Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Emotion Regulation: Why Beliefs Matter

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Emotion Regulation: Why Beliefs Matter

Article excerpt

Emotions are a crucial part of the human condition. Without them, we would not have the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, the ecstasy of love, or the despair of loss. Emotions are not just ornamental, either-they help us effectively respond to opportunities and challenges we encounter (Lazarus, 1991). But emotions are not always helpful-they can also be destructive, especially when they are experienced to an inappropriate degree or in an inappropriate context (Gross & Jazaieri, 2014). Thus, in spite of the pleasure, meaning, and utility that emotions can provide us, it is also crucial that we are able to engage in emotion regulation, influencing which emotions we have, when we have them, and how we experience and express them (Gross, 1998).

Reflecting its long-standing importance, emotion regulation has been explored for millennia, as philosophers (e.g., Socrates), historical movements (e.g., the Enlightenment), and more recently, psychologists (e.g., Freud) have weighed in on the interplay between emotion (e.g., passion) and its regulation (e.g., reason). Interestingly, in our modern age, empirical interest in emotion regulation started slowly: only a small number of papers on emotion regulation were published each year through the mid1990s. Just two decades later, however, we are in the enviable position of witnessing a flood of emotion regulation research: in 2016 alone, Google Scholar indexed 20,000 or so new papers published on emotion regulation.

This accelerating trajectory brings many benefits, including new scientific findings regarding emotion regulation across various domains including mental health (Aldao, Nolen-Hoeksema, & Schweizer, 2010), medicine (DeSteno, Gross, & Kubzansky, 2013), education (Duckworth & Gross, 2014), business (Côté, 2005), economics (Heilman, Crisan, Houser, Miclea, & Miu, 2010), law (Maroney, 2006), and political science (Halperin, 2014). This popularity, however, comes with challenges. Most centrally, an evergrowing set of findings from a diverse set of perspectives has outpaced conceptual clarity. For this reason, it is important to develop conceptual frameworks that are relevant across perspectives and can provide clarity while also generating new testable ideas. In the present review, we focus on two frameworks that we believe may be helpful for the burgeoning field of emotion regulation.

We first consider a thematically oriented framework, highlighting a theme that pervades the field of emotion regulation on a theoretical level but has been relatively sparsely empirically examined: individuals' fundamental beliefs about emotion. Individuals differ in how they think about emotions, and it is becoming increasingly clear that these varying beliefs are deeply consequential. Theorizing and initial evidence strongly suggests that emotion regulation may be a core conduit through which these beliefs influences our lives. Second, we consider a process-oriented framework, highlighting a model that clarifies the unfolding nature of emotion regulation across time: the process model of emotion regulation (Gross, 2015).

After introducing each of these frameworks, we unite the frameworks and illustrate the pervasive ways in which individuals' beliefs about emotion may influence emotion regulation at each stage of the regulation process-identifying a need to regulate, selecting a regulation strategy, implementing the regulation, and monitoring one's regulatory success. This review highlights exciting new empirical work as well as promising directions for future work.

Beliefs About Emotion

Given that emotions are central to how we relate to our environment and to each other, it is natural that we spend time thinking, discussing, and developing beliefs about emotions. These beliefs, in turn, influence how we perceive and manage our own and others' emotions.

To identify fundamental beliefs about emotion, it is useful to consider two age-old debates. …

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