Modern Emotional Health
Are you emotionally healthy? How do you even know if you are?
These are big questions.
Do you really know what it means to be emotionally healthy?
I will give you a little hint: it is not happiness.
Fact: most people don’t know what it truly means to be emotionally healthy.
Our emotions are the most important thing in the world. They are the reason we do or don’t do anything.
This. Is. Big.
We are living in a world where the overwhelming majority do not understand the one thing that drives everything they do.
This is crucial.
Imagine how different life would be if we were all emotionally healthy.
The things we could accomplish.
If you really want to live the best emotional life you can, before you keep reading, download the Modern Emotional Health worksheet to help you put this information into action immediately.
The belief system that health means happiness has caused more trouble and more emotional unhealthiness than any other thing we’re focused on in our lives.
I am obsessed with this topic.
It is so important.
And it is not being educated on.
Let’s start with the basics.
Modern Emotional Health
Why do we need to use the word “modern” when we talk about emotional health?
The first reason is false pleasures. Our current environment is filled with things that give us a false sense of pleasure. We overdrink, overeat, overspend, over-Facebook.
It is all artificial.
It is immediate.
It gets in the way of long term gratification.
The second reason is the perception that everyone is happy. We think everyone else is happy. You get on social media and what do you see? Perfect people. People who exercise, who eat healthy, who go on vacations. Everyone is perfect.
You probably have people in mind right now.
The third reason is the motivational triad backfiring. The motivational triad is how our brain was designed for survival. It was designed to seek pleasure, preserve energy, and avoid pain.
Back in the day, our ancestors faced entirely different life choices, stressors, and survival obstacles. They were trying to sleep comfortably on a dirt floor with rocks. They were trying to fight off the predators that came during the night. They had to hunt, find shelter, find water.
Our brains were designed to survive this. The motivational triad motivated us to survive.
This is what got us here.
This is what is killing us now.
In the modern world, everything is different. We have so many comforts. We have grocery stores, air conditioning, heat, clean water, Wi-Fi, etc. The list goes on.
We have so much pleasure that we are overseeking it and overgetting it.
Our pain is different now and we are avoiding it to the point of what I call buffering. We avoid pain so we don’t feel our emotions. We think we should be happy so we don’t process negative emotions.
When we do this we aren’t living the full human experience.
We need to do the exact opposite of what our brain was designed to do. We need to delay pleasure. We need to embrace our emotional pain, instead of trying to avoid it. We need to generate our energy and utilize it, instead of trying to preserve it.
We don’t know to do this because we haven’t been educated properly.
The Wrong Emotional Education
Our emotional education teaches us that other people are responsible for our feelings. They hurt us. They make us sad, frustrated, or happy.
If you go to an elementary school right now you are bound to find a child who blames another for hurting their feelings. And what happens? The teacher goes to the other child and tells them not to hurt other people's feelings.
This translates into other people hurt our feelings, other people make us sad, other people make us happy. Don’t hurt other people's feelings.
And eventually, find friends that make you happy and find a spouse that makes you happy.
We are also taught that circumstances make us happy. Being rich will make you happy. Being thin will make you happy. Getting married and having two children will make you happy.
This is a false education.
Our emotions drive everything that we do and not only are we not being educated on them, but what we are learning is absolutely false.
Other people have no ability to hurt our feelings because our thoughts cause our feelings.
Feelings don’t just happen.
Being happy isn’t even the goal.
It is the worst lesson we are taught.
There is nothing wrong with having negative emotion.
Half of our experiences are going to be positive and half are going to be negative. It is 50/50. It is not 75/25 or 80/20. It never will be.
And the thing is we would not have the positive without the negative. It doesn’t exist.
Do you really want to be the person who is happy all the time? What about when someone you love dies? When the world is at war? When national disasters occur? If you were to be happy all of time you would have to be happy when terrible things occur.
We are taught what makes us happy is the world and we go out trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
People who try to be happy all of the time go out and seek false pleasures and then they become upset with themselves for that.
Your life won’t get any better or any worse until you change the way that you interpret it.
This one concept is everything.
An Unhealthy Emotional Life
So if we have modern emotional health, what does an unhealthy emotional life look like?
First, we have a lack of awareness. You go about your life unaware of your feelings, not paying attention to them, not aware that they matter.
Second, is avoidance and resistance to negative emotion (buffering).
We have been taught to avoid negative, so we go about our life trying to fix negative emotion by looking for something external. This is buffering.
You come home from work at the end of the day. You have taken care of the kids, worked all day, ran errands, sat in traffic, and you come home with dinner to make and a house that needs cleaning. You feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired. And we think negative emotion needs to be fixed, so you try to fix it with something external. You drink, you eat, you take a bath, you smoke—you do whatever you think will solve this problem.
The thing is, internal problems can’t be solved with an external solution.
Negative emotions don’t need to be solved, they need to be processed and accepted.
When you resist it and avoid it, that is when you cause a problem.
The third sign of an unhealthy emotional life is indulgence in our emotion. We blame and react.
There are two roles we play—I call them the victim and the villain.
The victim role is all about blaming others for our emotions. I feel frustrated because my boss is micromanaging me. I feel upset because my husband is going out with his friends all the time. I feel overwhelmed because my kids are always asking me to do things for them.
The villain role is when we have an emotion and we just react to it. We bully other people, we yell at them, we try to change them so that they can fix this negative emotion we are experiencing.
We are either blaming others for our emotions or blaming ourselves.
Neither of these work.
Both leave us powerless.
The last sign is that you are hiding. Hiding from the truth. Hiding from goals.
When we don’t want to experience negative emotion, we hold ourselves back from life.
People don’t want to set big goals because they are afraid they will fail and have doubt and overburden themselves. They don’t tell the truth about what they want.
