As a shy kid growing up, it took some time for my interpersonal skills to develop. It also took some time to develop my emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence contains multiple areas that include knowing one’s emotions: Self-awareness, Managing emotions, and Motivating oneself. It’s also a skill in recognizing emotions in others: Empathy, and Handling Relationships. The book Emotional Intelligence* by Daniel Goldman focuses on the evolution of certain parts of the brain that regulate emotional and rational behavior, how these parts can and have been mismatched in our modern life from their main use by our ancestors as an early warning system against dangers and the growing importance of finding a balance between emotion and rational thought in ourselves and how we interact with each other.
An exercise I learned was keeping an emotional journal. I’ve tried regular journaling, taking account of the day, but with emotional journaling instead of focusing on the events you focus on the specific emotions felt during certain situations or from interacting with people.
Writing an emotional journal has helped me develop:
- Emotional awareness
Observing your emotions in order to write them down trains you to be more present minded and mindful allowing you to identify your emotions as they arise.
- Emotional literacy
As you get your emotions out of your head, in being able to write and communicate my emotions, you can be a little bit more objective about them and understand them in context. Kind of like a scientist observing an experiment.
- Emotional Control
Now that you are more aware of your emotions, you have the mental pause that acts as a buffer towards reacting on emotions automatically. You can respond to your emotions.
- Emotional flexibility
With awareness and more control, you can manage your emotions and even convert one emotion to another by shifting your perspective and attitudes towards the situation that evoked that emotion.
Emotional maturity build the understanding that allows you to better connect with other people on a deeper level and you can better feel what they feel.
- More Happiness and Gratitude
Emotions are temporary and fleeting. Often times we don’t realize that negative emotions don’t have to take hold of us. We can let go and have freedom to choose happiness over negativity. We can be more grateful as we realize the preciousness of what we have and the people in our lives.
Some key times an emotional journal has helped me was during turbulent moments in relationships, difficulty at work or in getting feedback, hearing good news and learning to pause and celebrate or in helping to discover certain emotions that would trigger bad habits.
I’ve discovered things I enjoy more quickly because I bring better awareness to my emotions. I’ve discovered the power of being vulnerable and having the resilience to not put yourself down.
As a man, it took me way too long to appreciate emotions. Now I continue to develop them as a fundamental life skill. An example of an Emotional Journal entry I wrote:
“For many years I have been reluctant to say the words I love you. My thought was that the word had so much meaning and that it’s repeated use would devalue the word.
I read an answer to a question on Quora on why do people use I love you so much. One woman answered and stated that even though she used it a lot she wished she had used it more. Her husband had passed away and she wished she could tell him one more time.
I have a reluctance to truly expressing all my emotions and saying I love you is difficult. Maybe because I’m afraid of what I don’t understand.”
This was from 3 years ago, bringing awareness to this powerful emotion were the first steps in working towards becoming more open and finding the root cause of the things holding me back from freely expressing myself.
I try to write at least 5 entries a week as emotions are very complex and every changing, I can only get better. Your journal can be of any length, and you can write whenever you feel like.
Emotions can be shared responsibly and passionately. They are not meant to be repressed but understood. An emotional journal is a tool to become a more emotionally intelligent person.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
― Helen Keller
Also published on Medium.