I get a lot of research about anxiety, emotion regulation and emotional resilience across my desk on a daily basis. Much of it is pretty specialist about specific neurochemicals or the effects of certain constituents of drugs on a particular symptom for example. Some of it is truly useful to my clients in a practical way and some of it like the last blog on Chocolate is just interesting. Now and then however you find a paper or a report of a paper that makes you shake your head and wonder why they bothered.
In a paper published today, entitled 'A person-by-situation approach to emotion regulation' researchers found that in certain contexts using of the skills of emotion regulation might actually be harmful.
The example one of the researchers uses is "...for someone experiencing trouble at work because of poor performance, for example, reappraisal might not be so adaptive. Reframing the situation to make it seem less negative may make that person less inclined to attempt to change the situation."
Basically what this is saying that if you use (misuse I would say) your emotion regulation skills to feel better about something you can and should be changing like being late for work, it could be psychologically harmful! Oh really? Yup using one of your skills to feel better about being late for work is quite likely to get you fired.
As I say on the Fear Course with a couple of the more powerful techniques I teach. Be sensible about what fears you kill with this technique. For example if you have a fear of standing on the edge of crumbling cliff tops, it might well be wise to allow that fear to remain.
As the researchers point out. Context is important. No sh*t Sherlock.
To be fair one of the researchers does point out "Adaptive emotion regulation likely involves the ability to use a wide variety of strategies in different contexts, rather than relying on just one strategy in all contexts."
Likely?? Pretty certain I would say. Having one technique for dealing with your emotions is like trying to refloat the titanic with the aid of a small sponge.
Which is why we teach a whole tool kit of strategies and techniques to deal with fear and anxiety and increase confidence along with the tools required to make the decision about when to use them.
Troy, A.S. Et Al (2013) A Person-by-Situation Approach to Emotion Regulation: Cognitive Reappraisal Can Either Help or Hurt, Depending on the Context. Psychological Science October 2013.