Struck a Chord

I am strongly, massively in favor of emotional regulation. I think it’s the ultimate skill; I think pretty much everything else flows from it. I think it’s one of the most important lessons to teach children; in fact, it’s so important that if it’s the only thing you teach you’re probably a great parent. I think many parents don’t teach it, and as a result lots of adults don’t know it, so it’s good for everyone.

Because of this stance, many people who interact with me regularly think that I’m anti-emotion; that I’m cold or repressed because I don’t fly off the handle even when things upset me. But nothing could be further from the truth. I think our emotions are incredible; they bring us the joy that makes life worth living. I don’t think we survive despite them; I think we thrive because of them.

But I want you to imagine something for a moment. Imagine a piano, but someone has tampered with it. They’ve gone inside and they’ve taken every string and moved it, so that instead of all 88 being in order they’re essentially random. There’s no correlation between which key you hit and what sound gets made. And every other day or so, this prankster goes inside while you’re sleeping and moves them around again.

No matter how carefully you pressed the correct keys, the piano would never make the sounds you wanted. The beautiful melodies would be replaced by discord.

Emotional regulation isn’t pulling out the strings entirely. It’s putting them back in the right order so that the actions we take produce incredible music, instead of cacophony.

It means aligning our actions and the emotions we want, and understanding how our emotions drive the next action we take. It’s putting ourselves in harmony so that we can enjoy our emotions, rather than letting them torture us until we run from them. It’s turning noise into rapture.

Like playing piano, it takes practice. Like the most beautiful song, it’s worth the effort.

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