How to be Self-Aware, According to the Professionals.

Emotional Responses and Self-Awareness.

Referring to the book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ- By Daniel Goleman. Find it here on Amazon https://amzn.to/2vf2bJh (Available for Kindle, Audiobook, and Hardcover). Also…if you use Amazon Smile, rather than Amazon, a percentage of what you pay for your product, goes to a charity of your choice, at no cost to you. Just saying.

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Goleman says that emotional intelligence is about being self-aware, mature and understanding. Although those are only a few things he mentions, those things relate to my life the most. It took me 25 years to learn self-awareness in a healthy way. It all started by getting diagnosed with anxiety and depression, after that, my entire life was revolved around the excuse of “Oh I’m depressed” and” No, that would give me anxiety”. I was using my diagnosis as an explanation for all of my behavior, which was wrong. My emotions were all over the place, my primary emotions no longer existed, and I had no grey area. Anger, sadness and fear were only present once in a while, and happiness was rare for me. Depressed, jealous, stressed, panicked, startled, irritable, confused, despair and frustration; those were my new primary emotions.
I had thought, since I could identify each emotion I was feeling, that that made me self-aware. Identifying your emotions is only half of it, you need to know why you are feeling those emotions, and how to handle them properly. By using the diagnosis as my reason for why I did everything I did, I was letting my diagnosis overwhelm my reason. “Without intelligent self-direction and monitoring, emotions naturally lead to a habit of reactivity” (Nelson, 2003). If we sit down and evaluate our emotions before acting on them, that shows emotional intelligence. If we do nothing but act upon our thoughts without thinking, then we end up making those negative actions a habit. My anxiety gave me anxiety, and every situation that ever gave me anxiety, gave me anxiety. Until one day, I told myself I was okay, and I no longer was letting my anxiety control me. Positive reinforcement actually works, I guess. My health and wellness depend on my emotional intelligence because mental disorders take much more concentration and training to work with and gain control with. Anxiety is also in the gut, so when my mental health is off, so is my entire body.
Dan Gilbert says that there are two kinds of psychological happiness; synthesize happiness and natural happiness. There are, however, issues with happiness due to psychological problems in the mind. We have expectations of what our future happiness should look like, allowing us to get let down much easier than if we just “went with it”. Gilbert says that “We suffer, more specifically, from three shortcomings in our imagination”. There is realism, which is the acceptance of a situation as is and knowing how to deal with it properly. Presentism, which is the imagined future and how it looks like the present because we are unable to predict many things, so we use our present situation to help us see into our future (Gilbert, 2007). Rationalization, “things will look different once they happen, in particular bad things will look better because we will always find some positive interpretation” (Gilbert, 2007).
When using realism, you could get stuck with your second option for a house but talk about how much better off you are than if you got your first choice. You will find positivity in the final outcome, because there is no changing it and so you have no choice but to be realistic about it and tell yourself you are happy. That would be synthetic happiness. When using Presentism, you are also realistically thinking about the future. You are not picturing yourself in a castle with maids and fancy dinners if you are living in a one-bedroom apartment with your fiancé. You are going to think about that promotion you hope to get, or that new house you are almost saved up for. Your future will be with you and your fiancé, and it will be much more realistic than if you used your imagination for your future.
These concepts influence my own health and wellness because I too try and think as realistically as possible when it comes to my decisions and my future. My imagination is so huge, and I lose touch with reality quite a lot. The only way I get anything done in life, is if I think realistically. My head gets caught in the clouds, so if I thought about my future and what I wished it would be, it would indeed be a castle on my own my island that I would make into a kingdom of my own. That is very unlikely, since I’ve researched islands, and I would need billions of dollars to get it all. Realistically, I should be looking for houses in the state of my choice that are big enough for me to have a greenhouse and a family. Thinking about my present, and using that to think about my future, brings my very unrealistic goals down to goals I can complete. “Our imagination is too conservative, we are trapped in a place, a time, and a circumstance; and our attempts to use our minds to transcend those boundaries are ineffective (Gilbert, 2007). The imagination is very strong, and could take over, I must be careful. My happiness when I get my house and my family will be natural and wonderful, and the sadness I would get if I were to have an unrealistic future, would be overwhelming.
