Emotional awareness? Or more specifically, what are you feeling right now?
You may be thinking, “It doesn’t really matter what I’m feeling. It’s what I’m doing that is most important.”
I believe most of us experience life backwards. We do activities, experience situations, hear conversations, and allow those things to “make” us feel whatever we’re feeling. Many of the individuals and couples we coach tell us this in a variety of ways. They think they have no control over their feelings, which also has an affect on the things they do and say, and more importantly, on the quality of their relationships.
“When she makes me angry, I lose my temper and yell at her.”
“When he sits on the couch watching TV, it makes me feel alone and scared – as if hockey is more important than our relationship. And there is nothing I can do about it.”
Here’s my take on it.
I can choose my feelings first, and then choose to think, speak and act in ways that line-up with, and support the feelings I want. Sure, there may be circumstances that are incongruent, however these allow me to be curious, to shift perspectives, and to be the most effective and productive in the use of my resources, always maintaining my desired emotional state.
The question again, “What are you feeling right now?”
If you’re like most of us, you’ll need to stop whatever you are doing and pay attention to what’s going on for you. Recent research shows that only about 1/3 of us are aware of the present moment feelings. It’s not natural, and it takes work.
Until a few years ago, the only feelings I had were happy, mad, sad, or scared, and I wouldn’t let anyone know I was scared. That was it. By working at it, I’m now aware of a much broader and richer range of emotions that I get to choose to experience.
What feeling did you come up with for you, right now?
“So what?” you say.
The next part is acceptance of the feelings. I like the Buddhist philosophy of acknowledging the feelings and accepting them – no right or wrong; good or bad. Just accept them as they are – right now. In accountable terms, at some level of consciousness, I have chosen my feelings and I own them.
We’re getting to the good part. When I’m aware of my feelings and accept them as they are, then I get to choose my action steps forward.
“How do I know what to do?” you ask (or might ask). Great question.
What matters to you?
This is the important question that helps guide decisions in all areas of life – my life and your life.
Often when coaching, we’ll ask this question about what matters. Responses usually are: happiness, love, joy, peace, fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment, accomplishment, cooperation, etc.
Any of those fit for you?
Yet, when we invite clients to step away and look at their life and the situation from an observer’s perspective, they realize their behaviour is not consistently aligned with what matters most to them.
You’ve probably guessed the next step, “What are you going to do about it, specifically?”
Here’s what I did.
Recently, I was in a funk based on the situation I was in. I’d chosen to be frustrated, overwhelmed, and not-so-pleasant to be around. I was being a victim (other words come to mind too, but I’ll be gentle on myself). When I finally stopped and consciously noticed what I was feeling (emotional awareness), I was able to accept it as my choice.
When I zoomed out, I realized my behaviour was not in alignment with what matters to me, and how I want to show up in this world. My behaviour was not enhancing the quality of my relationship with Carol.
With that emotional awareness, a plethora of possibilities occurred to me – as if they popped out on the table in front of me (in fact, it’s helpful to write them down so you can review them objectively). I had lots of choices, which negated any feelings of victimhood.
Being consciously aware of what matters to me, I was able to prioritize and let go of the actions that weren’t very important to me. It allowed me to make accountable decisions – to complete anything I’d already committed to, and commit to a few actions that will take me where I want to go – where I want to focus my attention.
No, it brought up feelings of discomfort and fears. Accepting them, I realized those fears were based on past experiences and my perception that it would be the same in the future, which was totally untrue.
Is emotional awareness of what I’m feeling now a life-changer? It has been for me.
What about you and your level of emotional awareness?
What actions might you choose now, when you increase your emotional awareness of your feelings, and pay attention to what really matters to you?