Mind & Body

The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire Measures How Well You Deal With Your Emotions

Are you in touch with your emotions? Are they like a wild animal, ready to burst from you at any moment, or are they more like a well-trained puppy, with a few accidents here and there but otherwise under control? Feeling and expressing your emotions in a healthy way all comes down to how you deal with them, and there are right and wrong ways. To find out how well you handle your feelings (without spoiling the ending!), scroll down to find our link to the University of Central Florida's Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) — then come back to learn more about how to improve your score.

Good Feels, Bad Feels

The ERQ centers on two different ways of dealing with emotions, known as reappraisal and suppression. Reappraisal is a way of reframing a situation to change its emotional impact — for example, thinking of a speech as an exciting opportunity to share your ideas rather than a scary moment where everyone will be judging your performance. It happens before you've even felt the emotion; by reframing the situation, you change your entire emotional trajectory from the get-go. Suppression, by contrast, happens once you've already felt the feeling. One example might be the way someone hits the bars after a tumultuous breakup in order to put on a happy face and distract themselves from the negative feelings of heartbreak.

In 2003, Stanford professor James J. Gross and Oliver P. John from the University of California, Berkeley performed a series of experiments to find out how well each of these strategies actually worked. The verdict was clear: Reappraisal is much, much healthier than suppression. Those who use reappraisal regularly both experience and express more positive emotion and less negative emotion than those who don't. They also have fewer symptoms of depression, higher self-esteem, and greater life satisfaction. Their friends even like them more.

Those who used suppression as their go-to strategy, on the other hand, don't express much positive or negative emotion, but they experience both more negative emotion and less positive emotion than their reappraising peers. Even worse, the very act of suppressing their emotions makes them feel inauthentic, which causes even more negative emotion. As a result, they have more symptoms of depression, less self-esteem, are less satisfied with life, and their relationships are less emotionally close.

The way these strategies broke down by gender probably won't surprise you: Men are significantly more likely to suppress their emotions than women. However, the researchers pointed out that because the study didn't look at strategies on an individual level, it may paint people with too broad a brush. "For example," they wrote, "men may be more likely to suppress sadness but less likely to suppress anger than women."

Related Video: Are Your Emotions Contagious?

The Questionnaire

So which are you: a reappraiser or a suppressor? You can find out by taking the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire yourself. After asking you for some basic demographic information to help the researchers, the survey will have you answer questions about how you deal with various positive and negative emotions.

It should only take about 10 minutes, and when you're done, it'll give you two scores. One is for your emotional reappraisal, which is on a scale of 0–7, with higher numbers indicating a healthier approach. The other score is for your emotional suppression, which is also on a scale of 0–7 but flipped: Because emotional suppression is considered less healthy, lower scores are better on this metric. Finally, you'll get your scores on how you deal with individual emotions — for example, even if your scores on suppression are low overall, you may have higher scores on individual emotions like shame or sadness.

As with any online quiz, you should take your scores with a grain of salt, but if they show that you need some help with your emotion regulation, it might be a good idea to find a therapist who can work with you. Overall, though, it's important to remember that just because others don't see the emotions you're feeling, that doesn't mean you don't feel them. Suppressing your emotions will just make them come out in other, less healthy ways. Instead, try taking a step back from a situation you know will trigger some strong emotions, and see what you can do to reframe it as a positive. It could make you a happier person.

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Want to learn more about how psychology can make you happier? Check out "Foundations of Positive Psychology" on Coursera, taught by professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center.

Written by Ashley Hamer July 13, 2018

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