I’m always a little wary of any term that starts with the word “self” and then has a dash. I guess you can blame it on the fact that I’m a systemic thinker. Every person is influenced in some way by their environment, their family, and their friends. However, self-regulation is a term that I’ve come to like because of my experiences in my environment. Self-regulation is a skill that many people don’t have. We’ve all seen people when they are getting escalated or extremely angry and all of a sudden they blow their top and do or say something extremely stupid. I’m willing to bet that some of these people were the kids who had temper tantrums until their parents got tired of it and gave into their demands. Not cool. I think of self regulation as the ability to calm down and take a step back from the situation because you know that it’s getting out of hand. Unfortunately, self-regulation also requires self-awareness–which also is extremely rare. I see this all the time in the couples I work with. They start arguing over something completely mundane and before you know it, both just start slinging mud at each other. Emotions are high and each person feels the need to defend him or herself by “proving” that the other person’s actions were way worse. The past gets brought up and before you know it, both people are so dis-regulated they don’t want to have anything to do with each other. But what if this cycle didn’t have to happen? Most people can identify when they’re irritated or annoyed by something and many times they know exactly what that “something” is. I’m not an advocate of avoiding issues, but sometimes taking a break from an argument and then coming back to it when you’re calm and are thinking clearly can save a LOT of unnecessary stuff. When you’re mad, chances are that you aren’t thinking straight. You’re not calm or even able to hear the other person’s point of view. Taking a few minutes or hours to remove yourself from the situation or even to take 15 deep breaths can help you to think more clearly and to stick to the topic at hand instead of using it as an opportunity to bring up anything and everything from the past in order to get it off your chest. You’ll be able to choose your words more deliberately without the fuel of extreme anger. Definitely easier said than done but still worth a try.