Emotion regulation theory of James Gross

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Chapter 9 endnote 1, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Typical self-help books focus on your mind. If you think differently, they say, you will feel differently. You can regulate your emotions if you try hard enough.

One of the most popular and useful theories of regulating your emotions comes from the psychologist James Gross.[1] His "process model of emotion regulation," originally forged in the tradition of the classical view, assumes that your emotions are reactions to the world, so if you want to feel differently, try thinking or paying attention differently, or even acting differently. For example, if you’re afraid of large groups, try to avoid crowded sporting events and other situations with throngs of people that would trigger your “fear circuit.” If you can’t change your situation, try to change what it means to you, a process often called “reappraisal”; you aren’t in a crowd of nameless, faceless strangers, but among friends who are all celebrating your favorite sports team. You can also distract yourself by focusing on something else, such as the scoreboard. If all else fails, willfully suppress your emotional reaction after the fact. Your emotion should respond in kind; either fear should fail to materialize, or it will be quickly squelched.

Gross’s theory is meant to help you master your emotions, steering them to materialize (or not) at just the right time, making you more emotionally intelligent. Hundreds of experiments support the strategies as effective, but they don’t explain why they work. Some researchers try to localize some strategies to particular blobs in the brain, like placing reappraisal in the control network. Yet, these studies reveal the same networks that are important for making emotions: the interoceptive and control networks. As we discussed in chapter 6, “Emotion Regulation” is another name for the same processes that construct your emotional experiences and perceptions in the first place. We just categorize regulation differently from construction.


Notes on the Notes

  1. Gross, James J. 2014. Handbook of Emotion Regulation. New York: Guilford.