Four Thinking Patterns for Resilience - Part 2

February 20, 2023

In my last blog, I introduced you to the four thinking patterns that will lead you towards resilience in your daily life and I expanded the first key thinking pattern, Personal Empowerment.

In this blog, I focus on the second pattern for resilience which concerns your emotional state. Your emotional wellbeing is of paramount importance to your overall mindset. Your emotions are incredibly useful if you get to understand them. Even the language you use to describe emotions can be unhelpful at times. If you describe emotions as negative, then when you feel them, you actually begin to feel worse about them because you have labelled them negative. What do I mean by that? When you feel sad and you label ‘sad’ as a negative emotion, you begin to feel what we call a ‘meta emotion’, a feeling about a feeling. You might then start to feel sad about being sad and then you might get frustrated about feeling sad about feeling sad and then you might get angry about being frustrated about being sad about being sad. This phenomenon is called an emotional storm. It's like a hurricane, spinning round, gathering momentum and power, feelings about feelings about feelings and it spirals out of control. At that point you feel completely at the behest of your emotions.

When you get to understand your feelings and for what purpose you are feeling them, you can break free of that emotional storm by taking the energy out of it. Your emotions are actually very transient, they come and go very quickly. When you feel that you have been sat in an emotion for a while, you haven't been sat in the same emotion, you are experiencing feelings about feelings about feelings. When you feel like you have been experiencing an emotion for hours or even days, you haven't, you have had an initial emotional experience and then had a feeling about it and a feeling about that and a feeling about that, that is what gives emotions longevity. Learning to become aware of how you are feeling means that you can experience an emotion coming and going and then it will be gone. You don't have to start the storm spinning.

All emotions are useful. They are there for a purpose. I prefer not to use the term ‘negative’ emotions, because even emotions that are labelled as unpleasant are there for a reason. That is why we have them. Human beings are unique among our planetary species in having the emotions that we have and there is a reason for that uniqueness. Each time you experience an emotion, it's there to tell you something useful. If you understand what you are feeling and for what purpose you are feeling it, then you can get in control of your emotions. Your emotional state determines your behaviour and your behaviour, your actions, create the results that you get. If you use every emotion that you have for a positive outcome, then that's really going to impact the results that you are able to generate.

Emotional awareness adds another layer to your resourceful mindset. It is about not being afraid of your emotions anymore. Many people are afraid to feel emotions. Sometimes it's because they believe that if they start to feel something they will never stop feeling it. Others believe that if they start feeling something it will affect their behaviour in a negative way. This is simply not the case. Your emotions are there for a purpose. When you start feeling an emotion, notice it, acknowledge it, be aware of it and say to yourself, ‘I'm feeling angry right now. For what purpose am I feeling angry?’ Then you need to take an action. Ask yourself, ‘what do I need to do in order to respond to this emotion I've got right now?’ The moment you acknowledge the emotion and take some appropriate action, the emotion will just fall away and you can let it go. You don't have to have a feeling about the feeling. This simple system of thinking will reward you with a more positive and robust mindset and more consistent results.

The keys to making this system of thinking work are:

 Notice the emotions that you experience as you experience them.

 Consciously seek to understand your emotions. Understand for what purpose you are feeling them. Remember, emotions happen for a reason. They are always triggered by something, something you see, something you hear, the touch of someone or something, smells that you smell or tastes that you taste conjure up emotions. Once you can understand them and what has triggered them, then you can start to be in control of them.

 Allow the emotion to come up into your awareness and then fall away. Remember, emotions are transient phenomena.

 Start to have emotions on purpose. You can get in control of your emotions and decide what you are going to feel.

Remember the cause > effect equation from Part 1? Positioning yourself at ‘cause’ means that, even if you have got no control over anything that's happening outside of you, which quite often you don't, you are always in control of how you choose to respond. When you are in control of your response, you are in control of your emotions and you can begin to feel appropriate emotions on purpose. For example, you can choose to be angry at someone or something or not. You can choose to experience an emotion that is resourceful for you. Let’s face facts, when you get angry, frustrated or irritated by someone, you are only punishing yourself. The other person doesn’t care if you are feeling anger, frustration or irritation. Holding on to those emotions is bad for your body and for your mindset.

Let's think more carefully about your internal state, how you feel. Being in control of your emotional state allows you to be flexible in the world. Flexible in your behaviour, flexible in your approach and confident, with a strong sense of control when faced with uncertainty. That is important, isn't it? You have heard the old adage, nothing is more certain in the world than uncertainty. You are always going to face some degree of uncertainty, of course you are. If you can be flexible and adaptable within an ever changing world, you can produce a range of behaviours that you choose, making you functional and successful, no matter what happens around you.

2020 and 2021, the years of the global pandemic have been a really great example of the power of flexible thinking. Everybody experienced those two years in a different way. Some people had a really bad experience whilst others created a really great experience, finding new possibilities and new ways of doing things. They were ultimately flexible. The difference that made a difference was flexibility, choosing how to respond. Control of your emotional state is one of the key elements that enables you to create flexibility. When you feel in control of your emotions, then you can maintain your internal energy, your vigour, your stamina, your desire and passion for life, especially in times when demands on your attention and your action are high.

In life, there will always be pressure moments. People often talk about that word, ‘stress’. Stress has become a throwaway term in our society. We have completely lost touch with what ‘stress’ actually is. I've heard very young children use the word because they haven’t got the latest smart ‘phone or they aren’t being allowed to stay up late. When children use the word ‘stress’ so early on in life, its usage is going to continue throughout their life. Please consider the real definition of stress. Stress occurs at a point when external pressures become so great that you no longer feel able to cope with them and your emotional condition deteriorates. You become unable to function properly in the world. Stressor factors are different for everybody and everybody has a different level of pressure that they are capable of absorbing before they get to that crisis point. The point where it feels like just too much. Then it affects their neurology, their cognitive processing, their internal representations, their state and their behaviour.

Another element to begin getting consciously aware of. How often are you using the word ‘stressed’ and are you really at that crisis point or are you simply feeling a little bit challenged? There is a big difference here.

Controlling your emotions allows you to maintain clarity, your level of alertness and how present you are. If you are constantly locked inside your own head and feeling unresourceful, it's like the rest of the world just melts away and you are not aware of any of it. A powerful mindset means being present and alert, with the focus of your attention being outside of yourself. A powerful emotional state makes problem solving easy and you can be optimistic and resourceful when you need to be. I always work on the principle that there is always a way, no matter what challenges come into my life. I always think of them as that. Not barriers, not problems, something that has come to challenge me to find a solution. If you look at solution finding as fun, being challenged become quite enjoyable. You will always find a way, if you are motivated to do so. There is always a way.

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