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Case Study: How Authenticity Can Change Your Life

Case Study: How Authenticity Can Change Your Life

The Case for Authenticity

We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity.

– Thomas Merton, abridged and adapted from New Seeds of Contemplation


I want to tell you a story about a life coaching client I worked with named Sara. 


Just like you, Sara struggled with the tension between her true self and her false self. She’d always been the good girl, the rule follower, the one who never asked questions or went against the flow. 


After graduating from college, she started to have lots of questions about life, relationships, and (most important) her faith. She couldn’t figure out how to make any progress and they felt really STUCK. 


When I first met Sara, she was discouraged, frustrated, and just plain depressed. She’d been told what to think about everything from marriage to mental health to every tiny detail of her faith. Now that she was adjusting to living back home, navigating the real world, and falling in love with a new fella, she was feeling lots of internal turmoil - but wasn’t even sure what questions to ask. 


The first thing I did was get Sara to take a deep breath as I let her in on a great big secret: you are not alone. We started reframing her understanding of God by looking at what she did NOT believe about God. Starting from this reference point, we could then begin to focus on what’s left. 
Case Study: How Authenticity Can Change Your Life

The joys of deconstruction. 


Brennan Manning said, “Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself.” That being said, I introduced Sara to the empowering idea that she gets to create the life she wants. 


When I say things like, “Thoughts become things,” and “Words become worlds,” it’s true. What you think about yourself is absolutely true (at least for the moment). 


As Sara began to deconstruct the lies she’d believed about herself (and God), she slowly began to filter through the pain, social constructs, and fear-based religion which was holding her captive.

 

Getting clear on who you are and what you believe about yourself and that which we call “God” involves lots of interpersonal dialogue, allowing you to finally embrace your true self for the very first time.

Hello, authenticity!

 

It’s one of the simplest, most POWERFUL ways to make progress in the areas of self-awareness and personal development.

 

When Sara put this to work, here’s what began to change:

 

  • She stopped being so afraid to think for herself.
  • She began to care less about the opinions of others.
  • She started to like herself, rather than just tolerate her existence.
  • Rather than feeling like “life is meaningless,” she began to find meaning in everyday life.

 

Suddenly, Sara was making real PROGRESS!

 

I want to encourage you to try this in your life as well. This may not change things overnight, but it will lead to MOVEMENT, and that’s what matters.

 

If you feel like you could use a little boost in this area...I’d LOVE to help. I’d love to see you make the kind of progress that Sara made in this area. So what do you say?

Let’s get you started on the journey to authenticity.

Click here to get more details on my brand-new course:

How to Be Your True Self in a World of Fakers.


Discover new joys as you let go of living the way others think you should & start living your life as the real YOU.

Learning to live your life authentically is a process. This course and coaching program takes you through that process on an introspective journey that will result in newfound self-awareness, self-confidence, and the courage to create a life that truly makes you happy.


You’ll find tools, techniques, and strategies throughout to make your journey a success. The course includes 49 lessons with a variety of reflections, exercises, and even a field trip to guide you through this exciting journey to authenticity.

*THIS COURSE INCLUDES 3 PRIVATE COACHING SESSIONS.


Your journey starts with getting to know who you really are. Clarify your beliefs and values. Discover your true passions. Develop a healthy self-concept. The path continues with proven techniques that will help you accept and love the person you find inside.


Put your new self-knowledge to work in the next part of your journey as you discover your life purpose and determine your priorities in life – what’s most important to you!


The last few stops on your journey help you to develop the courage to show the world who you really are. Set yourself free from the expectations of others. Create a compelling future that excites you as you end this journey of discovery and start a new one as the real, authentic you!

Get the details and sign up by clicking right here.

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How to Embrace Your True Self in a World of Fakers

How to Embrace Your True Self in a World of Fakers

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you have a nickname? Even if no one has used it in years, did you have a pet name of some kind when you were a child?

My grandfather called me “Stevie” until the day he died. (He’s the only one who could get away with it.) I was “Ralph” to my Aunt Missy, and “Butt-Butt” to my Uncle Tiger (his real name is David). “Stinky” is what my wife calls me most often. Those nicknames are a glimpse into the loving relationships I have with those closest to me: the names my inner circle use(d) to remind me they’re quite fond of me.

While I love nicknames, there are other names I’ve been called through the years that haven’t felt so good. I’ve been called, “sissy” and “fag,” “sinner” and “broken.” But those aren’t nearly as painful as the names I’ve called myself; things like “crazy” and “weak” and many that are much, much worse.

Embracing Your True Self

What about you? Have people labeled you and boxed you in, when all you’ve ever wanted to do is be free? What would it feel like to live the life you choose, rather than the life others think you should live? How long have you been performing for the approval of others? What would it feel like to take off the mask and stop pretending?

There are all sorts of labels people try to slap on us, and boxes we put ourselves in. But it’s who we are beneath the noise, chatter, and unrealistic expectations of other people that really counts.

Consider this wisdom from Thomas Merton:

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God—because Truth, Light—knows nothing about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love— outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

Merton goes on to say...

