Four Steps to Emotional Freedom
As physicians, we are generally regarded as intelligent. However, we often are not as emotionally intelligent as we could be. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your emotions, express them and use them in positive ways. Emotional literacy is the ability to communicate about our feelings. If you can’t express your emotions honestly and feel understood, you will likely become angry, frustrated and sad. It is so important to learn how to speak about our emotions in a healthy way that creates good relationships and fosters intimacy with others. Here are 4 steps to becoming a more emotionally literate person:
1. Become Aware of Your Emotions. This seems extremely obvious, but it is not always that simple. There are times that an emotion can have been held in for so long, that the person feeling it can no longer identify it clearly. An easy way to get in touch with your feelings is to create a feelings chart. You can add to it daily and keep a record of your emotions. The more you can understand what you feel, the less power it has over you, the more control you have and the more you can use it to your advantage. As doctors, some of us have been traumatized by the deaths of patients, some of us feel stressed, are overworked or feel underappreciated and resentful. Making note of these emotions on a daily basis can be a great way to move through them in a healthy manner. 2. Acknowledge & Accept Your Emotions. Do not Judge Them. Holding in emotions is absolutely terrible for our physical and mental health (you know that) and it can ruin your relationships. If a patient came to you with headaches, tension, muscle spasms and stomach problems, you would probably assess their emotional status just as you would their physical. But do you keep an honest account of your own feelings? Are you letting them eat at you from the inside, as well? The best way to deal with your emotions is to acknowledge them, accept that they exist and allow yourself to feel them. Do not tell yourself not to feel them, or judge yourself for how you feel. Just feel it. This will actually give you more control over the situation as you separate yourself from the feelings. The feelings are NOT you. They are merely a part of your life. 3. Don’t Give Your Emotions Too Much Power Emotions should not be dismissed, but they should be kept in perspective. You may feel tired, cranky or angry about your job. Maybe you feel that people stereotype you as a doctor. Those are all valid feelings and you have the right to feel them. However, you need to also realize that the situations you are upset about, may not be exactly the way that you are seeing them. For instance, you work long hours and make good money like most doctors. You, however, feel that people think you have a “cushy” job and get angry when people pigeonhole you as a “rich doctor.” There are two important things to keep in mind: The people that are doing that obviously don’t really know you, so you shouldn’t allow their opinions to send you into an emotional fit. They may not even think this. Have they said this or are you just taking something small that was said and making it mean more? You know, that making assumptions is dangerous territory, so tread carefully with your feelings and be aware that you may be blowing things out of proportion at times. 4. Communicate Honestly about Your Feelings Acknowledging and accepting your emotions will keep you healthy and happy. Keeping your emotions in perspective will allow you to be more self-aware and less likely to have emotional breakdowns or “fits.” Lastly, you must learn to communicate your emotions effectively. Here are the 3 steps to do that: Be grateful and kind to the person with whom you are speaking about your feelings. Acknowledge that they are giving you an outlet to safely talk about your emotions which can be deeply personal. Express yourself in a relatively quick manner. Don’t talk on and on. Just tell them what you are feeling and why. Talk it out with the other person. You may feel silly doing this, or worry that the other person will judge you, but you need to allow the other person the chance to help you with your emotions and come up with a solution. That is what healthy relationships are all about.