Emotional Agility By Susan David

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Who should read this?

  • People who want to learn how to deal with negative emotions and the world at large.
  • Working professionals who every day handle a lot of work pressure as well as employees.
  • Married people who want to live in a peaceful relationship

Emotions make us human. It is that wonderful gift of nature which keeps us moving ahead in life. It inspires us; push us through the roller-coaster ride of life. It makes us laugh and even cry. We owe our liveliness to our emotions. But they harm us too if we are not wise enough to handle our negative emotions.

“I am not good enough,” “If only I had a better job,” “I will never be able to learn that”.  Don’t we use such statements very often?

Unfortunately, our limiting emotions, negative patterns and self-sabotaging statements create a ladder of negative emotions and hook you in it during entire lifetime.

In the book Emotional Agility, you will learn how to look at these self distorting stories created by your own mind. You will find ways to unhook yourself from these unhelpful patterns and negative emotions. And you will learn that being an emotionally agile means dealing with your emotions as they arise, an ability that is sure to benefit your relationships and your work and also your relationship with yourself.

You will also learn

  1. Why you don’t have to try being happy if you don’t feel like being happy.
  2. How downplaying your dark sides can actually makes you less self-confident

It’s always what You take out from your experiences in life

As we go through experiences good or bad; we create stories around those experiences. Such stories are distorted most of the times as they are based on our limited ability to perceive those experiences. These stories become hooks and we remain hooked to such stories. And that’s not good as distorted stories produce negative emotions and narrow down your ability to look at new experiences in life.

For instance, you felt neglected repeatedly while you are a kid. When you grow up it becomes your story that you are not enough lovable. It leads to bringing bitterness in your every relationship thereafter in life. These kinds of distortions happen every day. You had a fight over some issue in office, instead of resolving your issues at the office you, the fight negatively clouds your thinking and hence you go home and slap your children or scold your wife.

Simply put, we rarely see our lives as they are. Rather, we weave distorted stories that make us emotionally unhappy. Here comes the importance of emotional agility where you learn to step back from the emotions and figure out what you need to do to change the negative event into positive.

One should stop pretending to be happy all the time. Forced optimism avails nothing. Avoiding negative emotions by forcing a smile and thinking positive – though a common strategy – tends to do more harm than good.

Research has proved that people with a genuine smile are lot happier than those who fake smile. Genuine smilers were blessed with happier lives in terms of marriages, well-being, and careers.

It might seem counterintuitive but another reason not to suppress negative emotions is that they can actually be very beneficial.

The author gives an example here. One of the author’s clients thought he had an anger problem. But, when analyzed, he realized that his actual problem was not the anger but unreasonable demands of his wife to which he was responding with anger in frustration. His response seemed more appropriate given the circumstances.

So, he took the pain to observe and recognize his emotions, which help him create a meaningful conversation with his wife to improve the marriage thereafter. Had he been tried to remain positive thinking, the real problem would not have got addressed by it.

So, howto be practical and understand emotional agility

1. Showing up to your emotions

Many of us imagine our emotions, especially painfulemotions like monster. When faced with painful experience or emotions, youwould instinctively want to get away from it as soon as possible.

Rather, it is useful to stand firmly and face yournegative emotion and feeling coming out of it. This is the first stage indealing with your emotions: showing up.While doing it, you need to practiceself-compassion. We should learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes as we doin case of children.

In 2012, psychologist David Sbarra made a study of divorcees. He found that participants who expressed self-compassion recovered from divorce faster than those who resorted to self-criticism or blame.

Self-compassion involves taking a broad view of yourself, accepting who you are and seeing everything, including all your flaws, with compassion.

Self-compassion, then, assists indealing with negative emotion and self-criticizing patterns. But, its notalways easy to feel it. When you are drowned into thoughts of criticism andself-sabotage, it is difficult to practice self-compassion. Here comes the nextstep in becoming emotionally agile.

2. Stepping out of destructive emotions with mindfulness

The creation of space between you and your emotions will make you a better person. Becoming mindful helps you create that space. It allows you calmly observe your emotions and your environment.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying purposeful attention to something, be it a sensation, an emotion or your breathing, without making any judgment.

Mindfulness is the antidote to distraction. When you are mindful, you recognize negative emotions, your basic need behind such emotions and learn to address that need effectively.

3. Taking decisions that are really your own 

The author suggests that you MUST know your WHY. 

Tom shadyac, the director of Hollywood blockbusters like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, seemed to be on top of the world. At relatively young age he was successful and rich.

But, he was not happy. He had spent years working towards an ideal life, and yet, when he got there, he longed for something simpler in life. He sold all his possessions, donated significant amounts of money to charity and opened a homeless shelter. He found it more fulfilling to do what he wanted to do, rather than what society expected of him. Everyone has a different definition of success or achievement and one should stick to his own definition.

So fight the urge to follow the herd and think carefully what you really want for yourself from life. A sense of clarity will change your life for the better. Indulge yourself with meaningful work in life. It reduces stress and anxiety.

4. Moving on with your emotional agility

In order to move on with your emotional agility, practice making yourself more emotionally available to your friends, family, and colleagues.

Ensure that your environment is enough challenging and stimulating for continuous growth. A routine tasks or job just increases boredom and brings rigidity with it. So its important to spice things up a bit. Better to search for something a little daring.

Try to live at the edge of yourpotential where you create a little positive stress from new situations withsecure feelings of assurance and calm. A good way is to keep learning somethingnew one by one.

To Sum it up:

If you want to live a fruitful and peaceful life, you need to develop emotional agility. It comes with separating yourself out from your negative emotions and negative patterns. This gives you the space to examine your environment and help you find a better option to deal with surroundings. Never compromise on your values and principles and often move out of your comfort zone to find creative solutions for problems in life.

About the Author:- Dr. Susan is clinical psychologist. She runs the Institute of Coaching at the McLean Hospital, in Massachusetts. She is consultants to major companies helping the employees to break the barriers to become more productive in personal as well as professional life.

Principles: Life & Work by Ray Dalio

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