Emotional Agility in a Fragile World

Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. – Susan David

In my last newsletter, I talked about my Grandmother and Grandfather and how they dealt with the adversities of being wheat farmers in Kansas. I didn’t mention “Emotional Resiliency” but I was thinking about it——it’s actually been on my mind for quite some time now. However, I wasn’t ready to talk about it then because I think the term has been misused and misunderstood and I didn’t want to add to that confusion until I was clear myself. Now, I’m ready.

First, I’d like to tell you what I mean about the term, “Emotional Resiliency” being “misused and misunderstood”. Often, (in my practice) when I first share that term, my clients think, “Oh, I just need to be stronger, put on a happy face, be more positive, bounce back, put it behind me, etc. etc. and if I don’t, there’s something wrong with me!” My answer is, “No, that’s not what it means”. And, then I attempt to explain that, to me, it means to be able to identify, feel and understand your emotions at a deeper level so that you can be more flexible in your responses. Some get it and others don’t. Maybe it’s because I didn’t explain it well enough. And, then, I found this TedTalk by an amazing Psychologist, named Dr. Susan David, who hit the nail on the head! She calls it Emotional Agility or Emotional Courage. I love that! I hope you will the take time to watch this incredible video as it includes some very powerful, informative, thought-provoking ideas delivered in a style that is intimate and soothing. Do I wish I could have used her words with my clients? You bet I do!

Here are some of the highlights from the video that stood out for me:

1.Sawubona
Dr. David starts her talk by saying “Sawubona”. Sawubona is a greeting in isiZulu and is literally translated as, “I see you and by seeing you, I bring you into being”. Wow! What a wonderful way to be greeted! I’m reminded of another beautiful greeting, Namaste, which in Hindu means, “I see you” and is used a lot in the Yoga classes I attend.

2.Emotional Agility
Dr. David further talks about emotions and how we have rigidly labeled them as “good” or “bad” or “positive” or “negative”. However, we need Emotional Agility in order to thrive in this complex world. When we deny our feelings, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and others. As I said before, I love how she uses this term!

3. Life’s Beauty is Inseparable from its Fragility.
We are young until we’re not. We nag our children and then one day we realize there is silence where that child once was and is now making his or her way in the world. We are healthy until (one day) a diagnosis brings us to our knees. The only certainty is uncertainty and we are NOT navigating these frailties with ease. Dr. David shared that depression is now the single leading cause of disability around the world- after cancer or heart disease! I’ve seen depression in so many of my clients and I’ve personally seen it manifest in our physical bodies and labeled as cancer or lupus or heart disease, etc. I’m not saying that the physical disability isn’t real but it’s important to also look at a deeper emotional component.

4. Rigid Denial Doesn’t Work.
Dr. David did a survey of over 70,000 people and found that 1/3 of those people judged themselves for having “bad” emotions (i.e. sadness, anger or grief, etc.) or actively tried to push aside these feelings. She describes being positive as now being seen as a new form of “moral correctness”. I’m reminded of when my husband, Michael, got sick last year and he was trying so hard to remain positive (me, too!). And, underneath of it all, we both felt fright, pain, grief, loss, anger, and betrayal. Rigid denial doesn’t work. It’s unsustainable. And, it gets bigger when denied. I’m so grateful that we’ve now allowed our true feelings to emerge. It would have destroyed us.

5. Dead People’s Goals.
Develop skills to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it to be! Dr. David refers to people who say, “I don’t want to try because I’ll be disappointed” or “I just want the feeling to go away”. Oh, my. I’ve heard these same words (from my clients, friends, family and me) so many times. Dr. David calls these “dead people’s goals”! Only dead people get unwanted or inconvenienced by their feelings. Only dead people never get stressed or broken hearts or never experience the disappointment that comes with failure.

6. Discomfort is the Price of Admission to a Meaningful Life.
Tough emotions are part of the contract we have with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. As a young woman, I thought there would be a time when “everything would be okay and there wouldn’t be any more stress”. Boy, was I wrong. Stress is ongoing and we just need to accept it and learn to deal with it in a healthier way.

7. Acceptance and Accuracy Matters.
Research has shown that the radical acceptance of all of our emotions, even the messy, difficult ones, is the cornerstone of resilience, thriving and true authentic happiness. Words are essential. We often use quick and easy labels to describe our feelings. “I’m stressed” is a common one. But, there’s a world of difference between stressed and disappointment or stressed and that knowing dread of “I’m in the wrong career”. When we are able to label our feelings accurately we are more able to discern the precise cause of our feelings. And, then we are ready to take the “right” steps for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself and others, “Oh, I’m just stressed” and I’ve heard others say it, too. But, what does that really mean? How does that help us deal with it?

8. Emotions are Data and Can Lead us to Take Active Steps in the Right Direction.
Even though emotions are data; they are not directives. We can certainly have better control over our actions when we are more aware of what they are. And, we can recognize them but not have to act upon them in a way that could be harmful. We own our emotions, they don’t own us. When we internalize the difference between how I feel, in all my wisdom, and what I do in a values-aligned action, we generate the pathway to our best selves via our emotions. More about values-based decisions in a future newsletter! I love that topic!

9. You are NOT the Emotion.
Instead of saying I am angry, say, I’m noticing I’m feeling angry. You are you and the emotion is a data source. This concept helps us to “show up” for ourselves and not identify ourselves with the emotion.

10.Individualized Consideration.
When people are allowed to feel their emotional truth, you can see that they bring the best of themselves into any situation. Emotional agility will allow you to be with your emotions with curiosity and compassion and especially the courage to take values connected steps. In seeing yourself, you are also able to see others, too. This is the only sustainable way forward in a fragile, beautiful world.

Are you emotionally agile? I hope your answer is, “YES”! I’d love to hear your comments.

Sawubona, Beverly

 

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10 thoughts on “Emotional Agility in a Fragile World”

  1. Hi Beverly, Its Ricky! You knocked it out of the park with this one. Im going to forward to Seve. Im so thankful that Patti brought you and Michael into my life. The truth is you probably saved it..Love you guys

    1. I’m so glad you liked the article and I, too, am so thankful that you and Patti and your family have graced my life. So much love to all of you!

    1. That’s great, Susan. I really loved what Dr. David had to say about Emotional Agility. And, bringing that into our awareness is so helpful. I’m glad it was helpful for you!

  2. Right on time, Dr. Beverly! Maybe the only “great” thing I imparted to my child when he was a teenager is “You have a right to your feelings”! Dr. Susan’s talk reaffirms this from every angle. A pleasure to watch & to hear: She reminds me of Julia Roberts with an accent!

    1. Linda, I love your comparison to Julia Roberts. I can see what you mean! Glad you liked the video. I really did, too. And, it really is great information.

  3. I appreciate how simply you articulate these valuable ideas. It may be logical to our minds to try to avoid some of our feelings, but I’ve always heard that “You can’t heal it if you can’t feel it “

    1. Thanks, Todd. You are so right. We often try to avoid these feelings and then they “come out” in many other ways! I appreciate your comment.

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