Status and Social Anxiety

All of us aspire to advance our position in the society, as we derive a variety of advantages by having a higher status. Such benefits include greater influence, perceived competence as well as higher quality of life and well-being. The desire and potential for higher socioeconomic status motivates us to work hard for educational and career progress. 

This aspiration has an evolutionary basis. We exist today at the end of a long evolutionary line of people, only because our ancestors managed to form strong social groups and effectively used these communities to survive. Those who failed to secure group membership did not survive for long, lacking the resources and critical protection that the communities provided. 

Alain de Botton defines Status Anxiety as a nagging worry that we suffer from, about our status in our community. This anxiety results in persistent fearful feelings in us that we are in danger of falling short of the parameters of success as laid down by our own society. We constantly worry that we may be stripped of our dignity and respect. 

Nobody is completely immune to such an anxiety. Botton has an interesting take. He says “Even Bill Gateswill suffer from status anxiety. Why? Because he compares himself to his own peer group. We all do this, and that’s why, we end up feeling that we lack things, even though we’re so much better off than most people.”

Social anxiety is somewhat similar to Status Anxiety and occurs when we fear social situations in which we anticipate negative evaluation of us by others. We may also have a tendency to perceive that our presence will make others feel uncomfortable.

In psychiatry, anxiety disorders include Social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, and the like. Social anxiety disorder is the most common among all of these anxiety disorders. It is ranked, in comparison to all the other mental disorders, as one of the most common disorders, next only to depression and substance use disorder

According to authors Ferda Izgic, Gamez Akyuz, Orhan Dogan, & Nesim Kugu, there is an  increasing interest in Social anxiety because of the higher number of diagnosed cases leading to severe anxiety and depression. This is the reason why, Social anxiety has been included for the first time, as one of the psychiatric disorders within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Ellen Hendriksen, author of the book, ‘How to Be Yourself’, questions the general belief that socially anxious people mostly fear the negative judgment by others of their frailty. She clarifies that this is not really the case. The real fear or anxiety is that the judgment by outsiders may actually turn out to be right, thus exposing their hidden flaws. She calls this process as “The Reveal.” She writes “We think there is something wrong with us, and we avoid in order to conceal it. In our minds, if The Reveal comes to pass, we’ll be rejected, humiliated, or exposed.”  Thus, according to her, Social anxiety is a perception that there is something embarrassing or deficient about us and that unless we work hard to conceal or hide it, it will be revealed and then we will be judged or rejected as a result.

Feelings of insecurity and self-doubt often come and go throughout our life. While it’s perfectly natural to compare ourselves to others, overwhelming sense of inadequacy can be a sign of inferiority complex that is bound to create Social anxiety. The American Psychological Association describes inferiority complex as a “feeling of inadequacy and insecurity stemming from true or imagined deficiencies.” These perceived deficiencies can be physical or psychological and can lead to a range of negative behaviours such as severe timidness or excessive competitiveness or uncontrolled aggression.

The reasons why people develop inferiority complex include growing up in childhood with strong feelings of being under-valued, or being regularly compared unfavourably with other children or experiencing social exclusion during childhood etc.

Media in a variety of forms has thrived for a long time, by presenting glamorized and sanitised versions of lives of high status individuals. Unfortunately, such glamour does attract people to take notice with a mixture of envy and fascination. Fortunately for us, few decades ago, there was then a sense of separation, that these people were living in a different world from ours. This gave some protection from negative comparisons with the glitterati. Our social circles and peer groups made up of family members, co-workers and friends of similar social status to us, adequately provided a more realistic and grounded arena for status comparisons. 

However, in the current age of social media, the way we present ourselves to our immediate peers has come to resemble some of the glamorized and artificially curated forms of representation, which was once limited to only the rich and famous.

Social Media Use (SMU) has skyrocketed in modern society, especially among young adults. Research findings suggest that heavy SMU is likely to lead to Social anxiety and loneliness. Research indicates that socially anxious and lonely individuals appear to prefer and seek out online social interactions on social media.

The explanation is that socially anxious individuals take recourse to the Internet to regulate and compensate for their social fears. They perceive the Internet as a more comfortable platform for socialising rather than face-to-face. Many people may also be using social media excessively, so as to compensate for the lack of tangible social support in their personal physical world.

According to one estimate published in a BBC article, around three billion people, which is about 40% of the world’s population, use online social media. These people are spending an average of two hours every day sharing, liking, tweeting and updating on these platforms.

