If your emotions regulate you instead of you regulating your emotions, you are subject to using substances or people as a substitute for self-regulation. Because your feelings can be such a powerful force, you need to have the ability to manage your feeling states, i.e., think about them and express them in constructive ways. For example when you feel depressed, you can find ways to understand the nature and cause of the feelings, communicate what you are feeling, and find what is needed to take care of yourselves.
Lacking the skills of self-regulation, you often form powerful attachments to alternative methods of regulating your feelings. You can easily enter into an addictive relationship with a substance or person that provides regulation by helping you feel better. Instead of having an internal mechanism that can make rational decisions to help you guide your feeling states, you become attached to an outside source to change and determine how you feel.
It seems to be the case that both not enough parenting and too much parenting can influence the development of addictive behaviors later in life. If a parent is able to relate to their child’s feelings and recognize their needs they can also help them learn to negotiate the feelings that arise when a need cannot get met. If a child does not have this experience with their parent they will have a much harder time regulating their feelings for themselves later in life.
Likewise a lack of self-regulating capacity can be caused by a parent who has imposed too much regulation on the child, by deciding for them what they need. Such a child would be given little opportunity to experience their own needs being related to. It is through the experience of having your real needs related to and negotiated with, that you internalize and develop your self-regulating capacities.
Without experience teaching you, it is hard to see that you can influence your own states of mind, i.e., you can learn to think about what is happening and take actions that change the way you feel. Usually if you are in a negative state of mind, the physical and emotional state seems to control you. You need to learn that you can control it, to a large extent, by figuring out what has caused it, and what actions you can take that can give you a different experience. You often overlook the simple experience of telling someone else how you are feeling or the fact that your bodies are feeling depressed because you are not using them.
Of course there are circumstances where feelings have become too big for you to handle and you need the help of a professional or a group to form a more active and positive relationship with yourself.