We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face.But we cannot make these choices with impunity.Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them.If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion reigns.
– abridged and adapted from New Seeds of Contemplation
How to Embrace Your True Self in a World of Fakers

The journey toward authenticity (or the “true self”) begins with self-awareness.

What is self-awareness? The dictionary defines self-awareness as “knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character.” When you’re self-aware, you have an accurate and clear understanding of your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. You know what makes you tick. Self-awareness also includes an understanding of how others perceive you. Lacking self-awareness can lead to a very confusing and frustrating life!

Embracing self-awareness can empower you to be your true self.

Your level of self-awareness can influence your relationships, career, and happiness:

  • Self-awareness is necessary for taking control of your life. The direction of your life is determined by your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and reactions. Self-awareness is the principle way of understanding and influencing these things.
    • Self-awareness highlights faulty beliefs and emotional reactions that stand in your way and gives you the power to make adjustments.
  • Self-awareness illuminates the real reasons for past failures and challenges. We often dismiss our failures as bad luck or a lack of proper timing. But it’s also possible that we failed to perceive the situation, others, or ourselves accurately. It’s much easier to see the reason behind relationship, work, and other struggles when we can look at ourselves clearly.
    • Do you consistently struggle at work or in your relationships? What can you do better?
    • Those who lack self-awareness are puzzled by their negative outcomes or blame others exclusively.
  • Self-awareness is a critical quality for leaders. One study concluded that a high degree of self-awareness was the best predictor of success for executives.
    • Executives that have an understanding of their weaknesses are able to build a team composed of members that fill those weaknesses.
    • A lack of self-awareness puts a limit on your leadership abilities.
  • Self-awareness is the foundation for personal progress. Without it, any personal development efforts will be severely hampered.
    • Self-awareness is the cornerstone of success and self-improvement. Without self-awareness, the knowledge you possess can’t be applied effectively. It’s necessary to understand your beliefs, habits, strengths, and weaknesses to make a personal change. Avoid assuming that you’re self-aware. Give it some time and thought.

Building greater self-awareness won’t happen overnight, but it can be developed. You can start building your self-awareness, and reaping the benefits, starting today!

Download my Daily Authenticity Checklist:

Use these questions daily to ensure you are living an authentic life. Think of them as diagnostic questions to ensure you are embracing your true self every single day.

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Suicide and Children: What You Can Do

Children and Suicide: What You Can Do
“I have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” -James Baldwin

​My Little Girl Doesn’t Really Want to Hang Herself, Right?

A friend of mine was tidying up her little girl’s bedroom when she noticed tiny pieces of paper torn and lying in a pile near the top of the trash can. Because she’s a mom who gives a damn, Erin took the time to piece the shredded paper together.

After nearly ten minutes, Erin almost regretted her decision.

Erin’s daughter, who is only nine-years-old, had drawn a self-portrait of herself, hanging from the ceiling, her lifeless body in a noose.

Go back and read that last sentence again.

A nine-year-old little girl drew a picture of her lifeless body, hanging from a rope. Rather than playing with dolls or watching cartoons on the iPad, a precious little girl was daydreaming of dying by suicide.

Our job is not to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. Our job is to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” -L.R. Knost

I nearly died by suicide at the age of twenty-nine, but this little girl is in the fourth grade. A little white girl from suburban Middle America with access to just about anything a child with curly hair and dimpled cheeks could possibly want.

Just three weeks ago, her family returned home from a special birthday trip to Cinderella’s castle at Disney.

So, why did she draw it? Her mama asked the same question.

It turns out, this sweet little girl was being bullied at school.

Think it’s no big deal? I’ll raise you one higher: do you think it’s a big deal that my precious Caroline came home from school one day last year, upset because her pre-school classmates called her “chubby?” My daughter was only three.

“Children are mirrors, they reflect back to us all we say and do.” -Pam Leo

Our world is full of pain, that’s not a surprise to anyone reading this. What I’m learning, is that one of the most accurate ways to check the temperature of a nation is by looking at its children. I’m raising two of my own, and from the stories they bring home, it is more clear than ever that our world is full of fear and pain. The truth is, our children mirror the world around them.

If a child grows up in a world of loving kindness, where diversity is celebrated, and everyone is safe and welcome, they have a higher chance to repeat those healthy patterns. If a child grows up in a world filled with shaming behaviors, judgmental glances, and harsh criticism, they certainly have a greater chance at growing up to be a cold and calloused adult.

More often than not, our children become the people we shape them to be. Maybe that’s why Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”

Call me harsh, but why would we be shocked that Erin’s daughter drew a picture of herself, feet dangling above the ground, neck in a noose? As sad as it is, it makes perfect sense when you realize our children are growing up in a world where they witness bullying at the highest levels of government.

My own daughter lives in a world that idolizes photoshopped, plastic celebrities who do not reflect the real beauty of natural women. My son is being raised in a culture where might makes right, and if someone doesn’t look, dress, or sound like you - they must be the enemy.

