Around the same time my Grandfather died last year, my son’s best friend moved away. I told Ben, "It's okay to be sad." The kid’s parents bought a beautiful new home across town, so my son has lost his favorite friend, the kid who sat next to him every day at lunch. To my little boy, it seems unfair. And although losing a friend he had only known six months pales in comparison to losing the patriarch of our family, the same truth applies to both: it's okay to be really sad.
When we prevent ourselves from experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion, it's like we're sawing off an arm or leg with a dull butter knife. It's hard, painful, and unnecessary work. In denying ourselves the right to feel angry, sad, or disappointed - anything but joyful - we're amputating pieces of our souls. This just causes more trauma that will eventually, stubbornly, rise to the surface.
We treat much of our trauma and pain the same way sickness is treated in the Western world. Too often, we treat the obvious symptoms while ignoring the root cause. Over-the-counter cold medicines are designed to treat the effects of the illness: a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion. They make us feel better because we can’t see the symptoms anymore, but the virus is still wreaking havoc on our systems.
It’s the same when we feel overwhelmed. We might use words like anxiety, stress, despair, worn out, exhausted, or just plain done. If we aren’t dealing with a genuine psychiatric diagnosis, we’re describing intense emotions that we are used to stuffing down or covering up. But what would happen if we stopped trying to squelch or rush through it? What if we asked our emotions what they’re trying to communicate to us? Isn’t listening to our inner voice a great mark of wisdom?
It's okay to be really sad: the truth about emotional wisdom. via @iamsteveaustin #emotionalintelligence #catchingyourbreath
Emotional wisdom is the collective knowledge and experience that result from having lived a life of emotional diversity. You obtain emotional wisdom by learning from past mistakes and taking that which you’ve learned into the future with you. It is give-and-take: you receive the experiences and decide what serves you the best to remember and use in the future.
Our emotions are continually giving us messages about what feels good and what doesn’t, what feels right and what feels wrong, what is acceptable and what isn’t, and the ultimate direction we should be going. Our emotions tell us when things are great, or when they need to be improved.
In denying ourselves the right to feel angry, sad, or disappointed - anything but joyful - we're amputating pieces of our souls. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #emotionalintelligence
Listen: A huge part of developing emotional wisdom is in learning how to listen to and interpret the experiences we have. By listening to your emotions, you can gain a broad understanding of what’s going on inside you. What’s going on inside you can affect your physical health and mental well-being, so it pays to listen carefully. Doing so will help you manage stress, which can manifest itself in many negative emotions.
Trust: Trust in your ability to feel and be felt, and interpret your feelings accurately. Trust that you can handle whatever emotions come your way - after all, you’re still here, aren’t you? We are all much more capable than we tend to give ourselves credit for, so while you’re listening to your emotions, trust that what you’re hearing is the truth. Never second guess yourself when it comes to feeling. Whatever it is you are feeling is valid and worthy.
Reflect: Your ability to look at your emotions realistically concerning the situations with which they arise is essential in developing your emotional wisdom. Notice we said reflect - not react. As you are listening to your emotions, logically examine whether your emotion matches the situation that it came from. Often, we are used to telling ourselves stories regarding our feelings that simply aren’t true - they are just habits. Therefore, honest reflection is a valuable skill to possess.
Adjust: The ability to adjust your emotion to your present situation is a sign of true emotional wisdom. Like anything, this takes practice, but when you learn to interpret the messages your emotions send you accurately, you can adjust as you feel necessary.
True emotional wisdom comes from looking within and listening carefully to what we feel to give us clues that help us live healthier, happier, more productive lives.
Do you control your emotions or do they control you? Read this. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #emotionalintelligence
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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