Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: {Emotional Awareness & Coping}

If you don't manage your emotions, then your emotions will manage you.  ~Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman, Transforming Anxiety

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.  ~Jim Rohn

Instead of posting all the links from the previous "Wellness Wednesday" posts as I have been doing, I decided to create an entire tab on my blog which gives some information on wellness, along with a link to every post. You can check it out (& catch up on previous "Wellness Wednesday" posts) here.

Today I'll be focusing on another component of Life Task 2: Emotional Awareness & Coping! 

Myers & Sweeney describe Emotional Awareness & Coping as the following:

Being in touch with feelings, being able to express/disclose feelings appropriately, ability to respond spontaneously and appropriately to life experiences from the full  range of possible human emotional responses, enjoying positive emotions, coping with negative emotions, lack of chronic negative emotional states (E.g., anger), sense of energy (vs. depression)

One belief I hear often from people is that all negative emotion is bad. The truth is, however, that it is not, and to feel the entire range of human emotion is what is healthy and normal. In life it isn't about trying to hide or deny any negative emotion, but it's about recognizing and dealing with it. Emotion tells us a number of key things in our life, and when we don't identify it, we miss many valuable messages and bits of information. If we open ourselves up to emotion, we WILL feel the negative, but we will also feel the positive. We can't just selectively choose emotions, and therefore we can't force ourselves to only feel the positive. BUT we can learn to deal with the negative in such a way that the positive will have a much bigger foothold in our lives.

Many times in this blog I've talked about the thought-feeling-behavior connection. What we think changes how we feel, which changes how we behave. Learning to become aware of our feelings is essential, because without awareness, our feelings rule our actions and behaviors (and let's be honest- that can be scary!).

Many times in life we feel an emotion, but it's actually an emotion that is covering the emotion behind it. For instance, we are hurt that our friend bailed on Saturday plans. Instead of telling her how hurt you are, you instead lash out in anger, which makes you less vulnerable. In order to be emotionally well, we need to be able to ask ourselves if the emotion we are feeling is being used to cope with or cover over another emotion, and what's the need to not deal with the primary emotion up front.

There's a lot that I could discuss in dealing with emotional awareness and coping, but seeing as there are an incredibly number of emotions and situations we need to cope with, I cannot do this. I will leave, however, give you a list of questions to start yourself thinking:

  1. Am I in tune with what emotion I am feeling, or do my emotions sometimes confuse me?
  2. Do I feel the entire range of emotion (negative to positive)?
  3. Am I afraid of certain emotions or are some emotions unacceptable to feel?
  4. Do I use some emotions (like anger) to cover over other emotions (such as hurt)?
  5. Am I aware of what situations trigger emotion?
  6. Can I recognize negative emotion as it is building (verses as its boiling point)?
  7. Do I have coping strategies for my emotion & negative life events? 
  8. Are these coping strategies healthy or unhealthy?
Now it's your turn:
Do you feel like you have good coping skills for negative emotions? Do you sometimes use one emotion to cover over another emotion? How does emotion change your behavior?

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