‘It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply’ – someone on Instagram.
Word. Emotions happen. But, to paraphrase Julia Gillard in ‘My Story’, one of the good things about being an adult is that you can, in most circumstances, control your emotional response to things. You just need some tools.This is another lesson from the magnificent Brené Brown. As I’ve mentioned here and here, I am reading Brené’s latest book, ‘Rising Strong’, which is a guide to failing and getting back up again. I am only part way through, so I can’t really comment on the book as a package, but I am enjoying every little section in its own right. Each chapter is a lesson of it’s own, most brought to life by anecdotes from Brené’s personal life. The stories aren’t grand, little snippets from her working life and life with her husband and kids, but that’s what makes them so interesting and so relatable. Her writing is just as approachable, friendly and colloquial, while also well-researched and analytical, as one would expect from a research professor. I’m just loving every word, and literally nodding my head through the pages.
Last weekend, while having a pedicure (nothing makes me feel more like I have my life together than a pedicure), I came to a chapter on ’emotional curiosity’. I really like this idea of emotional curiosity. For so long, emotions have been seen as something that happen to us, something we cannot control. This is no longer the case.
Since the 1990s and the emergence of emotional intelligence theory, there has been an increasing acceptance of the power of emotional intelligence. That is, an awareness of, and ability to manage, our emotions. Today, EQ is a key predictive factor of personal and professional success. Emotional curiosity is a manifestation of emotional intelligence.
Emotional curiosity is central to step 1 of Brené’s 3-step ‘Rising Strong’ formula. Step 1 is ‘The Reckoning’, a process that forces us to recognise and get curious about our emotions. We are called to The Reckoning by our feelings.
First, we must recognise that we are feeling something. We have to notice that we are having a ‘face-down in the arena moment’. Something happens inside of us – a button pushed, a sense of disappointment or anger washes over us, our hearts race. These things tell us that all is not well. We don’t have to pinpoint the emotion accurately, we just have to recognise that we are feeling something.
Brené supplies a couple of examples:
- I feel_________________ (disappointed, regretful, hurt, angry, heartbroken, confused, scared, worried)
- I am _________________ (in pain, feeling vulnerable, embarrassed, overwhelmed, hurting)
The next thing we must do is to get curious about what’s happening. We have to ask ourselves, what’s happening and why?
Again, a couple of examples:
- Why am I being so hard on everyone today?
- What set me off?
- What is making me feel overwhelmed?
- I can’t stop thinking about that conversation. Why not?
- I’m having such a strong emotional reaction. Why?
- I know Oreos aren’t going to work. What’s really happening?
So, to join the dots, here’s an example. Say you apply for a job. You have high expectations of yourself, and higher hopes of securing the job. Then, one Saturday morning, you open your inbox to find a rejection letter. In a single moment, all of the dreams and plans you had built around that job are taken away from you as quickly as you can say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
Your stomach tightens, your face burns. You feel confused, disappointed, angry, embarrassed. You recognise that you are feeling some things.
You could shut down, check out, hide away, label yourself a failure. You could surrender to the wave of emotion. But you won’t really learn anything from that, and you won’t be able to control the process.
Instead, you become curious about your emotions. You ask: Why am I so affected by this news? Why don’t I understand the outcome? Why am I so disappointed? Why do I care what other people think?
You walk into your story. But why would you do that?
Because (over to you Brené)…
‘The opposite of recognising that we’re feeling something is to deny our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to define the ending- to rise strong, recognise our story, rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think; Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.’
Simple as it may seem, The Reckoning is a necessary gangplank to The Rumble. Out of The Reckoning and through The Rumble, we will find The Revolution.
I’ll write about that later. To be continued.
Thought Leader(s): Brené Brown, Julia Gillard
Book(s): Brown, B (2015) ‘Rising Strong’, Penguin Random House UK; Gillard, J (2014) ‘My Story’, Penguin Random House.