Memory-related emotion-regulation is the emotion-regulation strategies employed in response to the retrieval of specific autobiographical memories. We propose that memory-related emotion-regulation may facilitate the link between a memory’s centrality to an individual’s identity and internalizing symptoms as identified in previous work.
In two studies (Ns = 229 and 199), Amazon MTurk workers reported the use of five emotion regulation strategies in relation to recent memories that were judged to be either highly central or less central to their identity. Further, participants completed different measures of depression and anxiety symptoms.
Across both studies, high-centrality memories were associated with greater employment of emotion regulation strategies than low-centrality memories. Brooding over high-centrality memories (but not low-centrality memories) predicted depressive symptoms. For anxiety, in Study 1, emotion regulation for both high- and low-centrality memories was associated with higher generalized anxiety disorder symptoms (i.e. worry). In Study 2, emotion regulation of high-centrality memories (but not low-centrality memories) predicted fear and panic symptoms.
Highly central memories were associated with a distinct emotional experience and emotion regulation strategies. Brooding, when remembering highly central events, was robustly associated with all types of internalizing symptoms. Other emotion regulation strategies showed less consistent patterns, and emotion regulation for low centrality memories was related only to worry. Overall, the findings underscore the importance that memory centrality has for understanding emotion regulation when experiencing elevated depressive and anxiety symptoms.