Based on the readings, the things I am already doing in my life that I think these authors would support and agree with are meditation and yoga that I try to do daily. Being self-aware is something I work on every day, having healthy social skills has also been something that I really had to work towards due to the social anxiety I had to combat. Effective conflict resolution is something I need to change, because I tend to get defensive and yell before calmly trying to communicate. Same thing goes with impulse control, there is actually a disorder called Impulse-control disorder (ICD) that consists of a failure to resist temptation and the inability to not speak on a thought. I’ll always wonder if I should add that to my list of disorders, because impulse control makes my level of emotional intelligence sink down really far. Keeping promises are hard when you act before you think, impulse control has a lot to do with urges and temptations, and if something brings you pleasure, it is really hard to have self-control and say no. Self-control is a big thing that Gilbert mentions in his book, Emotional Intelligence. Self-regulation is another big one, not just self-control but controlling my behavior long-term to complete goals and resist bad habits.
My plan for change is to find a stable place to live, then start therapy again. If I can keep consistency and stability in my life, I should be able to gain control and keep a sane and mature level of emotional intelligence. Having to gain emotional intelligence when battling anxiety is tough, and I need to learn how to control and handle it. “Social anxiety is characterized by constant fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unknown persons or to the possible scrutiny of others” (Cejudo, J., Rodrigo-Ruiz, D., López-Delgado, M. L., & Losada, L. 2018). This article, called “Emotional Intelligence and Its Relationship with Levels of Social Anxiety and Stress in Adolescents” talks about the relationship between emotional intelligence and stress and social anxiety. It is relating this all to adolescence, but I think it still qualifies for me. It mentions that in order to reach emotional intelligence, you need a positive psychological well-being. That is a huge issue with people with anxiety and depression, my fight, flight, or freeze is either on freeze or flight. “Some anxiety serves a beneficial purpose when it warns of impending danger—too much anxiety, however, can hinder your performance and lower your achievement” (Nelson, 2003). I rarely stay to see the end result of anything that I fear. Nor do I put myself in a situation where I might even possibly fear something, it is a safe space or no space for me. Once I conquer how to control my fear and anxiety, then I can conquer emotional intelligence.
In the second article, it was all about following your gut. “Recent research suggests that anxiety and excitement are similar because both emotions are characterized by the anticipation of an outcome and by uncertainty, but they differ by valence and the behavioral consequences are distinct” (Brooks, 2014). We have been talking about a reward system, and how when we do something that gives our mind or body pleasure, we end up craving that, whether good or bad. “The ability model of emotional intelligence (EI) conceptualizes EI as four distinct abilities: (1) perceiving emotions, (2) using emotions to facilitate performance, (3) understanding emotions, and (4) managing emotions” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2003; Salovey & Mayer, 1990; Yip & Martin, 2006). Taking a walk for example, and hitting my step count, makes me want to walk more and increase my step count for each day. The reward of just getting healthier is not enough for some people, including myself. Simply being able to handle your emotions, is critical to achieving emotional intelligence, no matter what author is talking about it.

References:
Cejudo, J., Rodrigo-Ruiz, D., López-Delgado, M. L., & Losada, L. (2018). Emotional Intelligence and Its Relationship with Levels of Social Anxiety and Stress in Adolescents. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 15(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15061073


Yip, J. A., Stein, D. H., Côté, S., & Carney, D. R. (2019). Follow your gut? Emotional intelligence moderates the association between physiologically measured somatic markers and risk-taking. Emotion. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000561.supp (Supplemental)


Ott, J. (2009). Our Imagination of Future Happiness and Its Shortcomings Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(2), 253–255. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-007-9073-2


Schueller, S. M., & Parks, A. C. (2014). The science of self-help: Translating positive psychology research into increased individual happiness. European Psychologist, 19(2), 145–155. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000181


Gilbert, Dan. (2004). Ted Talk. The surprising science of happiness. Retrieved at https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy#t-653406

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