Emotional agility is the ability to be flexible with your thoughts and feelings in order to behave optimally in response to every day situations. It does not require you to control your feelings or to force yourself to think positively all the time.In the words of Susan David it is about ‘loosening up, calming down, and living more intentionally. It’s about choosing how to respond rather than react to your emotional warning system.’
Building this emotional intelligence system dabbles in the following:
Recognise and label emotions. Think of them as raw sensory data meant to signal a vast array of information: danger, threat, desires/longing, values/needs, right/wrong, virtues/sins and more. Emotions are meant to be experienced, processed and let go in order to draw inspiration, take a stance or act in a certain way. If left to longer too long, emotions can become afflictive. We must learn to sort emotions as primary/secondary, adaptive/maladaptive. Eg: The adaptive emotion of jealousy is meant to alert us to a threat in our environment to guard against. Maladative jealousy on the other hand is unhealthy and can lead to violent behaviour and rage.
Emotional arousal and expression:
Allowing emotions to surface and experience them with tolerance. All 7 core emotions we experience namely joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, contempt and disgust have a functional role to play in human survival and well being. Five of these seven emotions have a negative feeling tone to them. It is important to build tolerance for these in order to achieve our goals and stay healthy. Anytime we disrupt the experience of a healthy but uncomfortable emotion, we create situations that can lead to avoidance patterns of denial/numbness and a general insensitivity to feelings.
Working on over expressed or maladaptive emotions by creating a working distance with them, reducing vulnerability to them by techniques of self soothing, breathing, distraction, and invoking of positive emotional states.
Reflecting on emotions:
Making sense of felt emotions and integrating them into our personal narrative to bring coherence & purpose to our lives. For example: An intense effort that resulted in failure can be understood as a journey in cultivating resilience and grit.
In addition to the process listed above, transformation also uses a technique of changing emotion with emotion. In this, a maladaptive emotion like a familiar bad feeling that crops up now and again is placed in contact with a more adaptive emotion with the result that either the maladaptive emotions recedes or an entirely new emotional state is invoked. This is done through the use of empathy, attention control, needs/goals oriented inquiry, positive visual imagery, role playing, self compassion, cognitive reframing, etc. For instance, lingering resentment can be transmuted by invoking self compassion which can result in a state of forgiveness and serenity. It can also be transmuted by invoking adaptive anger that pulls you out of inertia and provides impetus for action. Another way to match emotion with emotion is to find a way to bring two seemingly contradictory states together ina dialectical process – for instance: acceptance and change. It is only when you truly accept who you are that you creat conditions that initiate the process of effortless change.