I’m a middle child from a loud and emotional family. Growing up, everyone expressed how they felt – except for me. I decided at a young age to hide my feelings and live inside my head. Emotionally healthy people struggle much less with depression and anxiety. I know this from the research and personal experience.
From age 16 to 22, I used negative coping mechanisms to contain my feelings (e.g. worry, alcohol, nicotine, social isolation, etc.) Some of these coping mechanisms became bad habits I still have today. I don’t drink or smoke anymore, but I still struggle with identifying and expressing how I feel.
The Damage of Stuffing Your Emotions
- You don’t get to enjoy positive emotions.
- It leads to loneliness because nobody understands you fully.
- You become fearful and anxious all the time.
- You miss out on understanding yourself better.
- People will struggle to trust you.
- Your relationships stay at the surface level.
- You’re uncomfortable with the emotions of others.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions” – Brene Brown
2 Tools for Becoming Emotionally Healthy
1. Identify Your Emotional Experiences
A couple of times each day, write what emotions you’ve experienced recently. Then answer 3 questions about each feeling.
Question 1. What am I feeling? Write down the feeling, positive or negative.
Question 2. Why am I feeling this way, or what happened that caused this feeling?
Question 3. What am I learning about myself, or what insight have I gained because of this emotional experience?
Here’s a resource of 40 Common Emotions & Their Definitions (20 positive & 20 negative) to help you with this activity.
2. Communicate How You Feel
Express some of these feelings with friends, family, or co-workers. This can be done verbally or in writing (email, card, etc.). You can share your answers to the above questions. It might feel awkward, but just simply be open.
One huge benefit to being emotionally open is that people will view you as safer because you’re no longer a mystery.
Being open emotionally improves your leadership capacity, as well. According to Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, emotionally smart people have 5 traits that make them better leaders.
Leadership & Emotional Intelligence
- Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals, as well as, recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-regulation – controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Social skills – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
- Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions
- Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.
“Live in your head, you’re dead” – Tony Robbins
Increasing your emotional intelligence takes practice. Try engaging in one of the above exercises each day. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a helpful book on the topic, too. In my next post, I will shared with you 2 more tools for increasing your emotional intelligence.
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