What is Emotional Fitness (And Do You Have It?)
We seem to have a pretty clear idea about what physical fitness is. I think that many people would also agree on what mental fitness is. However, when it comes to emotional fitness, it seems like there is a great variety of opinion about what makes for good emotional fitness.
For some it is being free of emotions…
To some people good emotional fitness would mean that they didn't feel anything they didn't want to feel. They would be able to go through life, have all sorts of experiences that would normally make them frightened or angry or upset and they wouldn't feel it at all. For them, there would be no fear, no grief, no anger and no sadness.
We can imagine that people like this had suffered terribly with being overwhelmed by emotions in the past, and were desperate to be free of them forever. People with this view of emotional fitness often want to know how to feel less.
For them, emotional fitness is control.
… for others, it is about living them fully
Some people find that emotions are the stuff of life. They feel that without emotions life would not be worth living. They find that their emotions are an artistic inspiration and a sign that they are living their lives fully. While emotions can sometimes be too much for them, they know they can usually quickly bounce back.
It's easy to imagine that people like this often experience more pleasant emotions; happiness, joy, love that this may not be always true. For them, emotional fitness is immersion; they want to know how to feel more.
Numb to one emotion, numb to all
The difficulty with emotions is that when we become numbed to one emotion we become numb to all emotions. The path of having no bad feelings is the path of having no feelings at all. To extend the physical fitness metaphor into emotional terms, perhaps emotional fitness is the ability to experience emotions as they arise but not to be overwhelmed by them (in the same way that physical exertions don’t overwhelm us if we are physically fit).
Using this metaphor we aren't exactly in control of our emotions, but we also aren't in danger of feeling like we will be swept away by them. From this perspective, there are no negative emotions.
Helping you regulate your emotions
The term we might use for this is emotional regulation, and it can be one of the goals of psychotherapy — to stay in touch with your emotions so you can experience the fullness of life, but to also know that you won't be threatened with being overwhelmed by the things you feel.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Now, read about The Price of Honesty: Are We Prepared to Pay?
– Tim Hill
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