The Keys to Emotional Toughness
by Stuart McAleese
If I asked you to picture a person who is emotionally tough, you would probably imagine a person who was cold, hard, calloused – the traditional image of a person who is either ‘hard’ or ‘cold’.
I am here to tell you that you are wrong in this assumption!
Emotional toughness is about you controlling your emotions – not allowing your emotions to control you. Emotional toughness allows you to be strong, resilient and flexible, able to weather storms and grab opportunities.
However, before you can understand and apply this concept, it is important for you to understand exactly what emotions are. In a nutshell, they are simply the mind/body talk that exists on a daily basis. Signals travel from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind and are then either acted upon or not – depending on how we perceive the message we are being told.
Emotions are either empowering (positive) or disempowering (negative). Negative emotions should be seen for what they are – the minds messages to you that there is an unmet need. It is critical that you uncover this need and meet it at once or as soon as possible. I can’t stress how important this is – you could be the toughest person in the world but you will fall short of your goals if you have a basic unmet need e.g. food, water, sleep. To meet these needs you need to be aware of them in the first place.
Awareness – that is the first step toward emotional strength and toughness. After all, you must be sensitive to your feelings in order to command and channel them rather than react blindly on a whim. If you can develop this awareness and sensitivity, you will find
focusing your emotions and using them to help you achieve your goals rather being a victim and finding yourself pushed around blindly into bad choices and situations.
Emotions are the key to a productive, healthy life - if you can control them then you gain a lot of control over your life. I know it sounds a bit simplistic and easy but there is a lot of weight behind that statement. I want you to think of a time when you felt out of control in life – things really weren’t going your way etc. I am willing to bet that examination of the reasons and decisions that got you into this situation are the result of emotions taking control of you. I would also bet that in situations where you felt in control, there was a lot of control over the effect and power of emotions over your own actions.
So how do you gain control over your emotions?
I’m glad you asked! The process is really simple. As with most processes though, you need to practice its use all the time. Build it into a skilled part of your everyday life. That’s when you see results.
Ok, on to the process. Basically, I want you to –
a) listen to and analyze all emotions. Don’t just focus on the good or the bad. Don’t interest yourself with only the useful and discard the not so useful. Make the habit of doing this with all emotions.
b) Recognize that the emotion is a messenger. This is the big step. By doing this you are taking control of the actions resulting from that emotion. If you decide what you will do as a result of the message you get, you stop yourself from being pushed one way and then the other. You take control and subsequently stop being the victim.
c) Translate the emotion. This will tell you all you need to know about the actions you take – you can decide rationally what is needed and what isn’t.
Emotional toughness is seen in all people who are healthy, balanced and successful. I don’t want you to think of success in the conventional ‘made a million’ terms. Instead, the way I think of success is someone doing what they enjoy and supporting a lifestyle they want. Doesn’t take a million at all. However, I digress!
The habit of emotional toughness is displayed by people who know what they want, know their feelings and are decisive and respond quickly and correctly to them. They are aware of the messages the body sends them and they meet their needs as soon as possible.
Unhealthy people, on the other hand, don’t know what the body is trying to tell them. Often they ignore the valuable messages being given to them. Often, they will respond to the immediate emotion being expressed – no thought or translation is even attempted. The result is that these people will often mask the emotional or physical need with the first repressor they can find – food, drink, drugs, anger – the list could go on and on.
So, you now understand about using your emotions in a healthy way as opposed to an unhealthy way. To recap – and simplify – emotions can be either empowering (joy, confidence, fun etc), disempowering (fear, loss of confidence, anger, frustration etc) or recovering (calmness, relaxed, thoughtful etc). obviously, in order to achieve our goals, we want to negate the disempowering emotions as much as we can by meeting all our needs and access our empowering emotions when we need to in order to achieve our tasks/goals/dreams. In between, we want to experience recovery emotions so that we don’t tire or burn out.
What would you say if I told you that it is possible to train yourself to experience these empowering emotions at will? Imagine you are feeling down, poorly or unfocussed – and you could tap into the emotions that make you feel good. What could you achieve with this? Well, it is possible to do this. It requires
practice and determination but it is a skill you can learn. I’ll explain.
Imagine I held a check for £1 million. I told you that all you needed to do to get this was to cry and then laugh. How would you do it? Probably, you would screw your face up, hunch your shoulders and think of things that made you so sad you wanted to cry. You would then access these emotions when they began to surface and work on mimicking what you wanted to achieve. Very shortly, you would be crying like a baby. When it came time to laugh, you would switch to happy thoughts and actions. You would smile and think of the funniest thing you ever experienced. You would again mimic the actions of the emotion. Soon, you would be laughing your socks off.
How was it possible to achieve these two states of emotional disparity so quickly? Basically, all you did was to do as actors have done since they walked the boards of the stage – you acted how you wanted to feel, accessed the emotions from memory – and very soon, that was how you felt and acted. It is a proven fact that there is a link between emotions and physiology.
In a nutshell, how you act will determine how you feel. Act on the outside how you want to feel on the inside. Keep your head up, shoulders back. Smile. Be confident and in control. If you don’t feel like that on the inside, well then you soon will. It is often said that confidence is the application of confidence. And in no other field is this demonstrated more clearly than in the area of emotional toughness.
Act good on the outside and access your empowering emotions. Accept, translate and act on your negative emotions and be aware of how you feel. That’s the essence of emotional toughness.