'Follow your heart but take your brain with you', Alfred Adler, physician. The human being is designed to feel, we cannot stop doing it, it is something that simply happens in us permanently. This capacity to feel includes expansive, pleasant emotions ... and also includes those that contract us, make us suffer and lead to sometimes complex and unpleasant physiological sensations. For children to learn to regulate these emotions, we suggest the traffic light technique.
Sometimes the terms 'positive emotions' are used in a didactic way, for those that we find pleasant, and 'negative emotions', for those that make us feel uncomfortable. However, technically all are 'good' insofar as they have a function, they serve a purpose, in the most practical sense of the word.
Feeling mobilizes us, drives us, makes us make decisions, allows us to become aware…. That is why it is important to invest in the development of emotional intelligence to know how to optimize our wonderful ability to feel and, above all, to not be afraid of emotions that we like least.
The first thing is recognize the emotion, differentiate it, delimit it and name it. The body helps us in this step because emotions are housed in it and show quite clear signals if we learn to listen to them. They are especially so in the case of intense emotions such as frustration, anger, fear or anxiety. For example, in the case of anger these signs are:
- Heat in the face
- Tension in the limbs
- Cardiac acceleration
- Heavy breathing
These feelings will be timid at first and will become more intense if we do not pay attention to them and implement emotional regulation strategies. So much so that they could generate overflow, causing destructive behaviors for oneself and for others.
It is important to note that emotion, whatever it may be, is neither good nor bad. What can be reprehensible is what we do with it: if they are destructive behaviors for things, other people and / or oneself.
To work on emotional regulation there are many exercises that we can do. Here we propose the traffic light technique, which through the familiar image of a traffic light will facilitate the incorporation of strategies for the proper management of emotions.
The traffic light has three distinct steps:
1. Red light: STOP
Our traffic light will turn red when we recognize that we have one of those contractive, dense, or unpleasant emotions. It is time to stop, to STOP. This stopping allows us to become aware of what we are feeling.
Remember that for this to happen we have to have well trained attention to the signals that the body, through its sensations, is transmitting to us. At this point, we can use a few deep breaths.
2. If the traffic light is amber: THINK
The traffic light will illuminate amber when, having stopped, we are able to think about the situation, internalize for a moment and become aware of the best way to respond to the challenge posed by what is happening and what we are feeling.
3. With the traffic light green: ACT
Finally, the traffic light will turn green when, having stopped and thought, we are able to move forward facing the situation in the best way.
Keeping these three steps in mind, we will ask our child to draw and color a traffic light with the three colors. We will put it in a place that the child can access. In this way, when we want him to be aware and regulate his emotions, we will ask him to visualize the traffic light he has drawn and go through the different colors.
It should be clarified that emotional regulation does not seek emotional anesthesia at all, block, prevent or deny any emotion no matter how unpleasant it may be. Let us make it clear that we are designed to feel, that this quality defines us and connects us directly with LIFE. It does seek to legitimize emotion, welcome it, sustain it…. and from there handle it in the best way.
I can think of no better way to explain it than to resort to the poem by Rumi, a Sufi poet of the s. XIII, entitled 'The guest house'
The human being is a guest house.
Every morning a new newcomer.
A joy, a sadness, a badness
Some momentary awareness arrives
Like an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and welcome them all!
Even if they were a crowd of wailing,
That empty your house with violence
Still, treat each guest with honor
May be creating space for you
For a new delight
To dark thought, to shame, to malice,
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them to enter
Be grateful to whoever comes
Because each one has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
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