Controlling Your Reappraisal (R)

17.09.2020 |

Episode #7 of the course Control your emotions, control your life by Dr. Sofia Santiago


In Lesson 6, you learned about controlling your emotions by deploying your attention. Now we’ll deploy our attention and learn to reappraise the circumstances that trigger negative emotions.


What Does “Reappraising” Mean?

Appraising means evaluating or assessing something, so reappraising means evaluating something a second time.

Before going further, though, let’s do a quick 3-point recap on the way our appraisal of events plays a role in what we feel:

1. When we say things like, “Joe made me mad,” we’re failing to assume responsibility for our role in the emotions we experience.

2. A more accurate way of describing the experience would be to say, “The way I interpreted Joe’s actions made me mad.”

3. It’s not what happens that determines our emotions, but our interpretation (or appraisal) of what happens.

That’s it. The recap is done.

(Told you it was quick.)


Why Would You Want to Reappraise?

You want to reappraise a triggering-situation because you’re feeling an unpleasant emotion. You don’t like feeling that way! And, of course, you don’t want to say or do something you might later regret. What you want is to reduce the intensity of the negative emotion or even eliminate it.

You also want to reappraise because science has shown that reappraisal can significantly reduce the impact of negative emotions. And we don’t argue with science now, do we?


How to Reappraise

To reappraise, you go back and look for an alternative explanation of what happened through a different, more constructive lens. A fresh, less negative interpretation usually gives the event a new meaning; and this new, positive meaning will give you the space to take a deep breath and feel your heartbeat slow down. Without the negative emotion’s boot on your chest, you can now respond to triggers in ways that support your success and happiness, rather than sabotage you.

Think of your ability to reinterpret a situation in a more constructive way as your chance of getting a do-over. Yay!


Case Study

Chris and Alex are a nice, young couple. They’re both hard-working, and they treat one another with love and respect.

One day, Chris arrives home exhausted from a long day at work. Alex has been working from home the last few days and promised to do the laundry today, but Chris comes home to find the hamper piled high with dirty clothes and Alex playing on the computer.

Chris: “You promised you’d do the laundry and you didn’t.”

Alex: “I didn’t get to it, but I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Chris: “Don’t bother; it’s obvious my wishes don’t matter to you.”

Chris angrily starts throwing clothes into the washing machine. Alex tries to help, but Chris snaps that it’s too late.

Alex sinks into the couch, defeated.

* * * *

Not a happy ending.

Let’s rewind the tape to the point right after Chris got home and saw Alex playing on the computer and the hamper full, and rewrite the last part of this story.

* * * *

Chris realizes, “I’m starting to get really upset now,” takes a deep breath, and decides to reappraise the situation at home: “Is there an alternative interpretation for Alex’s behavior, other than my partner doesn’t care about my wishes?” “Is it possible that Alex didn’t get to the laundry for a reason other than being lazy?”

The answer to both questions is yes. Chris knows we can usually find alternative interpretations if we take the time to look for them. It could be that Alex was doing other more important things or that something unexpected came up, for instance.

Chris knows that assuming is not a good idea and decides to ask Alex.

Now that Chris has reduced the intensity of the negative emotions by acknowledging that our initial assessments of situations are not always complete, accurate, or beneficial, Chris is in a better position to deal with the situation at hand.

Chris: “You promised you’d do the laundry and you didn’t.”

Alex: “I didn’t get to it, but I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Chris: “What happened?”

Alex: “Tough day. The baby spent all afternoon crying—I only just got her to sleep an hour ago. I took the kids to the park, bathed, and read to them, and then the baby started crying relentlessly. I finally got her down and needed to let off some steam on the computer for the last hour.”

Chris: “I had a tough day too. Let’s snuggle up and enjoy a nice evening.”

* * * *


But listen, even if Alex had no valid reason for not honoring a promise, the fact that Chris applied an emotional regulation strategy effectively to control the contempt that was starting to emerge would allow the couple to have a conversation about promises and expectations in a respectful and productive way, rather than going at each other’s throats and ending up hurting their relationship and solving nothing.



1. Think of a situation that caused you regret or resentment. What happened? Who or what did you blame?

2. Answer: could there be a different explanation than the one you told yourself in the original scenario—one that would give you freedom from the negative emotion? Identify an alternative appraisal, and give yourself the do-over you deserve!

* * * *

Well, we’ve already covered all five STAR™ emotional regulation strategies that teach you what to do to control negative emotions.

Now let’s talk about what not to do. That’s the topic of our next lesson.

See you tomorrow!



Recommended book

Difficult Conversations Just for Women: Kill the Anxiety. Get What You Want by Sofia Santiago


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