Raise Your Emotional Awareness for More Peace and Happiness

Published by Charles Francis on

By Charles A. Francis

“When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master.” ~ Benedict de Spinoza

Do you ever wish you could understand your emotions better? Most of us do. However, those who have good emotional awareness are few. Many of us live our entire lives without understanding them. We let them rule our lives, as they dictate our thoughts, actions, and decisions.

While it may not seem like such a big deal not understanding our emotions, the consequences are a life filled with chaos and emotional turmoil. We live a life of heartache and sadness, instead of joy and happiness.

The good news is that it is possible for you to understand your emotions, and keep them from ruling your life. Here I’m going to discuss what emotional awareness is, how it can change your life, and how you can develop it, so you can be free of the emotional baggage that keeps you from being truly happy and peaceful.

What Is Emotional Awareness?

Having emotional awareness means that you are able to recognize and understand your emotions, and those of others. You’re able to regulate your emotions, and help cheer others up when they are feeling down.[1]

Emotional awareness also means that you’re able to learn from your emotions. You can examine your thoughts and behavior to identify their underlying sources. For example, you may be feeling sad for no apparent reason, but upon reflection you realize that someone you encountered briefly reminds you of someone from your past that may have left this world too soon.

“Feelings are something you have; not something you are.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

With emotional awareness, you can predict your emotions. You know how you’re going to react emotionally in certain situations. With this knowledge, you can make better choices. For example, if you know you’re probably going to run into an ex-partner at an event, then knowing it may make you uncomfortable, you choose not to attend. You may also be aware that it may make the other person uncomfortable as well.

In general, emotional awareness is the understanding of human emotions, their sources, and having the ability manage them, instead of letting them overwhelm you and run your life. With emotional awareness you can basically eliminate the unnecessary drama in your life.

Benefits of Emotional Awareness

As you can imagine, there are significant benefits to having greater emotional awareness. You can:

  • Communicate your feelings to others
  • Navigate through difficult situations faster and easier
  • Set healthy boundaries with other people
  • Understand others better, and be better able to help them
  • Make better decisions that will lead to better emotional states

With greater emotional awareness, you will gain more joy and fulfillment out of life. You will stay calm in tense situations, and not let your emotions overwhelm you. And you will gain a greater understanding of yourself, and have the strength to attend to your emotional needs.

Using Mindfulness Meditation to Raise Your Emotional Awareness

The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to help you develop mindfulness, or awareness, of what is happening in the present moment. That is, it helps you better understand yourself, other people, and the rest of the world.

Understanding yourself means to understand all aspects of your existence, and this includes your emotions. So naturally, mindfulness meditation is an effective tool for developing emotional awareness.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Calming Your Mind

Mindfulness meditation helps you calm your mind by reducing the traffic jam of thoughts that hinders your ability to see clearly. A calm mind helps you develop emotional awareness by reducing the number and complexity of emotions you have to deal with.

Fewer thoughts in your mind trigger fewer emotions. You see, our emotions arise from our thoughts, either conscious or unconscious. We feel certain emotions based on the way we process events in our lives. For example, if we think about grandma making homemade bread, we’d probably get a warm loving feeling.

So, with fewer thoughts in our mind, we experience fewer emotions, and fewer emotions are easier to identify, understand, and manage. In general, with mindfulness meditation we develop greater self-awareness in all areas of our lives.

Healing the Wounds from Your Past

Many of us have unresolved issues from our past. These issues trigger certain emotions, (usually unpleasant) every time we think of them. They remain unresolved because either we haven’t taken the time to reexamine them, we don’t know how, or we don’t want to.

When we don’t know how to resolve the issues from our past, we tend to avoid them. However, we might avoid them consciously, but we can’t avoid them unconsciously. And these unconscious memories affect our actions, reactions, and beliefs. That is, they affect our daily lives.

Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, we’re able to make more sense of these issues, and heal the wounds from our past. Essentially what happens is that as we develop mindfulness, we begin to see the world from different points of view. That is, our awareness expands, and we’re able to be more understanding and compassionate.

Here’s how this works. Suppose some time ago a family member made an unkind remark to you for no apparent reason. Chances are you felt hurt, and wondered why this person made that remark. Since you couldn’t figure out the reason for the rude remark, the issue remained unresolved in your mind.

As you develop mindfulness, you begin to realize that the reason for the unkind remark maybe had nothing to do with you. Maybe the person was going through a tough time at home or at work. Keep in mind that happy people don’t purposely harm others. So either the person was unhappy or unmindful, two reasons for being more compassionate. This can resolve it in your mind, and therefore, allow you to be free from the emotional burden.

Of course, each situation is different. But in general, the more mindful we are, the less personally we take unkind behavior from others, and the more we’re able to forgive and let go of the emotional baggage.

Emotional Awareness Meditation

An alternative to the mindfulness meditation portion of a meditation session is emotional awareness meditation. As the term implies, you’re training yourself to observe your emotions. Over time, this type of meditation will help you gain more control over your emotions, and develop greater inner strength.

To practice emotional awareness meditation, do the relaxation and concentration meditations first. When you finish the concentration meditation, turn your attention to your emotions. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Are you feeling happy, sad, angry, lonely, hurt, restless, bored, or some other emotion?

Some emotions arising from your subconscious mind may be quite subtle. They tend to manifest themselves into a general mood seemingly without any rhyme or reason.

When you are early in your practice, start out by just becoming aware of and identifying your emotions. As your mind calms down, and you develop greater inner strength, begin exploring the root causes of your emotions.

