Emotional agility means being aware and accepting of all your emotions, even learning from the most difficult ones. – Susan David
If emotions are signals, we better learn how to read them instead of pushing them away.
The science of emotions is clear: to lead lives that are healthy and meaningful, we have to learn how to listen to ourselves and sit with our emotions.
Not to indulge in them, not to reject them: just let them be. And, more importantly, let them be our guides in what’s happening inside of us.
This might sound like a simple idea in theory. But are we applying it in practice?
I must admit that as I’m writing this, I am in a deep Christmas season that I do happen to celebrate. This year it also happens to mean more than usual family time which tends to bring up a range of emotions in me, including the ones I neither want to deal with nor experience often (which makes it even more difficult to deal with!). And this is where we can talk about two things: my external reaction to these emotions (do I shout? do I roll my eyes? do I drink more than expected of that Christmas wine?) and my internal interpretation of them.
It’s the latter that can change the former.
How I frame my emotions will influence how I am with myself and others:
Whether I blame myself for having them or hold myself with compassion and see it as a learning opportunity will determine how long I feel a certain way and what I get out of it.
It’s a gift that keeps on giving, right?! (well, maybe not the gift I want to have, but still).
But it all starts with allowing myself to feel and identify what I’m feeling.
I feel helpless.
I feel tense.
I feel furious.
Only if we allow that emotion to be – instead of pushing it away and denying it’s there – can we then inspect it, carefully and with compassion, and see what it’s telling us.
Maybe my anger towards a comment on my piece of clothing means that external validation still means more to me than what I’d like it to mean?
Maybe my fear that no-one will turn up tells me there are abandonment issues I could work to address?
Maybe my discomfort when I talk to a specific person and “can’t leave the conversation” indicates that I still need to work on my boundaries and say NO?
So many signals! But only if we listen.
So how ARE you feeling? And what is this emotion telling you?
For a deeper dive, I want to leave you with Susan David, a psychologist and author I really like. In her book – and the podcast episode above! – she explains the concept of emotional agility and how it can help us in navigating and understanding our emotions.
“Navigating and understanding our emotions” – JUST the work of a lifetime, it’s it?
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