't end in the year 2000 when Y2K –
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, I should clarify.
Cristina Amigoni: That would have been a nice Y2K virus. Can the Y2K virus that didn't exist, eliminate this concept that there's a work life and there's a non-work life and there can be totally separated, and we just transfer our suit, we put on our suit, and we take off our suit. And as we do that, whatever happens at home will never impact what happens at work. What happens at work will never impact what happens at home.
Alex Cullimore: Yes. I leave all these repressed bits of anger. I get my job in my suit packet, hanging out up there on my day. Definitely doesn't come out at the dinner table sometimes.
Cristina Amigoni: I feel devalued and yelled at and unappreciated at work, that's never going to spill over into my family life, or social life.
Alex Cullimore: Yes. Brené Brown was talking about that with the culture X people that the things they find in toxic cultures are the ones that are and she’s – I don't think there's been a good word coined for it. She had a couple of different stabs out of the idea being that these are the impacts on your psyche that will spill over. These are the ones that definitely will be attached to your other experiences. This is what does not isolate itself in a work situation or one singular situation. These are things like shame or something that digs in that becomes inevitably spreads to other facets of your life. They’re uncontainable, I think, was one of the phrases. It's just, that's definitely not going to be restricted. It never is.
So, I think it's important to call it upfront that when we talk about emotional regulation, and not wanting to overreact and have reactions we wish we had done differently. It's not the same thing as trying to smash all emotions, because you do have a reaction for a reason. It could be that it's a trigger that you haven't worked out, it could be that there is something that you want legitimately you shouldn't be angry about. Somebody's not being fair or holding up their end of an understanding you had with them or whatever. There are reasons to have anger, to have any strong emotions that we might associate with overreactions. It's not the same as emotional regulation isn't saying, “I'm not going to have these”, or “I really need to do my best to hold that all down”. As I think, you can pretty much look at the entire male gender as a reason that we shouldn't just hold all emotions all the time. It works out less than well.
Cristina Amigoni: If I hear one more time, somebody who's upset or crying, hurt angry, and the reaction from whoever's around them because they are uncomfortable is, “Okay, you're done.” And I'm like, “No, no, no. They're done when they're done. They're not done when you tell them they're done, because you're uncomfortable with them crying, screaming angry or whatever it's going on. That's not going to help it. It's just going to shove it, increase it, and it's now going to explode into a volcano. At the next time they drop a cracker on the floor and you're wondering why they're having a big reaction over dropping a cracker on the floor, it had nothing to do with a cracker.”
Alex Cullimore: That’s a huge part of emotional regulation too. If you feel that spiking, it likely doesn't have to do with the thing. There's a bunch of other contributing factors here. Maybe it's a train of history, maybe it's just whatever else. But if you want any proof for why that doesn't work, just tell people to stop. Go try it, tell somebody who's angry at you just calm down. See how it goes?
Cristina Amigoni: Somebody who's crying that they're done. You're done being hurt. Your pain is gone. So, you should be done crying.
Alex Cullimore: “In my estimation, I don't see how you should be upset this long. So, you're done.” That's the second part of emotional regulation too, the social factor. Are you allowing other people to have regular emotions? And are you contributing to their dysregulation by making sure you just don't want to be around it because it's just not comfortable. And it is uncomfortable. In total fairness to everybody, it's very hard. This isn't like, you've done something bad, you should feel bad. It's hard to be around people with strong emotions, you're going to have your own emotions, you're going to be at your own near breaking point, because you were tired for something else or whatever, whatever has happened. It's just, again, choosing what your reaction is going to be. I hear you this sounds very difficult. Setting a boundary like, “Hey, can we please talk about this a little bit, because I want to be able to help you and later is going to be a better time for me to be able to do that.” That's a fair answer. That's okay to say, and we forget these things, I think, in our rush to be like, “I don't have the time to deal with this right now. Can you just not be having a reaction?”
Cristina Amigoni: Can you just be done? Please be done.
Alex Cullimore: Please understand that does not fit my schedule.
