A deep breath can buy you more than time when managing emotions
Who would have thought that something as simple as a deep breath could help managing emotions
Emotional Intelligence is often considered to be an innate skill, but the reality is that it can be learned. What we need to do is simply take on new habits. A key one is taking a deep breath. This is harder than you think. Like a safe cracker it means moving the dial on your emotions until you find the exact spot where the door opens. This allows you to make your emotions work with and for you, to avoid self-sabotage. Becoming mindful and managing emotions buys so much more than time. It will help enhance your emotional intelligence and foster better relationships. You just have to learn how to do it.
Emotional intelligence is defined by Psychology Today as:
the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.
Identify your feelings
Many of us are not raised to properly identify and label our feelings which is critical to managing emotions and our emotional intelligence. Psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett in the New York Times, writes about emotional granularity and the significance in emotional intelligence. Emotional granularity,” is the “adaptive value of putting feelings into words with a high degree of complexity.” The benefits of granularity go beyond being well-spoken. She suggests:
The greater your granularity, the “more precisely” you can experience your self and your world.
In every days terms this means being able to identify your feelings precisely which allows you to respond accordingly and leads to greater awareness. Very often this may involve working with a therapist and examining practises from your family of origin. Karyn Hall PhD in a post in Psych Central indicates:
Children are not born knowing the names of emotions. They learn their emotions in much the same way as they learn the names of animals. When adults are careful and label emotions accurately, the process works smoothly. When the family is not comfortable with emotions, they may mislabel, omit, or refuse to recognize certain emotions and the child doesn’t learn to accurately label his emotions.
Erin is a competent, hard working, dedicated and successful mid-level HR Manager. She is a devoted mother and wife. She is known for having a hot temper and although she can control it in the office, she struggles with her immediate family where she becomes angry very quickly. Her rages flare up and she ends up shouting usually at Jim, her “long-suffering” husband. All her emotions are experienced and expressed as anger. In reality she might be afraid, anxious, disappointed, jealous, tired, isolated, or any other emotion which she is unable to name. Her rages are now impacting her marriage and her 8-year-old daughter has also taken to having age inappropriate tantrums. An inability for Erin to use her emotions to work for her has now become a family problem.
Working with a therapist Erin came to understand that having a mother who was an alcoholic, who raged continually both drunk and sober, had left its toll. Erin was simply emulating what was her childhood “normal.” She has passed this way of responding on to her daughter. They are taking steps as a family to get to a better place.
Of course if there is an issue that should genuinely cause you to be angry it can be a positive emotion. But care has to be taken when it is accompanied by rage because it means that you are acting in a way you may regret. You may forget your outburst, but the person you were raging against may not.
Take control of your thoughts
Getting to a situation where you can tune into your emotions to manage them, is rooted in the ability to take control of your thoughts. Every reaction has a thought process behind it and once you have these under control your emotional reactions will become more manageable too. So if you feel your pulse rise or you resister an extreme or specific response, what can you do?
This is when taking a deep breath or even several and becoming mindful is key. In that time you will be able to:
- Identify your real emotion. What do you feel? Put a name to it. Label it.
- Pay attention to the situation – what is really going on?
- Control your response. Buy time. This will allow you to listen better, moderate your voice and react accordingly. If you need even more time, ask an attentive listening question. “Help me understand……”
Emotions are part of every day life and without them life would be sterile. None of us can suppress or remove them from our personalities or beings, but we can take greater control to produce better outcomes and to stop ourselves self-sabotaging our relationships. In managing our emotions we develop our emotional intelligence.