Depending on what your experiences have been, the idea that everything happens for a reason and is part of your learning can in itself feel unfair. To be honest I think that only you can decide the ‘meaning’ of any event in your life and it’s no-one else’s place to label, judge, dismiss, or interpret your experiences.
There is no doubt that people who read self-help books and attend personal development workshops do it in search for answers. There is something within us that seeks to ‘make sense’ of the events in our lives. Sometimes it drives us a little crazy but mostly it helps us find peace and understanding.
Obviously, I love to make sense of things! I’m never happy to leave things unexplained but I have learnt that sometimes it can take years before the understanding comes. And I’m okay with that; for me it is what the life journey is all about.
I think we all have to make a choice about how we respond to the unfair and unjust experiences in our lives and how we come out on the other side of them. I’m not one to wallow or to stay stuck for long. Don’t worry I’ve felt plenty of bitterness and resentment in my time. I’m not saying ‘don’t feel’ but I am saying that I have used how I feel to learn about myself and grow positively into the best I can be.
Emotional Intelligence is one of many passions I have, and it talks about building emotional muscle.
So, what is emotional muscle?
It’s building resilience, stamina, and tenacity in our abilities to withstand challenges. There is no doubt that unfair and unjust experiences are challenges! Emotional intelligence invites us to approach those experiences as opportunities to grow; to build our strength to face hardship and do more than survive by learning to thrive from the toughest of lessons.
If we can think more clearly and rationally in a crisis, we can make better decisions in that moment. If we can feel our feelings at the time we can draw upon our sense of respect and dignity to honour what is true to us and act in ways that reflect who we truly are. That is emotional intelligence at work. We do this by becoming resilient, having tenacity, and learning to tolerate our emotional pains with respect and dignity.
When we learn to build our emotional muscle, we are less likely to express words or take actions that we have to retract later. We won’t have to feel ashamed of ourselves and act defensively to justify why we did what we did. We won’t have to make up excuses for what we said in anger or blame others for ‘making us’ say it.
Low Emotional Intelligence is Exhausting
Realistically, it’s exhausting defending ourselves from our senses of inadequacy, insufficiency, and insecurity. The more trapped in these patterns we are the more powerless, helpless, and hopeless we feel. This is when we feel weak and like a victim to our life experiences. And no-one really enjoys life like this. It’s just that we often don’t know how to change our thinking and effectively manage our overwhelming emotions.
This brings me back to the point I started with – it’s why we read self-help books and listen to audio CD’s trying to find solutions to how we feel. We attend workshops hoping to learn some skills to help improve how we emotionally and cognitively function in our interactions with ourselves and others.
When we approach each experience as a lesson to learn from; to practice our burgeoning skills and to build our emotional muscle we step out of the victim; out of our smaller-self and into our ability to observe our life from a higher perspective.
Starting is all the matters
Step-by-step we can practice doing this and each time we succeed we strengthen our emotional muscle. Too often we don’t get started because we think we have to start at some magically correct place. But we don’t. Wherever we start is the right place and it will lead us to our destination – a life journey of growth, choice, and responsibility.
Too often we don’t get started because we think we have tackle the biggest challenge first. We don’t. In fact, the toughest stuff may be too big to dive into.
Start with something achievable so you gain confidence in your ability to change how you think and feel. Then build up to the bigger issues. You will notice that by the time you get to them you will have peeled away so many of the layers that they won’t be SO big any more.
Building emotional muscle is all about learning to sit in your hurt, your pain, and your struggles and realise that you still exist. You are NOT your pain, your hurt or your struggles. Emotions are part of you, but they are not all of you. The first step is acknowledging this.
Where will you start? What would you like to change in your life right now?