Watching high performing athletes makes me reflective about the athletes’ degree of intense effort and persistence to go after goals. I’m always touched to see the outpouring of emotion throughout – especially if there are medal ceremonies.
Yet how many of you have been told to never display such emotion? To do so would mean that you were weak. Think about it – did you ever try to stop feeling something you felt in the moment . . . especially when you felt tearful . . . because you didn’t want to appear “weak”?
Just what is emotional weakness? Even more importantly, what is emotional strength? Many people continue to believe that emotional strength means controlling, “shutting down” or “shutting out” feelings. Is this your idea too? Perhaps you know people who do their absolute best not to show emotion or cry even in situations that call for it – mostly because showing emotion can leave people feeling more vulnerable and less emotionally strong.
Oddly, when you distract yourself from what you experience, you actually disconnect from the emotions designed to help you protect yourself and that are also designed for connecting with others. A common example involves a woman who feels threatened and who feels very angry and upset about it, yet she pushes away her experience of threat and her angry feelings. Unfortunately, the very emotion that is available to help protect her (anger), she shut down – so she doesn’t stand up for herself or fight back (if appropriate), nor does she reach out for help from others. The feelings designed to help her protect herself are now not available to her.
Consider emotional weakness anything you think or do to push down (e.g., holding your breath to keep a feeling from ‘coming up’), disconnect or distract from feeling what you feel. Possibilities include denying, discounting, doubting, avoiding, addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs and overeating are the most obvious) or any other behavior that allows you to ‘check out’ and “not know what you know”. If you consistently engage in these behaviors, you are headed down an unhealthy path.
The great news? There is a clear path to developing “core emotional strength” – the centerpiece of my Emotional Mastery® approach. It is the path of awareness and aliveness. Remarkably, it is the same path to living an inspired and inspiring life.
The first step in the path is to “know what you know”. Emotional strength develops out of your openness and willingness to tolerate, face, bear and know as much of your moment-to-moment experience as possible. Being vulnerable, fully present, authentic, genuine. Living your truth.
You can start down this path by moving toward your experience rather than away from it. It is easier and simpler than you can imagine. Let’s begin with the most basic step. For now, just start by noticing whether you back away, distract or disconnect from your experience when you think, feel or sense something unpleasant or uncomfortable. Then, take a few slow deep breaths and let yourself be aware of whatever it was that made you uncomfortable. Increase your awareness . . . that is all to do for now.
Tell me how you developed your ideas about emotional strength and weakness. Do you think it’s possible to be emotionally vulnerable and still exude emotional strength? What do you do? Do you “know what you know” or “try not to know what you know”?
What do you do? Eager to hear from you, so let me know your thoughts or questions.