Social media users more often than not project the best versions of themselves, and sometimes exaggerated images of themselves, because, they have full control over what other people can see and know about them.

Unfortunately, this results in making more than half of users of social media feel inadequate, according to a survey of 1,500 people conducted by disability charity Scope. Given the unrealistically boosted profiles in these media, half of the youngsters surveyed in the age group of 18 to 34 years, indicated that these sites made them feel unattractive.

A study of 1,000 Swedish Facebook users found that women who spent more time on Facebook reported feeling less happy and less confident. The researchers concluded: “When Facebook users compared their own lives with that of others who had seemingly more successful careers and happy relationships, they felt that their own lives are less successful in comparison.”

Exposure to such highly idealised representations of lives of others, generates feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead more happier and more successful lives. This  creates Social anxiety and unhappiness.

Social anxiety disorder emerges from a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, childhood experiences and unusual brain functioning. People have around 30 to 40 percent chances of developing this disorder if their parents have suffered from Social anxiety disorder.  

Research has identified specific genetic markers for Social anxiety. A gene called SLCGA4 is involved in the transport of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that can help soothe our nerves and stabilize our moods. Both shortage and excess of serotonin have been linked to Social anxiety symptoms. People with Social anxiety disorder have been found to struggle to produce serotonin consistently and without fluctuation.

“Spotlight Effect” is defined in psychology as the phenomenon where all of us tend to overestimate how much other people are noticing various aspects of our appearance as well as our behaviour. This kind of thinking, unfortunately, causes a lot of Social anxiety. While we may be worrying about what negative things others are noticing about us, in reality, these people are too preoccupied thinking about themselves. 

Research actually shows that we are inclined to think and speak about ourselves 78% of the time. Our brains are also wired to focus and think about ourselves when we are not otherwise engaged in other external activities.

Extensive research has confirmed the connection between negative parenting styles and anxiety disorders, including Social anxiety disorder. The behaviours of parents towards the children that cause real problems later include the following. Excessive control over them, tendency to quickly criticize them for everything, reluctance to show strong affection and finally giving excessive importance to the opinions of outsiders on their children. We need to realize that the child’s self-image and her impression of the world are bound to be shaped by the attitude, words and actions of her parents.

Thus, children and adolescents are likely to become more fearful and less trustful of other people, when they are raised in this kind of environment. Their self-esteem and self-confidence take a big hit due to inappropriate treatment by the parents.

Adolescence is the phase in life when a person begins to detach himself from his parents moving towards own socioeconomic position. It is also the time of significant changes in social behaviours. Adolescents are most vulnerable at this stage and can develop Social anxiety disorder very easily. Thus Social anxiety is common among adolescents with an estimated 5‐16% of them reaching clinical levels.

Social Anxiety, Shyness and Introversion.

Study published in the journal “PLos One” in the year 2020 shows that social phobia is on the rise globally. The survey of 7,000 individuals aged between 16 to 29 years drawn from seven different countries found that 36% respondents met the threshold criteria for having social anxiety disorder. 

An introvert is a person with qualities of a personality type known as introversion, which means that they feel more comfortable focusing on their own inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what is happening externally. 

There is one key difference between introversion and social anxiety. Introversion is a personality trait, not a mental health condition. Introverted people draw energy from within. They dedicate plenty of time to solitary pursuits. Relaxing and unwinding appeal to them. Thus, they prefer to make plans with themselves rather than with others.

Laurie Helgoe, is a clinical psychologist, educator and author of “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength”. She explains that “the introvert will be the one at a meeting who stays quiet much of the time and then when she speaks, she really has something to say. This is because introverts like to work a thought or problem through to completion before sharing a response.”

Introverts have the wonderful ability to sit down, pay attention and actually remember what others tell them. Even if only in appearance, introverts have the ability to exert extreme control over their emotions. In her New York Times best seller book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”,  Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts. 

Elias Aboujaoudewho is an expert on Anxiety disorders, distinguishes between Shyness and Introversion. He says “An introvert can be described as someone who requires alone-time to recharge, whereas a shy individual is someone who is often excessively preoccupied by other people’s perceptions and evaluations of him”.  

Psychiatry professor Asim Shah puts it: “Shyness is a form of anxiety. Introversion is not a form of anxiety.” Bill Gates is quiet and bookish, but apparently unfazed by opinions of others on him. Thus he is an introvert, but not shy.

