Origins of emotional regulation
EMOTIONAL BLOCKAGES AND LEARNING DIFFICULTIES
In 1995, in discussion with several European colleagues, Luc Nicon made an observation that was difficult for any education specialist to accept: whatever the teaching method used, it is very difficult for certain children and adults to overcome emotional blockages in a learning environment. Whether it’s a child who ‘freezes’ when faced with a math problem or an adult who ‘disconnects’ when trying to use a computer, all attempts at learning seem doomed to fail.
Luc was drawn to this dilemma and started to experiment with various emotional management techniques to find practical solutions that could resolve the problem. Unfortunately, the results were not convincing: most needed far too much time or delivered results that were far too random and, in all cases, both children and adults ended up feeling a little more devalued and were reluctant to use the techniques.
Following many tests and trials, Luc Nicon concluded that fear is at the heart of emotional blockages that cause learning difficulties. Following this logic, he started to ask the question “What are you afraid of?” just at the moment when the person was in difficulty. In the heat of the moment, the responses were both baffling and salutary. More often than not the person was able, quite spectacularly, to overcome their blockage.
Luc refined the protocol and offered to present it to a group of business leaders he worked with regularly (Center des Jeunes Dirigeants – CJD – Languedoc Roussillon). The group loved the course, entitled “Understanding your emotions”, and Luc went on to provide it many times within the national organization and to many other companies.
Luc’s friends at the CJD encouraged him to share what he experienced during the training courses and he wrote “Comprendre ses émotions”. (“Understanding Emotions”). This book published in 2003, is a living testament to the path which led to emotional regulation as we know it today.
The book “Comprendre ses émotions” (“Understanding Emotions”) in French only
WHAT DOES IT DO IN YOUR BODY?
Although the approach he was developing had fast and convincing results, Luc Nicon still considered it too arbitrary and continued to explore new possibilities.
Just before “Understanding your emotions” was published, Luc was working with a public works company to conduct proficiency tests and he was with an employee who was totally inhibited when faced with quite basic tasks, and instead of asking the usual question “What scares you?”, Luc, out of the blue, asked him “What does it do in your body?”.
The sentence: “What does it do in your body?” was a game changer. Although the person was clearly very upset, she was able to respond, very naturally, by listing the physical sensations she was feeling: shortness of breath, tension in the neck and shoulders etc.
Luc was surprised by the list of sensations and let things unfold without saying anything. The physical sensations changed, and, after about 30 seconds, they calmed down spontaneously. The person, who had closed her eyes, re-opened them, and was visibly much calmer. She then stated that she was ready to carry out the task that seemed impossible just a minute beforehand. And, indeed, she completed it!
Emotional regulation was born. Or rather, as Luc Nicon would rather say, since he considers it an innate capacity we have had since the dawn of time: “It was from that day that I was able to bring to light our capacity for emotional regulation”.
Today, Luc jokes that: “In fact, after all those years spent developing all kinds of teaching methods based on the relationship between sensory memory and cognitive development, everything I needed to guide my research on emotional blockages to physical sensations in the body was right there, at my fingertips. I just didn’t see it. At the end of the day, it was when I was faced with this senior manager, working on large international public works projects, who was particularly stressed out, that, intuitively, I saw the link between sensory memory in the body and emotional blockages.
Following this experience, Luc couldn’t wait to meet another person with learning difficulties. When he tried it a second time, the same question produced the same effect. And the same happened with each new person, the ‘miracle’ repeated itself. And his client feedback was particularly enlightening. Not only did they overcome the difficulty on that day, they no longer experienced the emotional blockages that held them back in the days and weeks that followed. Emotional regulation seemed to be permanent. Today, this observation has been validated by more than a million individual sessions.
TIPI: DEFERRED EMOTIONAL REGULATION
Right from the start, Luc Nicon enthusiastically shared his findings with his entourage and colleagues in the field of education research. He even contacted scientific media personalities with influence in the world of personal development, such as David Servan-Schreiber (doctor and author of the bestseller “Heal”) and Boris Cyrulnik (neuropsychiatrist) with a view to collaborating with them. Their responses were polite but not very encouraging.
In February 2003, Luc met with Elliot Turiel (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education) in Berkeley, California to join the university as a researcher and professor of education science. At a turning point in his career, he opted to pursue his research on emotions rather than take up the post.
When he returned from California in March 2003, Luc Nicon decided to manage communications and drive the development of his findings independently. ”I felt very isolated. How could I communicate on this without coming across as an unrealistic dreamer? I had no scientific credibility and everyone who had an extraordinary healing experience with the approach said that they faced the same level of disbelief with family, friends and colleagues. I had no choice: if I wanted to validate my findings and, ultimately, share them with the general public, then I had to set them down in a simple, quantifiable and transparent way. So I decided to start over. I decided to conduct 50 case studies covering many different pathologies. Consultations were free, in exchange for consent to record each session and write a detailed case report
As part of this study, Luc developed a special protocol for people to regulate a difficult emotion in a ‘deferred’ way. It was too complicated to predict when a person would be activated emotionally and then to be present in order to provide and record a session. Luc therefore tested several possibilities and opted for a solution whereby the person would relive an event in their past where the emotion was activated. This approach was complex and, especially at the beginning, regulations were much longer than those that took place when the person spontaneously felt an emotion. But the results were the same and Luc was able to start his study.
To provide a formal administrative framework for his study, Luc Nicon created a non-profit association called “Tipi”.
He also created a website (www.tipi.fr) and organized information meetings in the south of France to present his study and recruit volunteers.
Professionally, Jean-Paul Barré at Les Grands Moulins in Paris, Claude Septfonds at Royal Canin, Pierre Domejean at Argel and Daniel Fargier at Kawneer were key business leaders who gave Luc permission to use emotional regulation within their companies and to help employees.
In 2005, during a particularly dramatic emotional regulation, Didier Godeau, a physiotherapist and long-time friend of Luc’s, until then very sceptical, was finally convinced by the simplicity and effectiveness of the process elaborated by Luc . In February 2006, in Montpellier, Didier Godeau was one of the 5 participants in the first professional training led by Luc Nicon. To highlight the reproducibility of his sessions by another person, Luc Nicon asked him to give sessions to 3 people as part of his study.
In March 2006, due to the multitude of requests for professional training and participation in his study, Luc Nicon rented a space at 25 rue Subleyras in Montpellier – 34000 France, which he turned into a “Tipi Center”.
From here he was able to provide over 300 sessions to people with emotional difficulties between May 2003 and the end of 2006. A full report of this study is set out in the book “Tipi” published in 2007.
Since the publication of the book “Tipi” our understanding of emotional regulation has changed considerably, and Luc Nicon has been the main driver for change.
The protocols for deferred regulations are as short as those completed in situation. Hundreds of thousands of people practice emotional regulation for themselves every day. Until 2009, emotional regulation was not available to children under 10 years old. Today, there are workshops for children over the age of 5 to teach them how to regulate their emotions on their own. Also, parents and professionals can learn to help children regulate their emotions from 2 years old. Finally, the practice of emotional regulation in many countries around the world shows that this is a universal natural capacity we all possess.