Emotional Agility

On a girls night out amongst a couple friends whom I feel very close and comfortable with, ones I can be open-hearted and vulnerable with… you know, your ‘circle of trust’ tribe…. I decided to share some strong emotions I was juggling.

A close family member who was in the thick of emotional struggles and pain was desperately needing someone to physically be beside them to anchor them in their process. I was contemplating how I could manage to be there for them.

In my sharing I began to get very choked up and teary-eyed ~ not a common expression for myself. I was exposing raw personal expression of how this circumstance was playing out for myself ~ I was in process. I could physically feel this family member’s pain. I have always strongly believed that if I can label it, I can handle it.

However, I was a bit taken aback as the energy in the room abruptly shifted. Each of my friends quickly attempted to shuffle my emotions away. Statements like, “You are getting too emotional”, “You are really too in it”, was now taking over the space…. the vulnerable space … the vulnerable space I had trusted now felt rigid. Did I trip over an imaginary emotional boundary? Is emotional expression ok to a certain point and then, ‘Oh! Wait! That’s too much emotion now, let’s push it away.’ In all honesty, it made me question myself ~ Were my feelings true? Was I being too sensitive? Was this situation not really that big of a deal? OR … was the company I was in not comfortable and accepting of their own deep emotions to be able to stand with me in mine? And what is the fear of being in such deep emotional expression anyway?

A week later this family member attempted to take their life.

Research on emotional suppression shows that when emotions are pushed aside or ignored, they get stronger. Psychologists call this amplification ~ the more you try to ignore it, the greater it’s hold on you. “We are caught up in a rigid culture that values relentless positivity over emotional agility, true resilience, and thriving,” says Susan David, Ph.D, a Psychologist on the faculty of Harvard.

Recently, a good friend of mine called me a “thrivivalist” thri-viv-al-list: Definition maybe?: A person who advocates or practices thriving.

Anyway,I love this new word!!

However, that night when I heard my friend say ‘you’re really in it’, I thought, “Of course I am really in it!”. If I can be in it then I can allow it to be what it is, process it, release it, and move into the better feeling space of solution. I have learned we cannot say goodbye to something before we have said hello to it. This is what I love about my newly learned term, *emotional agility. For me it means the ability to allow whatever is arising in me and be with it long enough that I can recognize it and then release it. Which to me is the middle ground between wallowing in it and completely pushing it away.

Always seeking the balance in life, yes?

Being human includes tough stuff. Only dead people are exempt from getting stressed, heartbreak, and never experiencing disappointment. I mean isn’t that why we are all here as humans anyway?… to feel and experience life?! Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you but that includes ALL the spectrums of emotions. If we can allow ourselves to accept where we are, even when we are experiencing deep hurt, pain, sorrow, loss, and betrayal, instead of running for the emotional exists, we will shorten the refractory period of these emotions and be able to more quickly embrace healing. It also gives us the confidence to stand in the [sometimes] uncomfortable space with another when they are at the bottom of their emotional barrel. We can hold space for each other and show up to the journal of our hearts.

I like to consider myself one of the most positive people I know, however this does not exempt me from feeling the tough end of life’s emotional spectrum. Full soul expression is how I move through suffering and move through pain. Then I can release any identity to it; any need for it to be a part of me or my story. I’ve somehow come to land in a place where even in my deepest sorrow I can still feel the joy of life trickling through me. Though let’s not misinterpret joy. Joy doesn’t always mean jumping up and down yelling ‘hooray’. It’s usually more subtle, like the simple joy of being alive, being present for the inhale and exhale, and truly being in gratitude to for this human experience. And human experience brings contrast. Every day can’t be amazing, every conversation can’t be amazing, every moment with your beloved can’t be amazing. But we can support, love, and seek to understand each other when these not-so-amazing days, conversations and moments arise. If we can label it, we can handle it. Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.

So let’s dismantle rigidity and embrace emotional agility.

It may be uncomfortable but I have faith we can process in a more loving way … together.

Big love. ♥

*Emotional Agility:
1) The ability to be with your emotions with curiosity, compassion, and especially the courage to take values-connected steps.
2) Being flexible with your thoughts and feelings so that you can respond optimally to everyday situations.

The Four Principles of Emotional Agility | By Susan David – Harvard Medical School psychologist
1) Showing Up – The ability to say ‘What is it I am really feeling?”. Moving out of the space of ‘I’ve got to be positive, I’ve got to be this or that.’ Showing up with curiosity and compassion to your experience and trying to do the same for others.
2) Stepping Out – Emotions provide data but are not the directors. Stepping out is not about pushing emotions aside but recognizing as humans our emotions have a place but are not the boss.  i.e. Instead of “I am sad” ~ “I am noticing I am feeling sad”
3) Walking Your Why – Connecting to the heartbeat of who we want to be in any given situation. How can I actively move towards my values instead of away. Do I contribute to the situation or shut down because I’m upset? The choice points… i.e. choosing trust or betrayal (muffin or fruit)
4) Timing Tweaks – Habits that are disconnected with our values. Small shifts we can make to create more values-connected behavior. i.e. We might value our loved one yet we stay on our emails/messages when they come home.

Big love. ♥

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