When you do this you are not showing up for your life.
You miss the meeting. You aren’t getting that time back.
I see this happen a lot in relationships.
50/50 in Relationships
In relationships people often think they are responsible for the other person's feelings. They also think the other person is responsible for their feelings. As a result, they don’t show up for the truth of who they are because they want to be the version of themselves this person wants them to be.
So two people come into a relationship and they can’t be truthful, can’t be honest.
There is never a true connection.
No one is showing up for the relationship because both are afraid of having their feelings hurt or hurting the other’s feelings.
I suggest going into a relationship openly and honestly. Say listen, half of this relationship is going to be negative and half is going to be positive and that is okay. I don’t have to lie about who I am. You don’t have to lie about who you are.
We can both just show up as ourselves. We can take care of our emotional lives and have a blast together.
We want to be in a relationship where we can love the other person without trying to change them because it is so ineffective.
This is where I see so many people hiding from their lives. They don’t want to change. They are afraid to rock the boat. As a result they don’t have any purposeful negative emotion.
And if a negative emotion does come up, they hide from it with false pleasure.
The Five Steps to Modern Emotional Health
Let’s talk about what modern emotional health looks like.
Step #1: Understand emotions.
We can name them. We can feel them. We can identify them. It is knowing when to say I am elated or excited versus I am happy.
The more diversity you have in expressing your emotion, the more you are going to be able to create the life you want.
Step #2: Allow yourself to feel emotions without fear or resistance.
Trust me this is much harder to do than it is to say because we have been trained to fix them.
It is harmless to feel a negative emotion. You don’t need to fix it.
So if I feel frustrated, my job is not for me to tell you. I feel frustrated when you do that. Stop doing that. My job is to feel frustrated.
Frustration is part of life.
We want the human experience.
Allow yourself to feel the urges to fix emotion without reacting to them. Let yourself feel panic, anxiety, or frustration without reacting to it. Without trying to fix it with a false pleasure.
You have a choice.
The emotion is there. You get to decide if you are going to react.
Step #3: Don’t indulge in emotions all of the time.
Modern emotional health is not feeling sorry for yourself and blaming everybody and worrying. Doing that is very indulgent and the way you know it is indulgent is it doesn’t get you anywhere.
You stay stuck.
Those emotions make an excuse for why you can’t go out into the world. We indulge in familiar negative emotion because we are afraid of new negative emotion.
Indulging in negative emotion doesn’t get you anywhere and it makes you feel terrible. The world is 50/50—you might as well go out there and use that 50% of negative emotion on something that helps you reach your goals.
Step #4: Be willing to feel in the future.
This is the opposite of hiding. You are willing to set big goals for your life and go out and feel rejected, feel failure.
When you are open to the human experience of life, that’s when you have the emotional health to pursue things that help the entire human race evolve.
Step #5: Create emotion on purpose.
You are the person who generates your emotion. You generate it with your thinking. With your brain. And you can generate the emotion you want on purpose.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you should be happy all of the time. You want to be a human being.
We know life sucks half of the time. Yet we have children. We bring them into the world knowing that. We want them to have the full human experience.
We aren’t supposed to enjoy the negative parts of life, but when we embrace them that is when we open ourselves up to the full experience of being alive and we start enjoying our life instead of hiding from it.
Summary of the Five Steps
Let’s review the five steps. These are the five skills that I teach in Self Coaching Scholars.
Step one is to be able to identify your emotions.
Step two is allowing yourself to feel the emotion, allowing yourself to process it and allowing yourself to feel discomfort.
Step three is not indulging and being able to separate your emotion from your circumstance. Other people and situations do not determine how we feel.
Step four is to feel into your future. Remember that thoughts cause feelings and you are able to handle any emotion.
Step five is to learn how to create wanted emotion. Ask yourself what emotion do you need to generate to motivate yourself to do the things you want to do?
Sometimes the emotion you need to generate isn’t positive.
The goal isn’t happiness.
The goal is the experience of being alive.
Experiencing Full Emotional Health
I want a bigger life.
I want to open myself up to more positive and more negative.
That is when it gets exciting.
That is when my emotional health becomes stronger and I become more agile because I am not pushing everything away.
I am not escaping my life.
I am not turning to drugs or alcohol or food or social media.
I am open to everything. I am not hiding.
I tell everybody the truth about me. I tell the world everything and risk the rejection and embarrassment, because there is nothing I am not willing to feel and I refuse to hide.
Look out world. Here I come.
When you show up as the truth of yourself, there is a freedom you can’t taste anywhere else.
The truth is you can hide from life if you want. But it doesn’t make you any more protected.
Life is 50/50. Always.
Have you noticed that when people show up as themselves and say, “Hey, I got all this negative stuff and all this positive stuff,” it is so much more attractive than if they say, “I’m perfect and I’ve always been perfect. My life is perfect. My family is perfect. My weight is perfect.”
We are so much more relatable when we show up and say I am a hot mess. I have this going on that sucks. I have this going on that’s great.
Don’t be indulgent.
Just be honest.
Just be yourself.
Projecting perfect pushes people away.
If you are trying to be happy or perfect most of the time you are probably stuck in an unhealthy emotional life. The negative part of the emotional experience can be the best part. It can be the part that makes the rest of it so much better.
When you're open to all of it and you open your life, that is when you have emotional health. But it doesn’t feel like happiness. It feels like being human, which includes the positive and the negative experience of your life.
When we can take away the fear of how you’re going to feel, your goals and your dreams become so much bigger.
How to Apply This to Your Life
Join me right now in this training video, where you can download a free worksheet and learn everything you need to know about modern emotional health.
To learn more about my monthly coaching program, visit TheLifeCoachSchool.com/Join/.