Growing up, I always was told to ignore my emotions and to just toughen up. This meant I ignored everything that bothered me and never paid any attention to any salient issues in my life. After years of not addressing the issues I developed over time they compiled and caused me a lot of problems. This build up of problems happened during my first episode of schizophrenia and was the impetus for a lot of my problems and a contributing factor to the development of the illness. My brain wasn’t equipped to handle the severity and number of issues I had ignored for so many years. Part of this was because I didn’t have the skill set and tools to address problems in my life and find solutions for them because I had been ignoring them.
In later years during my recovery, I learned a number of ways I can address issues and find peace with problems. To first address these issues I figured I need direction, and that direction has always been to make my mind function as well as it can. My goal when addressing an issue is to clear it out of my mind’s way and to make it a zero. Scientifically, when we have roadblocks in our mind they prevent communication from one set of brain cells to the other. Clearing these roadblocks out of the way has helped improve the fluidity and speed at which I think because the communicative roads between brain cells are cleared so messages can be sent.
Identify the problem
The first tool to improving my brain’s functionality has been identifying problems. Because I struggled so much with socialization in younger years from nearly having committed suicide in middle school, I’ve realized a lot of my issues circle around social intelligence and social skills. Having a decent knowledge of my past traumas helps give me direction when I’m trying to identify issues. The first indicator that I have a problem is when I feel pain or discomfort when talking about a subject. In years past when I identified a source of pain I shied away from it and turned outwards. When I feel pain during my day I make a mental note of it so I can address it later. It takes a lot of courage to turn inwards but it has been well worth my while. This is what I do when I arrive home alone, where I can address the issues of the day without any distractions or any worry that people will bother me at my most vulnerable of times. The most important part about addressing issues independently for me has been isolation. The issues I deal with are all personal so I prefer to be alone when I’m facing them. This makes it easier to address them because no one will be able to ask me any odd questions as to any pain I’m exuding or any awkward emotions they may see. It helps me to keep focused on the problem.
Identify your emotions
The next step for me is to identify what issues within the problem I experienced at work are causing me pain. This initial pain is difficult to figure out because there are a number of emotions happening. One tool that gives me direction is identifying all the different emotions I have surrounding the issue. A good practice for this was to look up all the definitions of all the basic emotions and have them in my memory. Having done this gave me a resource which made it much easier to identify what I was feeling. I had terms for feelings and having these terms allowed my mind to work with and sort them out.
An example of emotional intelligence at work
So one day at work I had a friend who was intentionally ignoring me. It caused me an unusual amount of pain for something that wasn’t meant to cause me much harm and should have been considered frivolous. However, it was really painful.
When I arrived home that day I searched into my past to identify what it was about being ignored that day that caused me a lot of pain. I realized when I was in middle school basically everyone ignored me throughout the day when I tried communicating with them. This past issue which was fairly traumatic and really salient informed me the reason I dislike being ignored during current times. The problem was identified. I figured out that I felt anger, anxiety, and self-loathing. After this I worked on telling myself to “be nice to others about having been ignored all the time”. This helped me with self-loathing because I was not treating others the way I wanted to be treated. This made me deserving of that same treatment. I also told myself to “forgive others for the pain they caused me by ignoring me”. This forgiveness allowed me to cut the tie of the emotional burden of hatred and anger I had towards them for making me feel so terrible. Lastly, I informed myself that I didn’t deserve to be ignored and I was just a kid who had been trying to fit in, which was the exact truth. This helped me with anxiety because I felt I had deserved to be picked on and this told me I truly didn’t. It was a more rational thought to eliminate the irrational thought of feeling I deserved something that truly wasn’t my fault. This helped eliminate anxiety because going forward, if I wasn’t deserving of being ignored I would feel empowered to stand up for myself and deserving of doing so. I might not have known what to say or how to interact during the times I was ignored, however, people could have been nice to me and included me. They could have been kind and took me under their wing and taught me how to socialize. I learned that I wasn’t deserving of this behavior because in current times when someone doesn’t know what to say, I react to them with compassion and I do my best to make conversation and make them feel like they fit in.
Photo by Andreas Bloch