How do you know if you’re emotionally intelligent?
Emotions. Popular psychology tells us there are six basic emotions: sadness, fear, happiness, surprise, anger, and disgust. Emoticons and emojis tell us there are several hundred more, including my favorite emotion: taco.
Emotions are the physical, snap reaction to a situation before the mind has had time to process them for an appropriate (or inappropriate) reaction. And for introverts who internalize those emotions and emotional reactions, we place the luxury of straining them through our various self-care techniques on the back burner. We let them sit and stew there so we can overthink the situation or because we don’t want to burden others.
And when we suppress that which we’ve internalized, we place our emotional intelligence at risk, because we repeat the same emotional reaction to the same situation without the benefit of any growth. Our relationship with God is at risk as well when we replace salvation and faith with emotions and feelings about God based on situations. We apply an emotional response to an emotional, post-modern situation, then try to force God to fix it immediately so the universe is back in order again. And when He doesn’t, we blame Him, blame each other, and question all we thought we knew.
No wonder we seem more fallen than ever before.
I know, we introverted believers like to think ourselves as self-aware intellectuals, who are deeply reflective about scripture. We might be, however I’ll bet there are quite a few of us who either shrug off negative emotions and the shaken world around us as a “season” or find we are actually comfortable in the solitude of our own fog.
Emotions, Emotional Reactions and Feelings
Maybe you make a career-killing mistake and anxiety flash floods over you in a cold sweat. Or, perhaps you have a major parenting fail, and regret sits heavy on your chest like a ton of bricks. Or, maybe, as is the case with me most of the time, anger strangles you, choking back words that could temporarily band-aid, but would scar for longer.
These physical reactions are triggered by the emotion.
Your emotional reaction – your fight or flight – can be damaging or encouraging, healthy or unhealthy.
Your feelings are the state in which you process thoughts and ideas over a longer period of time.
As Introverts, we can take a huge step in emotional well-being by embracing our aptitude for self-awareness. Recognizing and acknowledging the event that triggered the emotion, resulting in the emotional reaction, is a healthy way to then experience the feelings that follow.
How you process those feelings will produce the recipe for your next emotional reaction when placed in a similar situation.
So, What’s an Introvert to Do?
“Getting in touch with your feelings” is not reserved for therapy rooms, support groups or hippie communes. It’s not a conservative or liberal approach to life. Religion, politics and teenaged girls do not corner the market on emotions and its after shock: feelings. It’s not reserved for Introverted Feelers and is not a sign of weakness.
Emotions and feelings can be difficult for anyone to process, but for introverts who are laser-focused on their self-sufficiency, solving the problem takes priority over feelings every time.
Here are six tips to processing your feelings for a healthier emotional response:
1. Acknowledge your emotions out loud in one simple sentence. Naming and stating your emotion as a fact, out loud, diminishes the occupancy in your mind leaving room, and energy, to focus on other priorities. When we state it aloud, we also put a stop to letting our mind wander, and creating false realities as we overthink what shoulda-coulda-woulda.
2. Stop trying to be a fixer. Introverts strive to seek answers to problems as soon as possible so they can quickly get back to status quo. Part of processing feelings is allowing them to run their course without letting them lead the race. When I give myself permission to not address something immediately, I allowed the aftershock of my emotions to pass before I put too much into words or actions.
3. Return to the situation. Maybe life happens or I’m still letting those feelings run their course, but If I do not return to the situation and state the emotion aloud or understand how my reactions might affect others, I’m setting myself up for cyclical, unhealthy behavior. However, when I intentionally come back to the problem, meditate and pray over all the emotions and feelings, journal about them, or even talk them over with a precious friend, I find I am in a much better position to handle the next emotionally charged situation.
4. Get artistic! Another healthy way to process feelings is through artistic expression. I’m an author so I like to create characters. I capture my physical response, the response of others, my habits, my tone of voice, my posture, etc. so that when I’m creating a story, my character descriptions are as authentic as possible. Next time you’re reacting to an emotional situation, try to process your feelings through creating writing, baking, song lyrics, singing, or painting.
5. Get Moving! We probably know by now that exercise produces serotonin and other chemicals that naturally elevate mood. When we are physically fit, we also get out of the house to experience enjoyable activities like day trips to hike state parks and volunteer for worthy causes. Not only does the focus shift from ourselves and our problems, being in nature and helping others reduces feelings of isolation.
6. Forgive and receive forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32 states, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Hanging on to self-inflicted hate speech and being your own toughest critic is impressing no one. Christian and secular publications alike, tout the healthy affects of forgiveness. Even small acts of giving and receiving forgiveness can diminish the rush of adrenaline our body produces in stressful situations and leaves us with more balanced and mindful responses to other stimuli.
Now that we now better how to manage our feelings, with practice and intention (and prayer!) we may be smarter about managing emotional reactions to painful and stressful situations. We can respond with persuasion rather than in defense and decisively rather than confrontationally.
How would you rate your emotional intelligence? What techniques might work for you to help process your feelings?