You may wonder what it feels like to be emotionally successful. You may wonder if there is even such a thing. I believe that there is and that it can be achieved no matter where you are starting. Emotional success is a topic I really like to write about. I think it’s a topic we don’t hear enough about, and instead we hear about disorders, dysfunctions, and the inability to succeed in life due to them.
Emotional success does not mean that you are happy all the time with no problems and just a rosy outlook. That would be unrealistic.
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family or other dysfunctional background it is likely that you did not receive all the messages and tools you needed for emotional success. You may have instead learned the very opposite, the behaviors and thought patterns that lead to depression, anxiety, anger problems, ongoing relationship problems and more. You may have lived your life so far being very unhappy and unfulfilled. This is what emotional baggage is. It is called emotional baggage as these negative thoughts and the resulting behaviors were hoisted upon you. Given a healthier family or situation it is likely these would not have developed.
For example, individuals from abusive or neglectful homes may view the world as full of danger and approach it with fear or anger as these emotions were learned as a defense mechanism. Non-medically depressed individuals may see their lives as something they have no control over, feel helpless and essentially give up. Those raised in homes where they were not validated or made to feel important or intelligent may view the world as a place where they should not participate, just leave it for smarter people to deal with. Highly anxious people see danger everywhere also and typically doubt themselves. You can see how problematic and limiting these thoughts are.
Emotional success refers to experiencing life’s good things, as well as setbacks, and still coming out on top. It means you are satisfied with yourself and life more days than not, and that you do not allow negativity from yourself or others to drag you down permanently. It means you have a social network that is comfortable for you, ways to enjoy yourself that are not destructive, and a support system of family or friends who are rooting for your success.
It means that you have ways that you deal effectively with negative emotions when they arise, and that you don’t allow them to dominate your life or interfere with your personal or work life. You have the ability to bounce back when something bad happens. You have problem solving skills in place as well as the ability to make decisions. You look to resources within yourself and trust that you’ll be ok. When these things are in place it preempts the negativity from creeping in and rendering you unable to function.
Some of us get bits and pieces of training in emotional success, some of us get a lot, and some of us get none, depending on our families of origin and other significant people in our lives and how they handled our emotions and the behaviors that resulted from those emotions.
How were your emotions dealt with in your family? Were they discussed and channeled effectively or were they invalidated, leaving you wondering what you should really be feeling if what you are feeling is incorrect?
If you had parents who were unsure how to handle your emotions or behaviors you may have been taken to the doctor and received a diagnosis of some sort. Maybe even medication to control these emotions starting at a very young age?
It is in these very young years that you should have been starting to develop these skills of emotional success that could have helped insulate you from overwhelmingly negative emotions, including certain depressions, debilitating anxiety, focus problems, or painfully low self esteem.
That is not to say that emotionally successful people do not experience negative emotionality from time to time. What separates them from people who suffer emotionally is the ability to pull themselves together and plow on, even in the face of great adversity.
We are all in this boat of life together and terrible things happen all the time to us and those around us. Just watching the news is sometimes enough to bring on a depression or great anxiety, especially right now. It is how we classify and utilize this information that becomes important, as we can’t change or predict most of it.
Here Are the 6 Major Keys to Emotional Success:
- Resilience- This refers to how we bounce back after a negative advent or in the face of adversity. Being able to remain optimistic is a key point in the research pertaining to resilience. Planning your next move and dodging around the adversity is also important.
- Eliminate Dysfunctional Thought Patterns and Cognitive Distortions-There are twelve major dysfunctional thought patterns or cognitive distortions that cause daily misery and are based in emotional baggage. We are all guilty of engaging in them at some time or other and may even have 4 or 5 favorites! Learning to monitor yourself, recognize when you are engaging in them and noticing how they make you feel so you can make changes is huge in terms of your emotional success and well being.
- The Ability to Soothe Yourself- This is critical. You are definitely going to feel poorly at periods in your life. Knowing ahead of time what you can do to soothe some of the pain is the best way to prepare for this. Soothing yourself can include distracting yourself, channeling your energy into a hobby, or just cuddling up with your pet. Drinking or eating too much and other forms of destructive behavior are baggage based and get you nowhere. I have a previous post on this topic https://blogs.psychcentral.com/dysfunction/2016/05/the-most-critical-tool-for-emotional-success/
- Clear Boundaries- Critical in knowing who you are, what you feel and who to stay away from. You cannot be emotionally successful with a group of life parasites around or others who treat you poorly. Your emotions will always be caught up in their problems or their poor behaviors.
- Organization and Control of Your Life’s “Stuff”– Having a place for everything and everything in its place is a good mantra to live by. It reduces anxiety and overwhelm and the depressions that can result from them. This includes your finances. For more information on how organization affects your emotions please see my previous post-blog https://blogs.psychcentral.com/dysfunction/2016/06/the-link-between-disorganization-depression-and-anxiety/
- Put Fear In It’s Place-Fear is your greatest enemy and one of the most common forms of emotional baggage. It will get in the way of positive movement and optimism every time. Learning to manage fear is the best gift you can give yourself. My favorite saying belongs to the late Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. and is also the title of her great book on the topic, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway. We all have fear, again you are not alone. It’s how you manage the fear that determines your level of emotional success
This may seem oversimplified to you, especially if you are in the middle of a depression or suffering from debilitating anxiety. But I have found that the very act of making everything more complicated than it needs to be can be the source of our greatest unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Once pointed out some things really are quite obvious and direct and can be quickly corrected. It does not take years of therapy to add any of the above skills to your life. Don’t get stuck in paralysis by analysis.
If you think that dysfunctional patterns are interfering with your life and relationships please go to my website through the link below in my bio, take the Dysfunctional Patterns Quiz and download the Dysfunctional Thinking Patterns (Cognitve Distortions) free resource and checklist.
Feel Good For Life!