CWTI Trainings

Emotional Intelligence graphic
Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Regulation

What happens when there is a breakdown of the balance between the emotional and rational minds, leading to an inability to manage overwhelming emotion?  The ability to manage the expression of emotion is a trademark of emotional intelligence, but all of us have experienced emotional upsets that interfere with daily life. These upsets could involve a paralyzing anxiety at a final exam, a deep depression, or an anger that distances us from loved ones.  The ability to manage your feelings and control the expression of emotion is called emotional regulation. 

Scientists have found that “working memory” is overwhelmed when emotions rush over us (Goleman, 1995).  Working memory helps us manage the information we need to accomplish a task, including organization and following directions.  It also enables us to complete intellectual tasks, from speaking in logical sentences to analyzing a report. 

Therefore, in times of emotional distress it might seem like we “can’t think straight.”


Coping Strategies

The design of the brain means that we sometimes have little or no control over when we are swept away by emotions.  However, we can interrupt the downward spiral of emotional deregulation by using effective coping strategies.  The use of positive coping strategies is a mark of emotional intelligence.  The following graphic displays the steps involved in moving from distress to emotional regulation.


Emotional Regulation graphic showing progression from a trigger event to deregulation to search for a coping strategy


The goal in emotional regulation is not to suppress emotion but to achieve balance.  Emotions add color and interest to life; to completely squelch feelings would be to deny the essence of being human.  We can bring balance to the emotional ups and downs of life by making our feelings consistent with life’s circumstances.  Two examples of striving for balance might include:

Normal moodiness is not a great concern; moods pass with time.  What are of concern are the extremes of emotion – rage, depression, and chronic anxiety – that can have serious and prolonged impact upon day-to-day life. 

As a caseworker, you will see the extremes of emotions in others or even yourself due to the emotional nature of the work.  Achieving emotional regulation by recognizing distress and using an effective coping strategy helps bring balance to one’s emotional life. In the next section, we review coping strategies for an emotion often seen by child welfare caseworkers - anger.



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