Emotional Intelligence 101
Want to feel more in control in your life? To learn why you do what you do? To learn why you act the way you act? It’s all rooted in our level of emotional intelligence. If you missed last week’s episode, go back and listen because it walks you through my number one tool of empowerment: the thought model. The thought model does a magnificent job of clearly laying out, in black and white, how the thoughts we’re focusing on impact every aspect of our lives. This a crucial piece of emotional intelligence: understanding that we feel what we feel because of the thoughts we’re focusing on.
The other crucial piece of emotional intelligence is allowing ourselves to feel the full range of emotions that life sends our way. Not just the happy, “easy to feel emotions” but also the more difficult emotions of disappointment, sadness, regret, or fear. It may seem silly but it was a big “aha” moment for me to realize that the point in life is actually not to feel happy all the time. In fact, “feeling happy” or the quest to be happy is not my best goal. Why? If I am only looking to feel happy, then would I have pushed myself to do this podcast? I felt more uncomfortable than happy when I thought of the big step producing a podcast on iTunes would be. Would I have chosen to have kids? When chose to be a mom, I did so knowing that it would not be all rainbows and daisies (and boy was I right!). Would I have chosen to travel half way around the world to see if the man of my dreams was actually a reality? I remember my son Ryan dropping me off at the airport and feeling excitement on the verge of panic and fear. If my goal was to feel happy, I would’ve avoided those experiences. Thank goodness I didn’t. My life coach has taught me how to embrace all of my emotions. I’ve learned that I’m meant to be an emotional being. That “being emotional” is not a bad thing but a requirement of living a fully-expressed life. In the same way that we can not paint a picture only using one or two colors, we can not live a fully experienced life when we’re only appreciating or giving value to the happy, feel good emotions.
I like how Dr. Todd Kashdan puts it: “Live your life in a way such that you try to be present in the moment with a mindset of curiosity pursing life, pursuing what matters most to you, and on the way of doing that sometimes you’ll be happy, sometimes you won’t.”
Emotional Intelligence 101
We’re not always going to feel happy….and that’s okay! My life coach has me imagine a waiter at a party walking around with a tray of emotions instead of hors d’oeuvres. Initially I thought I’d only pick the good and juicy ones. Yet I realized how there would be times in my life when happy is not the emotion I’d choose. If I was always happy, I’d be one weird woman because I’d be happy during sad moments or excited during painful experiences, right? If someone dies or if my friend is struggling, happy is not the emotion that I would choose.
Once we realize that we don’t want to feel happy all the time, we can also see how a good portion of life is not spent in happy, blissful feeling states. In fact, we spend about 50% of our life experiencing negative or more difficult emotions. This is normal and this is part of human life. It is not the feeling of difficult emotions that causes us problems, it’s the resistance to feeling them. We tell ourselves we shouldn’t be scared/angry/sad/disappointed over a situation or we get so scared that we can’t handle a certain emotion that, instead of feeling it, we push it away and resist it. How do we resist it? Over shopping, over eating, over drinking, over complaining, over working, blaming others for our emotions, oh warriors, I could go on and on. The way you know you’re resisting instead of allowing an emotion is all in the action line of the model: if you are reacting (yelling, eating, shopping) or “in”acting (procrastinating, napping, etc.), you are resisting feeling emotions.
My goal in this blog and in my coaching practice is to help you (1) learn to accept what you’re feeling and then (2) how to process that feeling.
Our feelings come from our thoughts. We proved that in the last blog with the lottery and death example. When we first realize the power our thoughts have, we often jump right to the “let’s have happy thoughts” place in our life. If we only think happy thoughts, then we’ll only feel happy. While this is true my experience is that that’s not possible. We don’t live in a bubble. I grew up in a family that only wanted to see happy, positive emotions and I spent most of my childhood feeling like something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t good enough for family. I was taught to go to my room if I was sad, angry, or anything but “smiling Susie”. When I view my emotions as gifts showing me what I can work on or where I get to grow, I accept my feelings as helpers on this path of life. In fact, when I look at the awesome things in my life now, they all began with a difficult or negative emotion. My decision to leave my marriage, my decision to start my business, my decision to begin dating again, my decision to re-define my relationship with my biological family…difficult emotions at first and then, boom! Growth and bliss! So many amazing things come from allowing ourselves to feel the more difficult emotions that I encourage you to allow more into your life. Not only will you rid yourself of the damaging language “I shouldn’t be feeling this way” (BS – because you are feeling it!) but you continue to evolve into that next best version of yourself. As my life coach says: “Discomfort is the currency of our dreams”.