We also need to realize that Social anxiety is different from shyness. Shyness can make socializing quite difficult, but it does not disrupt life to the same extent as Social anxiety. Social anxiety is persistent and overwhelming and may affect everyday activities, such as shopping for groceries.

Shyness is a feeling of nervousness or discomfort, usually caused by fear of social situations. Shyness is often linked to low self-esteem and is characterized by excessive self-consciousness, negative self-evaluation and negative self-preoccupation. These three characteristics of shyness require a sense of self. A sense of self does not begin to develop until about the age of 18 months, which suggests that we are not born with shyness. Research shows that shyness is influenced by social experiences, especially those with our parents. Overprotective parents make the children feel too shy and make the development of social skills more difficult for them. 

Social anxiety in kids starts between the ages of 8 and 15. Children can usually hide these feelings in the beginning and parents and teachers may not notice that anything is wrong.

Social anxiety may be experienced by them in small things like answering a question in the class or eating with friends in the cafeteria. They are scared of these kind of situations because they feel that they may accidentally do something embarrassing or offensive. 

The kinds of situations that can cause social anxiety in kids will be different for various kids.  One child might see her friends whispering and laughing which she will interpret negatively, as if her friends are laughing at her. Another child might want to ask the teacher a question but will refrain from it because she is afraid that the question may sound stupid.

Intense competition for higher status drives people to display conspicuous status symbols by way of expensive and branded goods. 

There is substantial evidence that status consumption, defined as the motivational process by which individuals strive to improve their social standing through the conspicuous consumption of consumer products that confer and symbolize status’ increases under conditions of greater income inequality.

Research indicates that people in more unequal societies spend more on status goods. They also work longer hours and tend to land into debt.

Women invest more time and attention in trying to enhance their appearance, again if they happen to live in economically unequal environments. These attempts to enhance their looks is driven by Status anxiety.

Research by scientists at the University of Melbourne, Australia, found that women assigned to economically unequal societies chose more revealing, sexy outfits for their first night. They did so because they were anxious about their social status.

Humility is the ability to both view ourselves accurately as individuals possessing certain appreciable talents but also as having some not-so-complimentary flaws. This accurate self-evaluation results in displaying behaviours that are devoid of arrogance but without compromising self-esteem. It is unfortunate that humility is not acknowledged as a wonderful and valuable trait that needs better appreciation.  

There is a wrong conception in some circles that people with humility have low opinion of themselves, have low self-esteem and also lack self-confidence. There is more than enough evidence that exactly opposite is the truth. 

A growing body of research suggests that people who are more humble tend to enjoy better physical and mental health than individuals who are less humble. Humble individuals have been found to have higher life satisfaction and self-esteem. This is coupled with less depression and less anxiety.

Importance of emotional skills in early years

We feel angry when we are stuck in traffic. We feel disappointed when we fail a test. We feel irritated when we are hungry. We feel happy when our work is appreciated. We feel sad when a known person passes away. As humans, we are all prone to emotions with various triggers creating a variety of emotions. Emotional Regulation techniques enable us to manage and control these feelings.

Let us first understand the difference between emotions and feelings. Emotions are seen as preceding feelings. Emotions happen automatically based on external or internal triggers. Our feelings are reactions to these different emotions that we experience. Interestingly, emotions can have a more generalized triggers across all people but feelings are more subjective and are influenced by our own personal emotional experiences and also our specific personal interpretations of these experiences.

Emotion Regulation (ER) capabilities allow us to modulate and manage our emotional experiences. Emotion Regulation includes awareness of onset of emotion. It includes our ability to understand and accept these emotions. It also covers our ability to apply appropriate strategies or skills to manage these emotions. Finally, it encompasses the skills to control our impulses as otherwise we are prone to rush-in and respond to negative emotions in very unhealthy ways. 

According to research findings, when children and young people develop good social and emotional skills, it leads them to success not only in their school years but also during their whole lifetime. It is therefore somewhat unfortunate that sufficient attention is generally not paid to strengthening these important social and emotional skills in the early years. We need to appreciate that regulating emotions is an aspect of emotional competence which needs to be fostered and developed at an early age.

Research shows that early emotional development is nurtured by our close relationship with our primary caregivers. Thanks to mirror neurons, even infants, very early after birth, try to imitate the facial expressions of others. 

