Friday, November 30, 2007

A Unique Approach to Emotional Self Regulation

Self regulation refers to a person's ability to monitor and evaluate oneself, activate skills, and pursue chosen ends. Key to self regulation is the capacity to detect discrepancies between current and desired behavior. Such self regulation has been found to be important in sport, and it is essential to building a trading career.

A counter-intuitive approach to building emotional self-regulation is to train yourself to control the facial and muscular expressions of emotion during emotional periods and to rehearse the facial and muscular expression of desired emotions. Biofeedback can be especially helpful for this method.

The gist of the technique is to use imagery to evoke a variety of situations that are associated with negative emotions and high stress. While vividly imagining these scenarios, the individual makes conscious efforts to keep facial muscles, arms, legs, and neck very loose and relaxed. Alternatively, the person can evoke positive images of success, happiness, etc. and make conscious efforts to assume facial expressions and body postures that express positive emotion.

The counter-intuitive aspect to this approach is that you are using the body to change the mind. As William James noted, we can feel happy or sad because our bodies are expressing those emotions. By rehearsing control over the negative expression of emotion and by building greater access to physical expressions of positive emotion, we can greatly aid self regulation during times of challenging performance.


Biofeedback as a Performance Tool


hrgreen said...

Great post. I can attest that over that last 4 months, when ever I have woken in the morning steeped in a blue funk, over mostly my trading, I have forced myself to smile. Once, perhaps, twice. Within about a half hour the blue funk is gone.... and, I have no idea if it is connected, but I think it is, my trading has improved... I have been able to stay to my plan more consistantly... thanks

Adam said...

Brett ~~~

"... train yourself to control the facial and muscular expressions of emotion during emotional periods and to rehearse the facial and muscular expression of desired emotions."


At one time I was involved in a business that required telephone call centers (no, we weren't selling, we were buying).

A former airline reservation center manager told me he had his agents place a mirror at their workstations and smile into it while talking to customers. I deployed this strategy with my agents and soon saw an incremental increase in the results I was seeking. I can’t claim a causative effect, but we did make more money.

I’ve used the same technique when conducting sometimes-strained negotiations over the phone, and noticed that stress apparent in the counterparty and myself seems to dissipate. Though results border on impossible to quantify, my “sense” that it works is strong.

I can look into a mirror from my trading station, and on days like today peer at my own idiot grin. Sadly, at least this week, results haven’t been thrilling. But who knows?

Essentially, what you're saying is, "Smile and the whole world smiles with you." That’s never bad advice.


Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Hi HR,

Interesting observation; thanks. It's very interesting how expressing bad moods helps to sustain them.


Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Hi Adam,

Thanks for passing along the life experiences; very relevant. I've found that by acting outgoing I elicit outgoing responses from others, which in turn makes me feel more engaged going forward. Interesting feedback effects...


Krasimir said...

Hi Brett,

Excellent post! Do you think there is something common between Emotional Self Regulation and Emotional Intelligence. I've read about the latter recently. In some sources it it defined as an ability to recognize, understand and use your and other people emotions. Another commont term is Mind Reading. I read about it in Psychology Today

Thank you.