Emotional Literacy and Emotional Consciousness: What are They and How to Have Them
Emotional Consciousness: the way we relate to, embrace, and express our emotions combined with how we relate to, embrace, and allow the emotions expressed by others. Our level of Emotional literacy determines the quality of our life experience.
Life, in its truest expression, is an unending dance of emotions, moment-by-moment-by-moment. We know what we’re experiencing in life by how it feels in our bodies. Could you know love without feeling? Would you know success without feeling? Could you know grief (which means you know love) without feeling? Could you know the joy of a birth or the sadness of defeat without feeling?
You couldn’t. Yet, I’d wager a bet that even though life happens through our felt experience, you, like I did for so long, would say, “I’d don’t like to feel.” And, you’d be focusing on the feelings that don’t feel so good.
Emotions Create Memories so Emotional Intelligence Matters
If you’re like most, you’d love to have, maybe even crave, the “good” emotions – happiness, joy, satisfaction, excitement, peace – and you’ll do most anything to avoid the “bad” ones – sadness, loneliness, anger, failure. This very love-hate, push-pull dynamic and relationship to our emotions is the foundation of our emotional consciousness.
Here’s the thing, the most powerful, intimate, and memorable moments of our lives are filled with emotions. No, those emotions don’t always feel good, sometimes they feel downright awful, and sometimes they feel so incredible that they take our breath away. We know our most precious and pivotal moments in life because of how we feel. The reason we remember those moments is because of the depth of emotion we felt at the time – “good” or “bad”.
Emotional Un-consciousness Sabotages
When we don’t have emotional literacy, or in other words, when we’re in our emotional unconsciousness, we deny, ignore, resist, and bury our emotions – hence making them all the more painful, lasting, and even damaging to ourselves, each other, and our relationships. Stuffed and buried emotions do devastating damage to our own self-worth and our closest connections.
On top of that, in our emotional unconsciousness we also ignore, resist, deny, and judge other’s emotions. Even when we’re not judging them, we’re usually uncomfortable, and will do just about anything to get them to stop feeling. We’ll point out the positive, saying, “Look on the bright side.” We’ll tell them to muscle through and get over it. We’ll hand them a tissue as a signal to pull it together. Why? Why do emotions feel so threatening? What makes us scared to have a relationship with our feelings?
If we look deeper, when you try to avoid the so-called “negative” emotions, they actually run your life. Usually in ways you won’t like. Usually in ways that sabotage the things that truly matter.
For example, singles who hate feeling lonely, will typically, in their avoidance of that emotion, be willing to settle for a partner or relationship that is less than ideal. They imagine a better-than-nothing-relationship means they don’t have to feel lonely. (Emotion successfully avoided! But are they any better off? I’d say there’s just another set of uncomfortable feelings to deal with. So, we traded off one “negative” emotion for a slew of others.)
In relationship, attempting to grasp onto peace, men and women avoid talking about the topics that might create upset. Yet, in the avoidance of hurt and the grasping for peace, all they end up with, at best, is a pseudo-numb peace. And, deeper disconnection.
I’ve seen this time and time again in my own life, and in those I work with. When we can’t accept and embrace our own emotions, we can’t embrace and accept another’s emotions. Yet, emotions are the language of intimacy. If we’re not emotionally conscious, if we’re avoiding emotions, we cannot have a truly intimate relationship. It’s impossible.
Emotional Literacy is Essential
Brandon Bays, calls emotions the “barometer of the soul.” Emotions tell us where we’re out of integrity with ourselves, when we’re out of alignment with our truth, when we’re getting our needs met and when we’re not. They tell us when we’re in love and when we’re struggling. Emotions provide a wealth of information when we’re in conscious relationship with them.
Yet, too often we hold them as true enemies, too often we hold them as true enemies, terrifying threats. We tell ourselves, “If I let myself feel this, it will never stop.” “If I feel, I won’t get anything done.” “If I feel I’ll be judged.” “No one will want me.” Or, “I’m too much.” And that’s just the beginning of the myriad reasons we don’t let ourselves feel.
What if we lived in a world, where we are taught emotional literacy? What would it be like if we were shown how to be emotionally conscious? Where and when is it ok to cry? For both men and women? What if we were taught how to be consciously angry? What if we held each other, really held each other, and said, “It’s ok. I’ve got you.” And, really let each other feel?
We’d actually have a lot more of those “good” emotions. We’d be happier, healthier, and more alive.
Even more importantly, what if we didn’t depend solely on our intimate partners to hold us? What if we could just hold each other as human beings? What if this was Emotional Intelligence?
One of my first huge breakthroughs in my own emotional literacy happened when I felt safe enough to let myself truly feel and actually allow my emotions. It happened when a woman, significantly shorter than me, pulled me into her lap at a workshop, and just let me cry in her arms. During a breakup a few years back, one of my girlfriends came and crawled in bed with me and held me while I grieved. Years later, in our events now, I’ve seen men and women alike, finally give themselves permission to let go of the grief, hurt, sorrow, that blocks their hearts from accessing real love now. I ask again, what if it was ok to cry? What if you allowed yourself to feel was the kindest, most nurturing, healing and, as a result, most energizing thing we could do for ourselves – and each other?
Is it possible that feeling is the only way to know true love? What if feeling meant loving?
*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.