Let us examine the growth path of Emotion Regulation during our lifespan. The preschool years, defined as the ages of 3 through 5, are the critical years for the development of Emotion Regulation. During this time, growth in brain’s various executive functions not only enables pre-schoolers to suppress unacceptable behaviours but also to regulate attention to contextual surroundings and hold information in working memory. These new skills provide children with new means of navigating emotional situations, which are then combined with increased understanding of emotions. Children also learn typical social norms for emotional expression. They also recognize that others may have different emotional experiences from their own, and appreciate that their own expressed emotion need not match their inner experience. Each of these processes is important to the development of Emotion Regulation. It is during the preschool years that these foundational processes are developed good enough for the children, to shift from employing automatic reflexive strategies to thoughtful regulation of emotions.

Thus in the first year of life, children develop basic emotions of joy, fear, anger, sadness, surprise and interest. More complex self-referential emotions such as pride, shame, compassion, envy, embarrassment and guilt , which require appropriate evaluation of emotional stimuli, are developed towards the end of the second year of life. This development goes hand in hand with children’s increasing language development, which allows them to identify and express their feelings.

Interestingly, social referencing ability is acquired by the child  from the age of about nine months. Thus, in an unfamiliar or ambiguous situation, the child can “read” from the facial expression of the caregiver to get clues to evaluate the situation and then to adjust her own behaviour accordingly. Between the ages of two and five, children are continually improving their ability to use self-contained regulation strategies. This is a shift away from depending on external cues. The child learns to regulate her feelings and the associated expressions, more and more independently, quickly adapting them to social demands.

Simply put, self-regulation is the difference between a two-year-old and a five-year-old, where the latter is more able to control her emotions. 

This ability of self-efficacy is an important milestone in the child’s emotional development. We need to recognise that age-appropriate emotion regulation is key to future successful psychological development. This assumes importance since difficulties in emotion regulation are central to child psychopathology. Infants who are unfortunate to have had no stable, consistent caregivers are unable to regulate their emotions. 

According to the World Health Organisation report of 2021, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis. This is mainly due to the breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-ups or chronic pain and illness.

Hence, it is essential to start teaching children the skills necessary for Emotion Regulation at an early age, so that they may learn how to manage the stressful triggers and develop into resilient beings.  Early training prepares them to manage stresses and strains on a daily basis, as they become older. 

Inability to control one’s emotions can manifest in a variety of ways, including temper outbursts and breakdowns, violence, withdrawal, anxiety, low self-esteem and academic difficulties. 

Parents need to be aware that giving-in to tantrums or going overboard to accommodate their children when they get upset and burst out, is counterproductive. Such a compromise will come in the way of kids developing self-discipline in managing their urges. Psychologist Matthew Rouse warns “In those situations, the child is basically looking to the parents to be external self-regulators. If that’s a pattern that happens again and again, and the child gets used to ‘outsourcing’ self-regulation, then that’s something that might develop into a habit.”

We are all witness to many children growing up without learning to control their urges, with disastrous consequences when they become adults.

Author and psychotherapist Fran Walfish has useful suggestions on effectively handling emotional anger or frustration of children. She advises us to combine clarity, kindness, empathy and firmness while managing the situation. She reminds us that, as trivial as they may seem, children are always entitled to their emotions. Instead of pointing out, for instance, how absurd it is for them to get angry even though they have already been warned that their screen time is coming to an end, we need to validate their frustration. We need to be empathetic towards our child and show that you do understand how hard it is for them to get off the screen. This empathetic approach when coupled with frequent praises for completing the relatively hard-to-do tasks, will yield the right results on the longer term. 

Adolescence constitutes a high-risk phase of life keeping mental health in mind, as most psychiatric disorders begin before the age of 25. Epidemiological studies, both in the context of the United States and Europe, indicate high rates of mental health disorders during adolescence, with anxiety disorders as the most common condition at 31.9%, followed by behavioural disorders at 19.1%, mood disorders at 14.3% and substance use disorders at 11.4%.

Research shows that there are major changes in brain architecture that occur during adolescence. In particular, during early and mid-adolescence between 11-15 years, brain systems that seek rewards and process emotions are more developed than cognitive control systems which are critical for good decision-making and future planning. This means, that self-regulation which leans on the thinking part of the brain is “out of balance” with the emotionally part of the brain which has developed faster. Knowing fully well that adolescents are likely to take poor decisions during adolescence which may have long-term negative consequences, there is clear need for us to actively support and guide them during this period. This is especially important for youth with history of adverse childhood experiences. For this group, interventions during adolescence and young adulthood may reduce the risk of mental disorders and build more resilience.

