Experiential avoidance as an emotion regulatory function: an empirical analysis of experiential avoidance in relation to behavioral avoidance, cognitive reappraisal and response suppression
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he purpose of the present study was to empirically test the suggestion that experiential avoidance in an emotion regulation context is best understood as an emotion regulatory function of topographically distinct strategies. To do this we examined whether a measure of experiential avoidance could statistically account for the effects of emotion regulation strategies intervening at different points of the emotion-generative process as conceptualized by Gross' (1998) process model of emotion regulation. The strategies under examination were behavioral avoidance, cognitive reappraisal, and response suppression. The specific hypotheses to be tested were (1) that behavioral avoidance, cognitive reappraisal, and response suppression would statistically mediate the differences in measures of psychological well-being between a clinical and nonclinical sample, but that (2) these indirect effects would be reduced to nonsignificant levels when controlling for differences in experiential avoidance. The results provide clear support for the first hypothesis with regard to all the studied strategies. In contrast to the second hypothesis, the results showed the predicted outcome pattern only for the response-focused strategy "response suppression" and not for cognitive reappraisal or behavioral avoidance. The results are interpreted and discussed in relation to theories on experiential avoidance and emotion regulation.