Once we accept that we are going to experience difficult emotions 50% of our time on earth, we can move past resisting them and into the “how to process emotions” stage. This is crucial work because depression is caused by suppressing your emotions. When you resist feeling emotions, you create so much drama in your life. When you allow yourself to feel, physically feel, your feeling, the feeling will pass. Emotions are energy in motion. Simply put, there is an energy in your body that needs to be processed. We can see little kids processing their emotions every day. They might cry; rage; get really quiet. At some point they were taught to keep that inside (bad!) and thus began many of our damaging behaviors (over drinking, blaming others, over shopping, etc…) Yes, you might feel uncomfortable as you process the emotion but I assure you that you are physically able to process any emotion. And, that it will pass. It is only when we suppress our emotions that we run into trouble. We end up feeling a piece of our emotion over and over without moving through it. Not helpful. When we allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling you enter a new calming and peaceful way of being. Let’s do it!
How do we process our emotions? There are many tools (journaling, meditating, working with a coach, etc) and they all follow this same path:
1) Name It: Name your feeling. Name your emotion. A feeling is one word. Here is a list of some of them. When I say name it, I mean actually label your emotion. When we put a word to what we’re feeling we begin to process the energy of the emotion through us. Eg “I feel disappointed”, “I feel threatened”, “I feel lonely”.
2) Describe It: What does your feeling feel like in your body? Feelings are energy in motion and are physical sensations in your body. Where do you feel it in your body? Does it feel hot or cold? Sharp or soft? Do you feel short of breath? Nauseous? The more specific, the better.
3) Allow It. Keep your mind on the physical feeling. Breathe. The feeling will pass, usually within 90 seconds. Stronger emotions are less comfortable to feel but don’t jump off the wave mid-stream. You can handle any emotion or feeling that comes your way.
Each of these steps is equally important and I urge you move through all 3 steps. As a whole, we spend an awful lot of time and energy avoiding our feelings. I assure you it’s actually easier to feel the darn things than to spend all this time avoiding them. To illustrate this point, imagine your emotions as a beach ball. Close your eyes and imagine how easy it is to hold the beach ball above the water. This is what it feels like when you’ve developed your emotional intelligence and are able to process your emotions. Now imagine holding that beach ball under the water. This is what we’re doing when we avoid feeling our emotions. Think of the energy you use as you push against the ball. When you finally allow the ball to surface, it comes up forcefully and with a bigger splash the longer you hold it under. The same is true when you allow yourself to be sad or angry or disappointed. If you resist those emotions for a long time, they will come out of you explosively and without much control. This is when we yell at our loved ones or overeat standing up. When you begin to practice releasing your emotions you will feel a deep sense of release and calm.
Let’s go forward this week with an open mind to feel what we’re going to feel. Notice when you do things to avoid feeling what you’re feeling (shopping, eating, blaming others, etc..) Be kind to yourself as you observe what you’re feeling and how you manage your feelings. Depending on your age, you’ve had a lot of years to program yourself on how to process or not process your emotions. This week put on your detective cap and look at your tendencies. So much of life is learning and looking. I like to remind myself that my feelings are here to teach me something and that “nothing has gone wrong here”. It is normal for us to feel a wide range of emotions.
We create drama in our lives when we resist feeling our feelings. You’ve got this warrior. It’s time. Emotional Adulthood is a magnificently freeing place and I’m here to support you. Feel. Cry. Laugh. Do what you need to do but mostly? Treat yourself kindly and with compassion. I’m here for you warrior. If you haven’t already completed my 10-Day Online Program to feel better and reduce overwhelm, sign up now. It will help you see where you’re adding drama to your life and how to start taking small Feel Less Overwhelmsteps to feel better today. Use coupon code RESTART through the end of the month. I spent many years feeling very alone on this path of self discovery which is why I have so many ways to support you. You’re not meant to do this alone and I am here for you.
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