We need to appreciate that stress is one of the biggest challenges that youth face in all relationships, either at school or at home or at work. Any triggers that cause ongoing high intensity stress, can overwhelm existing skills and capabilities of youth. This can create toxic effects that negatively impact their development and produce long-term changes in their brain architecture. Ongoing, overwhelming experiences of stress can physically change the wiring of the brain to rely more heavily on emotional reactions than on reflection, reasoning, and decision-making. 

Given this vulnerability, it should come as no surprise that most common mental health disorders, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and anxiety have their onset during adolescence. 

In an ideal Emotional Regulation growth path, a toddler who throws tantrums will grow into a normal child who learns how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings without throwing a fit. He will then grow into a healthy adult who is able to control impulses, while sensing uncomfortable feelings within him. As an adult he will develop skills of self-regulation which requires taking the critical pause between a feeling and an action. This intentional pause gives time to think things through, to make the right plan and then only act. 

Adverse life experiences such as abuse, neglect, family-conflict and homelessness, radically impact the development of Emotion Regulation capabilities. Most mental health disorders emerge between late adolescence and young adulthood.

Two Emotion Regulation strategies are most prominent and well used. They are cognitive reappraisal which is referred to as ‘antecedent-focused’ strategy and the other is expressive suppression referred to as ‘response-focused’ strategy. 

The first type is aimed at modifying the emotional meaning and impact of a situation. This reappraisal is done in four ways.

Situation selection: Person can choose to avoid the emotional situation by not getting into it or by disengaging from it. As an example if socialisation with a certain group raises uncomfortable emotions, then he can stop getting into these social gatherings or move away from one.

Situation modification: Person can change the emotional situation with the aim to influence the internal emotions. As an example, in a tense discussions scenario where tempers are getting frayed, he can bring some humour or laughter.

Attentional deployment: Person can shift focus away from the emotional scenario. This can be done by distraction. 

Cognitive change: Person can change the emotional meaning of the situation. One method is to modify the significance assigned to an event, so as to reduce its emotional impact. As an example, we can tell ourselves that  “I know this is not easy, but I will give it a try and get over any difficulties. I am sure, I can find a way to solve the problem.”

As the antecedent-focused strategies are implemented before the occurrence of full-blown emotion, they are generally more effective. The impact of emotion is less as they allow for early intervention in the emotion-generative process. 

The second type of regulation is response-focused Emotion Regulation which occurs after the emotion is fully experienced. Suppression is the most common form of this regulation. This refers to holding one’s emotional reaction in check while experiencing that emotion. As an example we may suppress the sad feelings in us after the death of a close friend or we may feel frustrated inside about our job but may suppress outward expression of the feeling. The downside, however, is that people who tend to adopt avoidance and suppression in response to negative emotions are more likely to experience psychological problems. Conversely, individuals who are able to reappraise problematic emotional events and take positive actions to deal with them are better at adapting to the vicissitudes of life. 

Regular physical activity and good sleep have also been shown to reduce the level of our emotional distress thus improving our emotional control. 

Sleep and Emotion Regulation have an impact on each other. Disturbed sleep reduces our capacity to effectively engage in understanding our strong  emotions. It limits our ability to clearly think through potential courses of action to control the situation and then to effectively implement the decided strategy. Similarly, poor Emotion Regulation can negatively impact sleep. For example, when every day emotional triggers are not adequately dealt with, pre-sleep arousal gets heightened. This results in our taking lot more time to get to sleep. It also results in a decrease of the duration of REM-sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) and affects the density of our sleep. Thus, good sleep quality appears to be important for effective Emotion Regulation and good Emotion Regulation appears to be important for good sleep quality.

Suicide is a major public health issue, with an estimated 800,000 people worldwide dying as a result of suicide each year. WHO report of 2014 says that the number of suicide attempts as opposed to completed suicides, may be closer to 20 times this figure. Most of the theories for suicidal tendencies point out to maladaptive responses to intense negative emotions or lack of effective Emotion Regulation. A research study suggests that some individuals are unable to tolerate the experience of psychological pain. In response to this, they turn to suicidal thoughts as a way of coping with and escaping from this pain. This is essentially due to their lack of skills to regulate their internal emotions.

According to escape theory of suicide, individuals wish to die when they feel overwhelmed by acute and unbearable emotions that prevent them from resorting to any regulation strategy. This intolerable emotional state, which is perceived as uncontrollable, leads patients to think of suicide as an effective way to escape these feelings.

