Our emotions are the most present, vital and sometimes painful force in our lives. They dictate our thoughts, intentions, and actions. Thery are the glue that gives meaning to life and connects us to other people. When we are aware of and able to manage our emotions we think clearly. We make better decisions, and effectively manage stress and life’s inevitable challenges. Emotional awareness is therefore a crucial self-development area that we need to invest in.
The main reason why we do anything in our lives is to change the way we feel. Therefore when we leave ourselves to be at the mercy of our emotions we are on our way to self-destruction. Because the quality of our life is the quality of the emotions we consistently feel. When overwhelmed by emotions, our objectivity tends to go flying out the window and we become slaves to our emotions.
Growing up we are always commended for our intellectual intelligence. Nobody takes time to commend us on our emotional intelligence. It is a neglected area of our lives and yet one which is very crucial in our adult life. Emotional intelligence can help you succeed and also if you don’t master it, it can destroy everything that your intellectual intelligence built for you.
About 5 years ago, I met this other wonderful person, very intellectually astute but his lack of emotional intelligence had reduced him to a piece of bread. It had destroyed his career, his marriage and his relationship with his family. By the time I met him he was actually going through a depression.
After associating with him for a while I realised that his problem was his failure to control his emotions. I started having therapy sessions with him. In one of the therapy sessions I asked him what he wanted and his answer was simple, “I want peace in my life”. To cut the long story short, today he is one of my good friends and he has a hold on his emotions like nobody I have ever met. He has even managed to reconcile his relationship with his family and his wife and found the peace that he desperately yearned for and is happy.
After this encounter I then realised how much of an impact emotional intelligence has on somebody’s overall life and that’s why I decided to write about it today. I think we can all relate to this. Most of us have lashed out in anger and regretted it later.
We are all emotional beings, we all get excited or angry but how we deal with these emotions differ from one person to the other. Some people are able to contain their emotions more than others and that’s what we call emotional intelligence.
There are people whom when angry, everybody will get a fair share of their lashing out or if they are disappointed, they complain to almost everybody. I am not saying do not talk about your emotions, actually as a therapist I encourage people to talk about their emotions but lashing out on people is not the right way of doing it or directing your anger at everybody you come across. Most of the time, the anger will be directed towards the wrong people, what we call displacement in Psychology. You then end up yelling at your kids or your spouse because you have failed to deal with the anger.
On the other extreme are people who repress their emotions in the hope that they will just disappear. That’s, impossible, accept the feelings but choose not to let them take over. That is emotional intelligence. You don’t get anywhere by resisting emotions or trying to deny their existence. They’re very real, and the more you try to push them away, the more they actually stick around, so you’re better off learning how to possess them and let them blow through your branches while you remain planted. Repressing your emotions is just as dangerous as lashing out on people, it doesn’t solve anything. Rather it keeps them bottled up in some corner inside you and keeps building until it can’t be repressed anymore then you will break or explode.
I’m going to share some strategies that have worked for me and the people I have helped. It’s not an overnight journey but it is really one that is worth embarking on.
Pause and reflect
How exactly are you feeling and what caused this? The ability to categorize your emotions will help you find ways of better dealing with them. There is a difference between being annoyed and being enraged.
What you choose to focus on determines how you feel. To feel happy, focus on things in your life that will make you feel happy. In the same way, to feel depressed you have to focus on the negative. If you asked yourself, “What really sucks in my life right now?” I’m sure you’d be able to find something and end up feeling like crap. What’s wrong is always available, and so is what’s right, whatever you focus on you feel.
Your first step within this emotional state transformation process is to identify the emotion you are experiencing. This is important because if you are not sure what kind of emotion you are experiencing then you will struggle to respond accordingly.
To help you through this step, ask yourself the following two questions:
- What am I feeling right now?
- Am I really feeling this, or is there something more?
The greater clarity you have here, the more you will have to work with as you move through this process.
Every emotion points out to something if you listen clearly. For example, fear, it points out that something may happen that needs you to prepare for it. Discomfort may be pointing out to you that there is something that you can do and be comfortable. Frustration may be pointing to you that what you are currently doing isn’t working and therefore you need to change your approach. Guilty may be pointing to you that you have violated one or more of your own highest standards and you must do something to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Loneliness may be pointing out to you that you have disconnected from people and you need to rebuild your relationships.
- Give yourself time
Never ever act in the hype of the emotion. For example, when you are too excited, you may take risks that you will regret later and when you are too angry you may take actions that you will definitely regret later. Take a walk if you have to. Therefore instead of reacting emotionally in limiting ways to the events and circumstances in your life, take some time to remove yourself from your circumstances and step into your emotional fortress, which will help provide you with the answers and guidance you need to respond in positive and optimal ways.
Think of the consequences of the difference responses that you can give right now.
If you fail to control your emotions at work, you may result in getting fired, what are the consequences that comes with your anger if it results you in being jobless? If you hurt other people with your words when you are angry they may decide to leave your life, would you want to lose your loved ones over this moment?
4. Take Action
Build an emotional bank. Every time you go through an emotion and you overcome, you are building on your emotional bank. This is your place of comfort where you run and withdraw from in your times of distress.
Now that you have all the knowledge, support and information required to respond in a healthy and constructive manner, it’s time to take proactive action to transform your emotional state for the better.
Being in charge of your emotions is not as easy as it may sound but we all need to master it because at some point or another, our emotions will be put to the test. We are all going to get disappointed at some point, we are all going to get angry another time and we will need to ownership of our emotions.
Acknowledge your emotions — the good & the bad. Embrace all of them. But only become the ones you want to become. Simply possess the rest of them and keep going.
Cultivate emotional intelligence and you will be sure to reap the awesome rewards.
Happiness is a choice and so is anger. If you haven’t read my article on happiness then you may need to read it now. No one makes you feel “happy” or “angry”, it’s based on how you’re interpreting each situation in your life and the meaning you associate to it.
Emotional awareness helps you:
- Recognize what you like, what you don’t like, and what you need.
- Understand and empathize with others.
- Communicate clearly and effectively.
- Make good decisions based on values and priorities.
- Get motivated and take action to meet goals.
- Build strong, healthy, and rewarding relationships.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to catch yourself before your emotions become too intense. The bottom line is, either you control your emotions, or they will control you
If all this introspection sounds unnecessary, realize that people pay good money to therapists and life coaches for exactly this purpose: To help them reframe situations. They enlist these practitioners to help them find the most useful categorizations so they can choose the most appropriate actions to take. You can do this yourself and become an expert categorizer of emotion with enough practice, and you’ll find it gets easier with repetition.
Your daily emotional experience shapes the decisions you make and the actions you take. 90% of our lives we spend responding to what happens to us and clearly we need emotional intelligence to be able to master our lives.
Your thoughts work together to create the reality you experience on a daily basis. Moreover, they all come together and influence the emotions you experience at any moment in time.
You must, therefore, choose your thoughts consciously. The types of seeds you plant in your mind grow throughout the day. For better or worse, they will influence your perceptions of reality.
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