Emotional Control and Neurofeedback

A recent issue of Psychology Today published this article that seems to advocate expressing more negative emotions: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201501/beyond-happiness-the-upside-feeling-down.

I have some issues with this article. When most of us experience negative emotions, we are able to cognitively recognize that we need to process them in ways that are ultimately productive to ourselves and those around us. We use these emotions as a touchstone about the events in our lives and their relative importance to each of us as individuals. Then we prioritize getting ourselves into situations with more positive emotional results.

However in some instances, this article seems to be advocating letting at least some emotional reactions go unchecked. I largely disagree with that premise. Having unbridled negative emotions will quickly lead to trouble with interpersonal relationships. In our society, those who display strong and/or frequent negative emotions rapidly become marginalized. Many of us have experienced this in our own lives: the coworker who yells at everyone, the child who has frequent meltdowns, the family member who is always down and complaining about something….. We monitor our own, usually negative, emotional reactions to these people and then try our best to avoid interacting with them.

There is a good reason why people who express a lot of negative emotions are viewed as immature. Appropriate control of emotions is one of the ways that adults are different from toddlers–we have developed mature prefrontal lobes to our brains. The prefrontal lobes are some of the last areas of the brain to develop fully, and like just about every part of the brain, the more they are utilized in positive ways, the better they perform–especially in negative circumstances.

If you are concerned about whether your emotions are appropriately controlled, you should consult with a qualified therapist. Neurofeedback can play an important part in learning to maintain emotional control. Prefrontal control networks over the limbic (emotional control) system can be stimulated and strengthened. Practicing positive behaviors and control encourages positive experiences and lives!

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