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Unformatted text preview: Healthy and Unhealthy Emotion Regulation: Personality Processes, Individual Differences, and Life Span Development Oliver P. John University of California, Berkeley James J. Gross Stanford University ABSTRACT Individuals regulate their emotions in a wide variety of ways. Are some forms of emotion regulation healthier than others? We focus on two commonly used emotion regulation strategies: reappraisal (changing the way one thinks about a potentially emotion-eliciting event) and suppression (changing the way one responds behaviorally to an emo- tion-eliciting event). In the first section, we review experimental findings showing that reappraisal has a healthier profile of short-term affective, cognitive, and social consequences than suppression. In the second sec- tion, we review individual-difference findings, which show that using reappraisal to regulate emotions is associated with healthier patterns of affect, social functioning, and well-being than is using suppression. In the third section, we consider issues in the development of reappraisal and suppression and provide new evidence for a normative shift toward an increasingly healthy emotion regulation profile during adult- hood (i.e., increases in the use of reappraisal and decreases in the use of suppression). In the extensive literature on emotion, two rather different perspec- tives have emerged. Are emotions irrational forces that unleash Preparation of this article was supported by Grants MH43948 and MH58147 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Correspondence should be addressed to Oliver P. John, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1650. Electronic mail may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Journal of Personality 72:6, December 2004. Blackwell Publishing 2004 destructive thoughts and impulses (Young, 1943)? Or do emotions represent the wisdom of the ages (Lazarus, 1991b, p. 820), which successfully shepherd us through lifes challenging moments? Both perspectives, we believe, have some merit. Sometimes emotions are destructive, and sometimes they are helpful. The challenge is to find ways of regulating our emotions so that we retain their helpful fea- tures while limiting their destructive aspects. We have addressed this challenge in our research by focusing on two common forms of emotion regulation: Cognitive reappraisal in- volves changing the way the individual thinks about a potentially emotion-eliciting situation in order to modify its emotional impact; expressive suppression involves reducing emotion-expressive be- havior once the individual is already in an emotional state. In the introduction to this article, we briefly review our general model of emotion regulation and define the two specific emotion regulation strategies that have been the major focus of our research....
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