In psychology, attachment theory teaches that early in a child’s life the parent co-regulates or fuels the child’s emotions. For example, there is a loud noise. The baby wakes up. The baby cries.
The baby does not understand what its feeling. It only knows to cry. It looks to its parent to provide meaning for the feeling. The mother smiles. So the baby smiles back. But this does not alleviate the painful or uncomfortable feeling.
The mother picks the baby up and rocks it. But this does not work either. So the baby continues to cry. The mother gets a bottle of milk and gives it to the baby. The baby is soothed. The hunger pain is relieved. The mother helps the baby to understand that food alleviates the hunger pain.
This pattern continues as the baby becomes a toddler. The mother and toddler go to the park. The toddler will run off and explore. After a while, it will return to its mother. The toddler continues this pattern the duration of the visit.
When the toddler is exploring, it may experience nervousness on the tall slide, excitement on the swing, dizziness from the spinning tire, or uncertainty playing with the bigger kids. The child will bring each of these feelings back to the mother. She will help him to interpret each of them.
As we mature, we rely less upon our parents to help us regulate our emotions. The healthier the family, then the healthier we are at regulating our emotions. As adults, hopefully we developed these positive habits.
Of course, we cannot control what family we were born into. But as adults we can decide which spiritual family that we belong. Do you have healthy ways of dealing with your emotions?
The following are healthy, biblical principles that the Christian family exhorts to regulate their emotions.
1.) Daily devotional time. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
2.) Prayer. Speak to God in the good times and the bad times. Paul said, “pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thes. 5:17-18) James says, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)
3.) Surround yourself with positive people—persons who give you energy and life. Spend as little time with those who deflate you. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
4.) Set appropriate boundaries with those who are a negative influence or drain you. Paul says, “for each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5)
Are you filling your tank with bad fuel? Are you allowing others to give negative interpretations to your emotions? Are you letting yourself worry and give improper meanings to your feelings? Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” I encourage you to seek guidance from the Lord Jesus and his family.