Saturday, October 18, 2008

Emotional Awareness and Happiness

Emotional awareness is a key to leading a happier and more fulfilling life. To really "know oneself," as the Greek philosophers urged us to do, requires that we know how we feel in all of life's many situations. When we know how we feel we know what we enjoy doing and who we enjoy doing it with. We know who we feel safe with, who we feel accepted by and understood by.

Though we might be able to lead a productive life, even a "successful" life ~ if one defines success by the level of status, education, or material worth, it is unlikely we will actually ever be happy unless we are very aware of our specific feelings. In fact, it is quite possible to be successful. It is easy to accept without question other people's definition of success and happiness. But when we become more aware of our own true and unique feelings we are more likely to find our own individual happiness. This may be the essence of using our emotional intelligence.

Knowing the feeling is present

The first level of emotional awareness is knowing when feelings are present in ourselves. We become "aware" of the feeling when we first think about it or realize we feel something at that moment.

Acknowledging the feeling

Nature has given us a sophisticated guidance system in our feelings. Our negative feelings, for example, call our attention to things which are not healthy for us. The literature on emotional intelligence points out that our feelings direct us to what is important to think about. Through thought, our feelings can point us to the to the causes of our negative feelings and to possible solutions. But if we fail to acknowledge our negative feelings, we won't be able to focus our attention on the problem that needs to be solved. For nature's inner guidance system to function we must acknowledge our feelings.

Accepting the feeling

Sometimes we might think that we shouldn't feel the way we do. Such thoughts are the result of beliefs which have been programmed into us by others. One of the primary benefits of a highly developed emotional intelligence, though, may be that it helps us become more independent from the opinions and beliefs of others. Instead of listening to others' voices, we are able to put more value on our inner voice, a voice which speaks to us through our individual emotions.

Forecasting feelings

The more aware of our feelings, the better chance we have of predicting how we will feel in the future. This can be thought of as forecasting our feelings.
We can improve this ability by considering how we will feel if we choose one course of action as opposed to another. The value of this ability can not be overstated. Only when we can predict our feelings can we make decisions which will lead to our long term happiness.

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