Emotional Dysregulation happens when our brain is unable to properly regulate the signals related to our emotions. Without this ability, it is similar to the situation when the TV volume-control is stuck at a painfully high level. In effect, Emotional Dysregulation occurs when our very loud emotions are out of control, creating feelings in us of being overwhelmed, uncomfortable and in great pain.

Emotional Dysregulation in the age group of 5 to 12 years are outwardly visible when these children indulge in excessive arguments or resist and refuse to obey instructions or display high levels of aggression etc. Emotional Dysregulation in the age group 13 to 19 on the other hand, plays out in actions like refusing to engage in healthy activities or displaying risky behaviour or arguing with authority or showing physical aggression etc.

Emotion Dysregulation is conceptualized as difficulty or inability in several areas. These areas include the inability to monitor and evaluate emotional experiences and adapt to their intensity and duration. It also includes inability to modulate emotional reactions in order to meet situational demands. The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) is a well-validated and extensively used self-report instrument for Emotion Regulation problems.  The self-report scale measures responses in the following areas.

1. Nonacceptance of emotional responses

2. Difficulty engaging in goal-directed behaviour

3. Impulse control difficulties

4. Lack of emotional awareness

5. Limited access to Emotion Regulation strategies

6. Lack of emotional clarity

This tool is especially useful in helping patients with Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder or Substance Use Disorder. It helps to identify areas for intervention and support on how to respond to their difficult emotions. This scale takes a holistic and integrated view of Emotion Regulation, including the problems associated with the modulation of emotional arousal, the awareness, the understanding and the acceptance of emotions and finally the ability to strategize and act in desired ways.

Negative emotions can be described as any feeling which makes us feel miserable and sad. These emotions make us dislike ourselves as well as others thus reducing our confidence and self-esteem. Typical emotions that can become negative are hate, anger, jealousy, rejection, fear and sadness. Some examples. “ I get jealous when the girl I like goes with the other fellow”. “I am angry that I do not do too well in my tests”. “ I am afraid that my girl-friend will ditch me, as I do not measure up to her expectation”.

Based on research in the areas of clinical psychology, health psychology and psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), a clear relationship has been established between negative emotions such as anxiety and sadness on the one side and inflammation in the body on the other side. When we fail to regulate negative emotionsproperly, we create biological wear and tear on our body that can increase the risk for morbidity and mortality. 

The field of Emotion Regulation has largely focused on intrinsic ER or regulation of one’s own emotions. But recent research has started investigating extrinsic ER which is a process where a person influences the emotional state of another. This action is done consciously and voluntarily with an intent to regulate the mood of the other person. This kind of Extrinsic Emotion Regulation (EER) is very common between couples and is referred to as Interpersonal emotion regulation (IER). It is based on the premise that people not only regulate their own emotions but also seek to influence, affect, or modify other people’s emotional experiences which improves the quality of their relationship.

Some people are better equipped in regulating the emotions than others. These people are credited with possessing higher Emotional Intelligence (EI), which makes them aware of both their internal emotions and the feelings of others. While it may appear for the outsider that these persons with higher EI are just “naturally calm,” in actuality, they do experience negative feelings but do not express them. They have just developed coping strategies that allow them to self-regulate in difficult emotional situations. 

Infants have limited abilities to regulate themselves at the beginning of life. When babies are upset, they depend heavily on their primary caregivers to cope and restore their emotional balance. They learn how to communicate and manage their feelings based on the caregiver’s responses to their negative emotions​. Coregulation with parents is like teaching children how to ride a bike. 

Coregulation is an interpersonal process of managing emotions in which participants continuously adjust their responses in a coordinated pattern to co-create and maintain a positive emotional state. Coregulation is important because it is a way for parents to help their children develop emotional self-regulation.

It therefore becomes important for caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches and other mentors to first focus on their own capacity for self-regulation. To successfully co-regulate, caregivers will need to: 

·  Pay attention to their own feelings and reactions during stressful interactions with a child, youth or young adult. 

·  Pay attention to their own thoughts and beliefs about the behaviours of others. 

·  Use strategies to self-calm and respond to children effectively and compassionately. 

Caregivers greatly benefit when they take recourse to deep breathing and self-talk. When a caregiver responds calmly to a child, youth, or young adult, it greatly helps to keep the young person’s feelings under control.  It also acts as a model of Emotion Regulation skills for the child to imitate.