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Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand, connect with, and express their own emotions appropriately while understanding, connecting to, and acknowledging the emotions of others—appropriately.

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Emotional Intelligence Begins with Self-Awareness

We must identify emotions and interpret them accurately within ourselves first and foremost. If we are misreading our own emotions, then chances are we are also misreading the emotions of others. We often make the mistake of assuming others feel the same as we do in a situation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 

This can be especially dangerous for an empath, as we operate from the assumption that everyone has the same level of empathy as us. In reality, many lack the ability to feel empathy at all, and our own empathetic nature makes up a target for such people.  

Many who lack emotional intelligence are out of touch with their emotions and are completely unaware. Disconnecting from emotions is a common coping strategy that can serve us in a crisis or traumatic situation, but it becomes debilitating in the realm of human connection if we never learn to reconnect with them. Even if we can see our disconnectedness from our emotions, we are rarely able to see to the full extent to which we have numbed out.

When we are out of touch with our own emotions, we may struggle to make healthy choices, experience ongoing health issues, and have difficulty relating to and supporting the emotional needs of others.

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Cultivating Self-Awareness

Below are just some thought-provoking topics to ponder in your quest for self-awareness and emotional intelligence. When working with coaching clients, the exercises I utilize are more in-depth, but digging too deep solo can be a dangerous endeavor. Take a few moments to identify a few things listed below and see where it takes you!

Before you begin the following exercise, take a moment to get centered. If at any point you feel stuck or simply cannot identify any of the suggestions or answer a question, pause. Take a break, move on, and return to this exercise later. This exercise can be especially frustrating if you struggle with alexithymia, which is a common characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as PTSD. Please be kind to yourself and never, EVER judge an emotion. (more on that later) And most importantly, remember that you do not need to venture on this journey alone…

Identify

  • Any physical or emotional sensations you experience while doing something you enjoy.
  • Any physical or emotional sensations you experience while doing something you dislike.
  • Any physical or emotional sensations you experience when you are angry.
  • Any anger or resentment you may be holding in and explain the cause. 
  • Actions you take or behaviors you have when you are feeling sad or down.
  • Do you believe your approach to navigating these feelings has been helpful or a hindrance?
  • The last time you felt a sense of relief and explain why.
  • Emotions and any physical sensations you feel when you are in conflict with someone.
  • How you handle conflict with others and identify any patterns in outcomes.
  • Where in your body do you feel physical sensations from stress, and describe them.
  • Any frustrations you may be experiencing and explain the perceived cause. 
  • Three things you often worry about and identify what the cause is.
  • When you have a perceived problem, describe how you typically respond.
  • The last time you got upset and the cause.
  • Fears have kept you stuck, and what you believe may help you to move past them. 
  • One change you could make to eliminate some stress in your life and explain why. 
  • Why you haven’t made the above change already?
  • Something you have felt insecure about, and identify where that comes from.
  • A time you had your feelings hurt and explain what happened. 
  • The last thing you did that made you feel good. 
  • The last time you had a breakdown or a breakthrough, and what the result was.
  • What are you most at peace with about yourself or your life, and explain why?
  • One way you could bring more peace into your life.
  • The last time you felt confident, and explain why. 
  • The last time you felt anxious, and explain why.
  • List three things you feel grateful for today and why.
  • One of the most emotionally painful things to happen to you, and how you coped with it.
  • How you feel around people who have a strong sense of self.
  • List five things you have learned about yourself from this exercise.
  • List five things you would like to explore further.

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Letting Go

We cannot move onto greater things when we continue to hold on to what no longer serves us.

People, possessions, behaviors, beliefs, attachments, ideas… All the things that once served an important purpose in our lives become the very things that hold us back when we refuse to let them go.

There cannot be a new beginning without an end. When we let go completely, we open ourselves up to infinite possibilities.