Emotional Intelligence and Resilience
It is hard to wrap our heads around the fact that this Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for over a year now. And as restrictions in Ireland continue over the Easter period, it is fair to say that we are all weary of it all and long for a return to the best version of normality that we remember. So many of us have dealt with difficult days, with disappointments, with losses, and it can feel like life is very hard. Even those who have not been hard hit in some way by the pandemic’s effects, still feel the stress and tension in society both in physical and online spaces. Our mental health is being impacted across the board like never before. Yet, as in even more difficult times in the past, the human spirit can and does rise up to meet the challenges that life throws at us. As that old song by Chumbawamba goes, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, You are never gonna keep me down.” Now, more than ever, we need to work on our own emotional intelligence and increase our resilience. But how do we do that? In today’s blog post, our London & LA based therapist, Teyhou Smyth, has some great points to share with us and help us use our emotions for our betterment.
How to Achieve Emotional Intelligence and Resilience
Emotional intelligence has become a more popular term in the culture as it becomes more well known and used by professionals. Talking about how smart someone is with their emotions seems a little counterintuitive. Let us look at what it is, its uses and how working with emotional intelligence in therapy can help your life overall.
Emotional intelligence or EI can be defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and to identify the emotions of others. It is theorised to have three skills: Emotional awareness, the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving, and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating your own emotions and influencing other people.
Influencing others’ emotions could be as simple as trying to cheer up a sad coworker or comforting a grieving family member.
EI refers to two kinds of focus:
First, an inward awareness of your thoughts and your feelings, and applying that in managing your upsets, motivation and focus on our goals.
Second, a focus on others, to empathise and understand them, and on the basis of this to have effective interactions and relationships.
Empathy is a way to understand and communicate with others, it provides for stronger bonds between two people. This has gone a long way towards helping people survive overall.
Resilience is that hard to pinpoint quality that allows you to be knocked down by life yet get back up or even come back stronger than ever.
Rather than letting failure overcome you and drain your resolve, you find a way to rise from the ashes.
Researchers have identified some of the factors that make you resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to carry on or find a new path to take.
Experts differ about how much of resilience is genetic.
People do seem to differ in their inborn ability to handle life’s stresses. But resilience can also be cultivated. It is possible to strengthen your inner self and your belief in yourself, to define yourself as capable and competent. It is also possible to fortify your psyche and develop a sense of mastery.
This can happen through various means, but therapy and introspection are some of the more powerful means of cultivating resilience. At some point it is necessary to go back and reinterpret past events to find the strengths you have probably had within all along.
Some evidence shows that it’s not really until adulthood that people begin to surmount the difficulties of childhood and to rebuild their lives.
But childhood does not have to define you, and you can define your childhood.
Looking back you can also see the times you survived and overcame the odds. Even children that suffered horrific abuse can look back and see some good in their childhood.
Just like they can look back and marvel that they survived. Once you discover you survived, you can start to look at the parts of your psyche that helped you survive, your strengths and your skills. You get to see those now once you cultivate your resilience.
One of the gifts of therapy includes learning to be resilient and using your emotions for your betterment.
They may not always be pleasant experiences, but therapy can increase your emotional intelligence and resilience, which can lead to many benefits.
At every single given moment in your life, you are doing the very best you can with what you know and what you have. All the unpleasant feelings, the resentment, depression, grief, have a reason to be there for you, as long as you need it.
Even the addiction, the disordered eating, the dysfunctional relationships, are all serving a necessary function, like a survival or coping mechanism.
As time moves on, and you begin to look further into yourself with your therapist, you can let go of the defense or old survival strategy when the time is right, and not a minute before or a minute after. That is what resilience and EI can give you, a way forward with those old feelings.
By reflecting on your own experience, you will realise this is the only way change happens. With time and reflection, the growth of emotional intelligence and also resilience will be like it was always there for you.
The gift that happens when you start looking at your own emotions, using them for your progress, and finding your strength and resilience is that you will find that you no longer resent those who have harmed you.
Your grief and anger will be gone. What you have, you will be able to use for more positive things. It will be the emotion and energy of growth.
While therapy and reflection may seem like no movement is occurring for you, really great strides are being taken when you, with the aid of a counsellor, look back at what has happened, and why it happened. You get to reframe your own history, and see it more objectively.
Likely you missed some things that were important, such as all the times you survived and came back from defeat. Everyone has those moments, they just do not see them.
With introspection and the gifts that come from EI and resilience, you get to let go of the past.
You do not have to relive any grief or pain any longer; their job is done teaching you. Now, after therapy, you get to use your awareness and empathy for your own growth and to help you get through difficult times. And difficult times will happen; all the EI and resilience cannot prevent that.
What they can do is help you navigate them better, and learn more from them. Emotional intelligence and resilience may be two concepts that are difficult to spot in yourself, but they are there.
Therapy and self-reflection are ways that you can see that, and part of a therapist’s job is to help you see your past clearly, and that includes the strengths and resilience that were there.
This gift then can be used by you today to help your relationships grow, your resilience increase, and you will see that life will not be as upsetting as it once was.
[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com ~ some content may have been modified for the UK context.]