Emotional Courage

This week I’m reminded of a quote from Dr. Susan David, an instructor of Psychology at Harvard University: “Life’s beauty is inseparable from life’s fragility.”

I spend a lot of my time focused on positivity and happiness. I’ve learned that joy and happiness aren’t the only valued emotions. Most of my growth and resilience has come from experiencing sadness, grief and loneliness. It’s important to point out that by promoting positivity, I’m not encouraging anyone to avoiddiscomfort. Right now people are experiencing incredible loss, grief, pain and sadness. To just push that aside and think I have to be joyful or happy is not healthy or right. To be fully aware of what’s happening and what I’m feeling is what Susan David calls emotional courage. Being able to name what I’m feeling and to ask, “What is this telling me that’s important?” “What is this telling me about myself?” I’ve learned to be curious about my emotions these past few months. Our emotions try to help us. We shouldn’t to try to rush them out of our head and heart; but try to come to terms with them.

This is helpful in working with others who are going through an emotional experience. We may not understand what they’re going through and we may not have experienced what they are experiencing, but we can be present with them, we can show compassion and we can be curious. What are they experiencing that is driving their emotions? I heard a new term lately, toxic positivity. It sounds something like this: “Look on the bright side.” “Everything will be fine.” “It could be worse.” Too much forced positivity is not helpful, it’s toxic. It also shuts out the possibility for further contemplation. If you judge yourself or someone else for feeling a negative feeling, it halts or limits the healing process. Getting curious with yourself about what you’re feeling and what that tells you will benefit your mental health in the long run.

A couple exercises to try that might help build your emotional courage is mindfulness meditation or breathing. Being present with yourself. Not judging, just present and aware. It’s OK to not feel OK. Examine what you’re feeling and see if you can get some understanding. Try to set small goals for yourself that aren’t feeling oriented; rather, make them behavior oriented. Instead of setting a goal to feel happier, set a goal to do an act of kindness for a friend or co-worker or get a journal and write down three good things that happeneach day.

To learn more about emotional courage, view Dr. Susan David’s TedTalk here.

Here’s to your safety and continued courage!


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