Cristina Amigoni: It's not that big of a deal, because your pain is according to my scale, and I decide when it's a big deal or not, and you're done. We do it to ourselves. So, this is not just outside voices, it's internal voices. There's a huge component of our own internal voices because of the pressure from society, because we've heard it from outside many times when we were kids, and adults, to tell that to ourselves.
And Susan David actually was the one that, a couple of weeks ago, sent out one of her email newsletters was about how grieve doesn't have a timeline. There is no deadline to grieve. There isn't like, “Okay, you've grieved for two months, you're done.” For this type of pain, you grieve allowance is six weeks. At the sixth week, you're going to wake up, and that's it. So, there is no timeline for grief. Grieving is going to take however grief takes. Interestingly enough, another quote that I saw recently, and I can’t remember who said, it's like, “If time was the antidote to not feeling pain anymore, then we would all be very happy all out there. There will be no sad people, no depressed people, no angry people, because we've all had time to get over whatever we were supposed to get over.” So, it's not about time, it's not about deadline, it's not about feeling the pressure and that I should be done. Because I have now felt this pain for two months, two years, 10 years, 20 years, two weeks, whatever it is. It's about understanding, like, what is the emotion telling me? What's going on there? What am I carrying? What do I need to go through, and acknowledge and take with me to then allow the compassion for myself?
Alex Cullimore: The really tricky part about this is knowing that inside yourself, that word should is very much important. Am I saying I should be doing something because that's – and that's like step two, because often step one is we're having a reaction, and we don't even considering where it's coming from. It's just happening. We're attached to it. It's going. We're on the train. It's riding that wherever it's going. And it's hard to recognize when you're on a train that you don't have to be on, because we don't always recognize it as a choice. Again, it's not the same as choosing, so I'm not going to feel this at all. I'm going to just get off this train and never consider this train again. I wish it had never happened.
There's no timeline on that. You will be on that train, but you can choose a reaction in the moment that's like, “Okay, I may be feeling, in fact, irate at my boss right now.” And we all get good at like holding that in and being like, “I can't yell right now. I don't feel like I have the power to yell.” And then we don't necessarily come back and revisit and be like, “That was really angering for me, and I'd like to approach this in a different way. What can I do to more constructively to have this happen again?” If you don't come back to that second part, it becomes very difficult. You just attach to a whole bunch of processes that run away from you.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it does come out. So, no matter how much we repress emotions, they will come out. They will manifest in how we deal with people. How we are around. The energy we bring to the room. It is very obvious. None of us are immune to it. None of us are blind to it. So, when somebody comes in the room with a lot of repressed emotions, everyone in the room knows that's what's happening. There are no fooling others when we are shoving emotions away, canceling them, or whatever it is that we do because it's more painful, or we perceive it as more painful to actually acknowledge, “Hey, that comment hurt me.” Why did it hurt me? What's going on? If a button was pushed is because there's a button. What's the button? What can I do next time? Or how did I react? Did I stop talking? Because that's my default is when I feel silenced, I will be – it's one of those like, you want me to be silent, let me show you what silence is. And never provide an opinion ever again. Does that work? What's that costing me?
Alex Cullimore: We end up holding ourselves hostage, I think, on that. We end up with thinking we should be doing something one way and then we have a reaction. Or we start with a reaction where we feel angry about something, we don't identify necessarily what it is. So, we just know that we're angry. And then we end up in this loop of trying to justify why we're angry. Now, you just get angrier at other things you're trying to make sure that people understand like, “It's okay that I'm angry now. It must be because of this, or oh, that person looked at me wrong.” That's also contributing to this and that can really compound onto ourselves, when we're not paying attention to where it started from, and then trying to be like, “Hmm, definitely thinks I'm rising anger. Where's that coming from? What do I want to do about this?” But we can get into a loop of trying to justify it by getting angry or other things and showing people we’re angry.
