found this incredible article by Dr. Tian Dayton on Emotional Sobriety on her website, turns out she also has her own column on the Huffington Post too.
Emotional Sobriety – Part 1
What are the Signs of Emotional Sobriety?
• Ability to regulate strong emotions
• Ability to regulate mood
• Ability to maintain a perspective on life circumstances.
• Ability to regulate potentially harmful substances or behaviors
• Ability to live in the present
• Ability to regulate activity levels.
• Ability to live with deep, intimate connection.
• Resilience, the ability to roll with the punches
• Ability to regulate behavior
What are Symptoms of a lack of emotional sobriety?
• Inability to regulate strong feelings such as anger, rage, anxiety, sadness
• Lack of ability to regulate mood
• Lack of ability to regulate behavior
• Not being able to gain a perspective on feelings when they are extreme
• Lack of ability to regulate self medicating use of substances or behaviors.
• Inability to live in the present, preoccupies with past unresolved wounds.
• Lack of ability to regulate activity level. (chronically over or under active)
• Inability to have deeply feeling intimate relationships.
• Lack of resilience or the ability to roll with the punches
What are the Solutions: How Can I Come Into Balance?
• Resolve early childhood wounds
• Learn techniques of self soothing and make them a part of your life
• Develop a strong relationship network
• Maintain a healthy body, exercise, rest, nutrition, sensual pleasure
• Find meaningful activities, work, hobbies, and passions
• Process emotional ups and downs as they happen
• Develop inner resources, quiet, meditation, spiritual pursuits
What is Emotional Sobriety?
• Emotional sobriety is about finding and maintaining our emotional equilibrium, our feeling rheostat.
• Emotional sobriety is tied up in our ability to self regulate . To bring ourselves into balance when we fall out of it.
• Balance is that place where our thinking, feeling and behavior are reasonably congruent; where we operate in an integrated flow.
• When our emotions are out of control, so is our thinking.
• When we can’t bring our feeling and thinking into some sort of balance, our life and our relationships show it.
• Emotions impact our thinking more than our thinking impacts our emotions. Our limbic system, which is where we experience and process emotion, actually sends more inputs to the thinking part of our brain, i.e. the cortex, than the opposite. (Damassio)
• The essence of Emotional Sobriety is good self regulation. Self regulation means that we have mastered those skills that allow us to balance our moods, our nervous systems, our appetites, our sexual drive, our sleep. We have learned how to tolerate our intense emotions without acting out in dysfunctional ways, clamping down or foreclosing on our feeling world or self medicating.
• Addiction and compulsive, unregulated behaviors reflect a lack of good self regulation.
• To maintain our emotional equilibrium, we need to be able to use our thinking mind to decode and understand our feeling mind. That is, we need to feel our feelings and then use our thinking to make sense and meaning out of them.
How Do We Learn to Self Regulate?
• Nature and Nurture: Each tiny interaction between parent/caretaker and child actually lays down the neural wiring that becomes part of our brain/body network.
• As the parent interacts with the child, the child learns the skills of relating and regulation which are then laid down as neural wiring.
• The child takes this new learning into his world of relationships, experiments with it, gets continued feedback and continues to lay down new wiring based on what he is seamlessly picking up from his environment and the relationships in it.
• Early experiences knit long lasting patterns into the very fabric of the brain’s neural network. (Lewis) And these neural patterns form the relational template from which we operate throughout life.
• As children, if we get frightened or hurt, for example, we look to our mothers, fathers and close people to sooth us, to help us to feel better, to bring us back into balance.
• We learn to “tolerate” our intense feelings when we’re young and as we get older, “holding environment”
• When our skills of self regulation are well learned during childhood, they feel as if they come naturally, as if we always had them.
• When they are not well learned, we may reach to sources outside of ourselves to restore the sense of calm and good feeling that we cannot achieve ourselves, namely drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling and so on.
• The ACOA/ACOT syndrome can reflect problems with early attachments or relationships. Children who learn the skills of relating and regulation from unstable parents internalize unstable patterns.