To understand the causes of your emotions, you need to keep probing your mind. It is much like following a trail to see where it leads. You can probe your mind by consciously asking yourself questions, and then sitting quietly for a few minutes to allow your mind to find the answer. Ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling?
  • What event or thought triggered this emotion?
  • Was this event or thought the cause, or is it something deeper?
  • What is the view, perception, or understanding behind the emotion?
  • How can I see the event differently, or from a broader perspective?

How quickly the answers come to you will depend on several factors, mainly, how calm your mind is, how deep in your mind the answer is, and how willing you are to accept the truth.

Examining the Roots of Your Emotions

Another way of developing emotional awareness is through deep introspection. Here is a method I found that you can use to examine the underlying sources of your emotions.[2] It involves putting pen to paper to help you organize your thoughts. So, get a pen and notebook ready.

What Are Your Values?

Your values are the things you care about deeply. For example, you may put a high value on family, hard work, or being of service to others. If you aren’t living according to your values, then you probably feel restless, and out of sync with the world.

Now, think about where your values come from. Chance are they come from your parents or other role models. It’s quite possible that some of your parents’ values rubbed off on you without you realizing it. For example, I developed a ‘failure is not an option’ attitude from my mom who raised four children all by herself. I didn’t realize this until later in life.

Make a list of your values, and decide if you want to revise them. Then determine if your life is in line with them.

What Are Your Core Beliefs?

Your core beliefs are your points of view about people, life, and the world that you have taken to be fact. They may take the form of ‘I believe all people are inherently good (or bad)’, or ‘I have (or don’t have) the power to control my own destiny.’ As with our values, we probably received our core beliefs from our parents.

It’s important to understand that our core beliefs are deeply ingrained in our subconscious mind, and they literally run our lives, for good or ill. It is certainly desirable to have good wholesome core beliefs to run our lives. But if we want to be free of the influence of unwholesome core beliefs, then we need to recognize them consciously, and replace them with wholesome beliefs. This will lead to better decisions in your life.

Make a list of your core beliefs, and determine if they are wholesome or unwholesome. Then determine if you want to keep, discard, or replace them.

“Few among men are they who cross to the further shore. The others merely run up and down the bank on this side.” ~ Buddha

Become Aware of Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic is the voice in your head that tells you you’re not doing things right. It is like an overbearing parent putting you down at every turn. It is the voice that has you second-guessing your decisions. It also compares you to other people, especially those who are more successful, better looking, younger, etc.

Your inner critic uses words like ‘you better’, ‘should’, or ‘must’. People who aren’t overly critical of themselves think in terms of solutions, instead of problems. Their criticism of themselves is more realistic and objective.

Make a list of the terms you use when being critical of yourself, and determine if the criticisms are based on reality, or just fear. Then stay vigilant and recognize when you are being critical of yourself.

Ask Yourself Good Questions

A good way to probe your subconscious mind is to ask yourself a question. When you do this, it sends a request to your subconscious mind to look for the answer. This is essentially how memory recall works.

For example, when you’re trying to remember someone’s name you had forgotten, you usually ask yourself ‘what is that person’s name?’ and then the answer pops into your mind a few minutes later.

Ask yourself ‘how’ or ‘what’ questions. Don’t ask ‘why’ questions, as this can trigger your inner critic. Ask yourself possibility questions, such as “If I were wealthy, how would I spend my time?” Or, “If I had just one month to live, how would I spend it?” Questions like these will free us from our constraints, and reveal our true feelings.

Learn to Let Go

Letting go of people in our lives is one of the hardest things to do, especially romantic partners. If things aren’t working out between the two of you, and you’re trying to hold on, then you are making two people very unhappy, and keeping both of you from growing.

Sometimes we have longtime friends that we don’t want to let go of. As with romantic partners, we have a lot of time and emotions invested in the relationships. However, we each grow at a different pace. If you’ve outgrown people and are trying to hang on, they will keep you from growing. Free yourself, and let go of them.

Now, letting go doesn’t mean you abandon your old friends. You can still be there for them in times of need. Letting go means you find new friends who are on a similar life trajectory, and that are going to fuel your spiritual growth, instead of holding you back.

So, how do you let go? One way is to write about the relationship. Maybe describe your history with the person, and where you are now. Describe how being with them might go against your changing values. By examining the relationship, you can learn a lot about how you feel, and where you want to go in life.

Another way to let go of someone or something is to simply tell yourself to let go. Every time a thought of the person or thing pops into your mind, tell yourself, “Let it go.” Don’t underestimate the power of this technique.

I use it when something is on my mind and I’m having trouble going to sleep. When going to bed, I tell myself that my bed is off limits to thoughts about anything but the people I love. And when unwanted thoughts pop into my mind, I remind myself that they’re off limits. I can then go to sleep with a smile on my face.

Final Thoughts

When I was a young man, emotions were a great mystery to me. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did, yet I believed that I could control them by ignoring and suppressing them. I felt lost and confused, but couldn’t admit it.

Today, things are much different. Thanks to the mindfulness meditation practice and some deep introspection, I have much greater emotional awareness. My emotions are much more stable, and when they arise, I can usually identify their source. And by understanding my emotions better, I can better understand those of others.

With greater emotional awareness, I no longer feel like a prisoner of myself. I feel free to live my life without the fear of being hurt. For me, life is truly a joy. And with some work and courage, you too can develop emotional awareness, and realize more peace and happiness in your life.

References
[1] Harley Therapy: “Emotional Awareness – What It Is and Why You Need It
[2] Harley Therapy: “How to Listen to Yourself – Do You Know What You REALLY Think and Feel?

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