The notion of “Best Self” is something that has been talked a lot about lately. As therapists, we work with our clients on getting to their goals that feel aligned with their “Best Self”. A major part of this process is gaining more Emotional Intelligence (EI).
What do we mean when we say Emotional Intelligence? Here are three primary aspects of EI:
Let’s break these down!
Self-awareness is the ability to identify the sensations in your body when you are having an emotion. For example, when feeling sad, you may be aware of your stomach feeling heavy, lower energy throughout your body, and tingling behind your eyes. Maybe for your body, the emotion of sadness has different sensations.
Self- awareness promotes one’s ability to not only identify their own emotions, but also bring more awareness of how to respond to these sensations. If you don’t know that you are feeling sad, you may choose to do tons of projects at work, even though your body and mind need time to re-energize. If you are aware of being sad, you may choose to go for a walk, call a friend or watch a sad movie - in other words, you are more likely to choose self-care rather than working so hard.
Self-awareness complements one’s ability to manage or regulate their emotions. Have you ever experienced a time when you were angry because someone at work was crappy to you, but you end up yelling at your partner at home for something random? We get it, this happens a lot.
You may be aware that we are feeling sensations of an emotion (like anger), but the next step is to soothe ourselves so that your emotions are not expressed in a way that is harmful to you or your relationships.
Self-regulation requires the knowledge of what helps you calm down and to use the skill of applying this knowledge to your choices and behaviours. Some examples of things that help people soothe their “big feels” are: journaling about emotions, exercising, listening to calming music, taking a break and going outside for fresh air. These examples may work for you, or they may not. It is up to you to learn your own self-soothing techniques.
As you become experts in self-awareness and self-regulation, you will have an increased ability to empathize with the people around you. Empathy is a beautiful skill and quality; it is the ability to feel the emotions of another person even while you are feeling your own emotions. This will help you better understand the other person and ultimately lead you to better resolve conflict and feel more connected with each other.
One quote that sums up the beauty of Emotional Intelligence, “It is possible to speak with our heart directly. Most ancient cultures know this. We can actually converse with our heart as if it were a good friend. In modern life, we have become so busy with our daily affairs and thoughts that we have lost this essential art of taking time to converse with our heart.” - Jack Kornfield
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