Cristina Amigoni: It's so true. Some places where emotional regulation is not happening or needs a little bit of help. Or when we are acting differently with different people. So, when something is bothering us, but when we're with one person, like, “Yup, I'm okay. Everything is okay.” When that person is not around or with other people, then well, “No, I'm not okay and this is why I'm angry and this is why I'm hurt, or this is what's going on.” So, again, we talked about this in the podcast before this, like there's a lack of integrity, internal integrity there, is if we can express the same emotion, if we have to change who we are and put a different armor on, depending on who's in the room, something is going on. And the more we ignore it, the harder is going to be for us and the harder is going to be for the people around us, and the people around us are going to notice that, going guess, they’re not idiots. We're actually not that good at disguising our emotions, even if we don't express them. So, at which point are you going to realize like, “Oh, there's nobody in the room anymore. I wonder why? It's their fault. I didn't do anything wrong.”
Alex Cullimore: Maybe they can’t understand me.
Cristina Amigoni: Or nobody's helping me, I'm suffering and nobody's helping me. Well, did they know you're suffering? Or are you always smiling and saying everything is, okay?
Alex Cullimore: Good point too, because whether we're reacting, holding it all in and acting like everything's fine, or whether we're reacting angrily, the other person is taking that in. They're either taking in that they're saying they're fine, they are either going to – it might be very tempting for them just be like, “I'm just going to trust them. They're fine. Because I don’t, I don't have the energy to dig down to the bottom of this.” Even if it seems like there's something off. You just will have to come tell me, which is probably healthy boundary to set up somebody's not telling you.
But secondarily, if somebody's reacting angrily, that's all you get. This person seems very angry at me, and maybe they're not even angry at you. But you’re still going to be feeling it that way. Do you want to be doing that to whoever you're talking to? Is this actually the object of your anger? And even if so, is it helpful to be angry at them? What are you choosing? What is actually helping?
Cristina Amigoni: Very true. We might actually be done 20 minutes, or no.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah.
Cristina Amigoni: Emotional regulation in 20 minutes or less.
Alex Cullimore: More or less, I think that’s the important part. It is a game and it's a practice, and I think it's also worth just noting. It’s just hard. It's not easy to do this for yourself, for other people and it's better with practice, and it's better when you have safe – people who you can be safe around for you to experience this.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Yeah. It's not something to do alone. I wouldn't recommend figuring that out alone. There are coaches, there's mental health counselors, there's friends. It's not easy to do alone, because we're so wrapped up in our own world that we don't even see it until we're actually externalizing, and I have to tell somebody else. When you have that trust and the confidence into whoever the other person that you can confide in is, and you actually have to say the words, that button got pushed, and you realize there is a button there, that's very different than the 900 words swimming in your head, convincing you with your own bias, that there is no button. It really is about the towel left on the floor.
Alex Cullimore: Those words are basically the outcome of that button being pushed, and half of those words are dedicated to trying to get you to think that button wasn't pushed.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes, and there is no button.
Alex Cullimore: That is a totally – yes. I think an armor is a good way of putting it to that metaphor of like putting arm around on other people. And we all do a little bit of like we have to like we feel nervous around people so we might be a little more polite and more formal, which it makes sense forgetting to know people. But it's a different type of armor. If you think about armor you’re wearing every day, how long are you going to be wearing it? If it's a toxic workplace, are you doing this five days a week for eight hours a day? You're putting on this heavier armor, and what are the chances you're not either –best case scenario, you can take the armor off, let's pretend like you can just like snap that off and be done, you're still going to be exhausted from carrying around armor all day, at which point, it's much harder to have emotional regulation.
People talking about being like hangry, there's things like your own life, metabolism, blood sugar, just general level of exhaustion, because of what kind of week you had that are all going to contribute to your ability to do this. Even if you're a good one day, it can be very tiring the next day, and it's worth remembering that, giving yourself a little grace and giving other people grace, because they're also hungry, and they're also having weeks that you know nothing about. It's very hard to detach from taking it personally if somebody's angry at you. But it's also very worthwhile to remember, A, it's always about the other person. It’s always about everybody's having their own reaction because of their own thing, and B, maybe you can help them. Maybe you're in a good place that you happen to be awake, full enough, not hungry. Sated enough that you can go deal with this.
