3 Psychological Reasons You Can’t Regulate Your Emotions

#1: You intellectualize your feelings

Nick Wignall


Photo by Matheus Bertelli

Do you wish you could regulate your emotions better?

  • Maybe you want to lower your baseline level of anxiety and nervousness
  • Maybe you want to stop getting so angry and irritable at small annoyances
  • Or maybe you wish you could move on from some kind of grief or deep sadness

Painful emotions are difficult to live with. So the desire to regulate or control them is understandable. And while it is possible to change the way you feel emotionally, how you go about it matters a lot…

A lot of people make their painful emotions stronger and longer-lasting because they use the wrong emotion regulation strategies.

In the rest of this article, we’ll look at three common reasons why you might find it difficult to regulate your emotions.

If you can learn to identify and let go of these habits, you’ll find your emotions considerably easier to deal with.

1. You intellectualize your feelings

Intellectualizing your emotions means using overly abstract, metaphorical, or conceptual language to describe how you feel.

For example:

  • Instead of saying I’m sad when someone asks you about a recent death in the family, you say Yeah, it’s been really tough.
  • Instead of saying I’m angry when your spouse asks what’s wrong, you say I’m just a little stressed.
  • Instead of saying I’m afraid I’ll lose my job, you say I’m just super overwhelmed and burnt out.

Terms like tough, stressed, and overwhelmed are not emotions. They’re ideas or concepts.

And as adults, most of us get in the habit of substituting these conceptual or metaphorical words for real emotions because it’s less painful.

  • Just coming out with it and saying I’m sad is pretty vulnerable for a lot of people and therefore scary. But saying things have been rough is much more vague and therefore opens you up to less vulnerability.
  • Just coming out with it and telling someone that you’re angry…



Nick Wignall

Psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being: https://thefriendlymind.com