The Emotional Regulation System

In his book, the Compassionate Mind, Dr Paul Gilbert proposed we have three main types of emotional regulation systems that work together to regulate emotions. The systems are –

  1. the threat detection- protection system,
  2. the drive-wanting- excitement system, and
  3. the soothing-contentment-caring system.


Each of these three systems are designed to do different things, however they are also designed to work together to be in balance with and counter balance each other.

The following diagram outlines a simplified view of this complex and multi-component emotional regulation system.


Distress is caused by the imbalance of these three systems and is often associated with under-development of the soothing system.


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Reference –

Gilbert, P. (2009). The Compassionate Mind – A New Approach to Life’s Challenges. London, United Kingdom: Constable & Robinson Ltd.

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