Cristina Amigoni: It's very true. And also giving yourself compassion. It really starts with the self. It's like, I snapped, a button got pushed, that's okay. Now, I know that there's a button there. Next time, we'll probably get pushed again. It'll take some time. Or maybe it's every other time it gets pushed. What can I do about it? So, there's a lot of self-forgiveness and self-compassion that's needed as well. It's like, just because there is a button, let's not now go all the way to the self-punishing, because there's a button to begin with. That doesn't help.
Alex Cullimore: It goes to Harriet Lerner’s ideas of like apologies, because it's really in fact, apologizing to yourself and it’s apologizing to other people. If you push other people's buttons, it's not just saying like, “I see that I did that. I'm sorry about that.” It has to be followed with changed action. So, when you feel like, “Oh man, I should have done something else.” Or “I'd like to have done something else.” You can either go all the way to self-punishment, which will just kind of drag it down or you can be like, “What do I need to change to help this not happen so much in the future? What would I like to see happen?” Start plotting your path forward, and if you're thinking that's exhausting and tiring, yes, it absolutely is. It's hard to do that work over and over again. But it's also your life, your one chance to do this for yourself, and it's a great exercise in being able to build more of a life that you want, instead of feeling as hamstrung and stuck to it, reactions that you've already had.
Cristina Amigoni: So very true. Alright, so maybe emotional regulation is in 23 minutes and less.
Alex Cullimore: Emotional regulation in 24 minutes. We have two commercial breaks ready for this one, and you can still get to half an hour.
Cristina Amigoni: There's so much more to say.
Alex Cullimore: A lot of great books on it. I understand if you have any ideas, but definitely Brené Brown has a lot of good thoughts about vulnerability and doing this, I recommend. Oprah's What Happened to You is a great one for thinking about triggered reactions and things that feel subconscious. And there's lots and lots of literature. The Body Keeps the Score is a great one on trauma and how your body is continually remembering these things. The last one that I've heard is like Why Don't Zebras Have Panic Attacks? I think, it’s something like that. It's about how animals on the Serengeti, like, you get chased by a lion. If we got chased by a lion, we'd be traumatized for quite a while and be like, “I got chased by a lion. I thought it was going to die.” But that can happen every day for zebra, and they don't necessarily have like lingering trauma. Part of that is that they physically complete the trauma reactions is very worth – in tandem with things like The Body Keeps the Score, with keeping these things in mind that there's always a toll. So, either you start to pay it off, or it starts to take hold of your own emotions. Anyway, there's some good reading material to continue after this. Now, it's 26 minutes on emotional regulation.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes, we're going to keep counting. Just figure out your buttons. Also, we've talked about this in the past, when there is a button, there's a value that's been misaligned or challenged. There's a lot of things that can be done with reactions and emotional regulations to really get deep into what is actually going on. Sometimes the answer is removing yourself from certain types of situations because they are value misaligned and that's okay. It's better than yelling at people the whole time while you're in this situation or yelling at yourself.
Alex Cullimore: It sounds so cliché. I'm glad that I'm even saying it, frankly. But there is a huge opportunity every time you feel that challenge. There's the opportunity to understand what's being challenged and to make a different choice and things that you said, get out of that situation. Maybe that's the right answer for this one. The situation won’t change, I need to get out of it because there's no way this doesn't come up and there's no way this isn't just going to keep digging that in, and there's a huge opportunity to learn about yourself and make a much more diligent choice for the next one, the next time you have a choice, and you always do more than we think. So, it's kind of exciting to do it. And there really is an opportunity in that as cliché as it sounds to say like, every problem is an opportunity, there's something huge and difficult to get to. And maybe that's the real key. There's a challenge in that. It is a challenge for our – am I going to put the energy in to figure out what I can help myself with out of this?
Cristina Amigoni: Alright, now go emotionally regulate. Have fun.
Alex Cullimore: You're done. You’re all certified now. This has been very fun and thank you for staying.
Cristina Amigoni: Thank you.
Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.
Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.
Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast wearesiamo.com, or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.
Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.