We are all on our own hero’s journeys, seeking to live our best lives. We strive to do what we really love, experience relationships more deeply, and present our most authentic selves to the world. Essentially, we are learning how to increase emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is what empowers us to harness our feelings to drive our thinking and behavior in a positive way.
However, mastering our emotions is difficult because they often run on autopilot. Powerful feelings like grief, anger, and shame overwhelm us with forceful physical sensations. We rarely give a thought to the idea that these feelings are simply a response to reality. They are not reality itself! When this happens, we feel the tragedies and frustrations of the world happening to us – rather than simply happening. The result is a spiral of uncontrollable emotions and unhealthy responses to them.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can master our emotions more powerfully. The first thing we can do to increase emotional intelligence is to recognize that feelings are not facts.
Feelings Are Not Facts
Facts are things that are proven to be true. There is physical evidence or data supporting their truth, and they have an actual existence in reality. Feelings are not facts. Even when we experience very strong feelings, only the physical manifestations of those emotions are real. For example, our palms may sweat when we feel fear, or we may get a lump in our throats when we feel sadness.
When we seek to increase emotional intelligence, we must learn to separate our feelings from the assumptions we often make about reality. For example:
- If you fail at something and you feel shame, your feeling of self-reproach does not mean that you are actually incompetent.
- After you lose a beloved pet and you feel deep grief, your sadness doesn’t mean that you are pathetic.
- When you are mistreated at work and you feel anger, your outrage does not mean that you are an ill-tempered person.
Feelings are fleeting and they are simply the way we react biologically to stimuli around us. When we recognize that feelings are not factual representations of who we are, we can embrace our emotions more fully and make powerful choices about how to respond to them. This is the magic that will increase emotional intelligence.
You Are Not Your Feelings
Since the beginning of history, our emotions have played an important role in our survival. For example, fear increases the heart rate and causes the body to release adrenaline to run faster from a predator. As humans began to form societal groups, shame played a healthy role in social dynamics to help people get along. Anger increases blood flow to the extremities and organs, enabling a person to better defend themselves physically in a conflict.
While these emotions played important roles earlier in history, and they still serve us in very valuable ways, people in modern society are more often finding themselves locked in fight-or-flight mode. In this case, chronic stress hormones are released from constant feelings of anger, fear and shame. The stress takes a permanent hold, with serious physical repercussions like hypertension, weight gain, migraines, digestive maladies, and more.
I’m not a medical doctor; please consult your physician if you are experiencing symptoms of chronic stress. That said, I also encourage you to practice mentally separating your feelings from who you are, because this can help address the source of the stress.
For example, while you may frequently feel angry, recognize that this doesn’t mean you are an aggressive person. Although you may feel shame, you are not inherently bad. Even though you feel sadness, that doesn’t make you a feeble person. You are not your feelings. Feelings are simply fleeting physical sensations that will, at some point, fade into the distance. This mindful practice can help to increase emotional intelligence and reduce the harmful impacts of stress.
Feelings Can Teach Us
Our emotions are here to teach us powerful lessons. Sadness, anger and shame are here to help us harness the power that we hold to exert influence on the world around us and live joyfully.
Deep, powerful emotions often surface when there’s something we want and haven’t been able to acquire it. For example, we want to receive acceptance, but instead experience rejection. Alternatively, we might want to achieve a new milestone, yet fail to reach it. In cases like this, emotions rush in. In these moments, we can tell ourselves, “This emotion is not who I am, but it does have something powerful to teach me. What can I learn from these feelings?”
When we slow down and hit the pause button, we can fully experience our emotions and leverage them to our benefit. Rather than letting our emotions run our lives, we instead recognize the feelings, separate them from truth and from ourselves, and find the power that they offer us. This is the secret to increasing emotional intelligence.
Complimentary Breakthrough Consultation
I’d love to visit with you to discuss how in-person or online breakthrough coaching can help you to increase your emotional intelligence and bring your best self to the world. I offer a complimentary online Engaging Breakthrough consultation via Zoom.
In this 30-60 minute online breakthrough coaching session, I will help you get crystal clear on where you are right now and where you want to be. I’ll give you my best professional recommendations to help you take your first steps toward your success breakthrough.
|Written by Craig Tennant
Founder, Engaging Breakthroughs
Transformation Architect and Breakthrough Coach
At Engaging Breakthroughs, Craig Tennant delivers