“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” -Nelson Mandela

Our children are being raised in a world where it is considered “normal” to have active shooter drills because the politicians their parents keep voting into office offer loads of lip service, but won’t vote to enact real gun control measures that count.

I’m not a politician or a parenting expert, but I am a pretty damn good dad. A dad who cares. A dad who has to brush his fear aside when he drops his son off at school some days.

Here’s what I know: the change is up to us.

The African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it’s true. The responsibility lies in the hands of every man and woman who cares about the next generation. Healing our nation and shifting our dialogue begins at every dinner table from Birmingham to Bloomington.

Healing our children starts with the ways we interact with people around us, and in the words we use when we talk about ourselves. We cannot expect our children not to bully one another, or be surprised by their low self-esteem, when we slander our neighbors and hate ourselves.

The only way we will stop little girls from wanting to die after they get off the bus on Friday afternoons is by raising them in a world that empowers, encourages, and protects them. All of them.

If you want to live in a world where children don’t daydream of dying by suicide, join me in starting to create that reality today.

​FREE Book:

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. For a limited time, you can download my Amazon bestselling book, From Pastor to a Psych Ward, absolutely FREE. Just click here.

Resources:

​*Originally published on The Writer's Guild.

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Love will Never Vote You Out

Love Wins
“It’s funny, isn’t it? That you can preach a judgmental and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind. But you start preaching a God that is too accepting, too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind…and you are in trouble.” -Bishop Gene Robinson (Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire)
Love Will Never Vote You Out (Even if the Methodist Church Does)

When You Believe You are Bad

Ryan wasn’t out when we were in Bible college together. I’m sure people had their suspicions, but he never told anyone he was gay until years after he was expelled. While they officially dismissed him for smoking, I’ve always wondered if it had more to do with their suspicions about his sexuality. So did Ryan.

That experience turned Ryan’s world upside-down. If our little Bible college didn’t want him, how could God possibly love him? My friend’s dream of working for a church was crushed. Over time, he internalized the rejection, until he believed he was intrinsically bad. I watched his life spiral out of control as he desperately tried to numb himself.

We have remained friends through the years, and I’ve been privileged to hear more of his story. Once, I asked Ryan why his life got so rough after Bible college. He said something I won’t ever forget: “When you believe you are bad, you don’t act good.”

Ryan was desperate to accept himself as a gay man, to believe that God could love him for who he is. He wanted to know there was room for him at God’s table, too, but toxic theology and leaders who voted him out told him otherwise.

Why Love Will Never Vote You Out

Of course, Ryan’s not the only one. I’ve had similar, heartbreaking conversations with several dear friends. Through their tears, each confessed that trying to “act straight” was like living in a prison of secrecy and fear. To this day, many are scared to death of being disowned by their families and shunned by their churches.

The fears aren’t unfounded. We’ve all heard horror stories about someone coming out and experiencing rejection, being shunned, and sometimes enduring outright violence, simply for being real about who they are.

Today’s news drives that point home. When the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States puts the worthiness of an entire group of people up for a vote, is it any wonder people struggle to believe they bear the image of the Divine?

If people believe the lie that their lives don’t matter, it damages the soul and sometimes kills the body. People don’t want to live in a world (read: a family or a church) where they aren’t known, accepted, and loved. Perpetuating hate and fear through destructive theology or political ideology is damaging the collective soul of this worldwide community of humans.

Please hear me: whoever you are, whatever you’ve done: you are not bad.If you’ve received that message, know it’s a nasty, hideous lie. Your dreams, your experiences — your joys and pains and sorrows and traumas and successes — are as unique as the stars in the sky, as varied as the number of hairs on your head. God and healthy communities have great big hearts and wide open arms. There’s plenty of room for everyone to fit.

Anyone that makes you feel devalued or ashamed because of your lived experience is not coming from a place of love. When you finally recognize that you are of intrinsic value just because you are a human being, you won’t allow anyone to diminish your worth any longer.

Love is Universal

This “be like us or you’re not welcome here” tribalism is why I left the Evangelical church. In the circles where I used to spend so much time, people were conditioned by years to believe that they are intrinsically evil. At the core of their being, people think they were born damaged, and horrible things like, “God loves me, but must not like me.”

But that’s not what real love says. My favorite thing about Jesus is that he promised that the underdog would have a front-row seat in His radical new kingdom, that the last would be first. The message of Jesus was a big “hell no” to the way things had always been and the lies we’ve always believed.

When religious people stop expecting people to fit their mold, agree with their politics, or live up to their social expectations, they extend freedom and joy to all of God’s people. And isn’t belonging what we all want? Isn’t that what Christ offers us?

At the end of the day, isn’t it more important to love my neighbors than to expect them to pass a litmus test on morality or religious fervor?

If you’ve felt ostracized due to your race, religion, sexuality, gender, disease, or disability, hear me again: you are not bad. If you are a part of any setting (religious or otherwise), that is more obsessed with perfection, cleanliness, and cultural norms than making everyone feel welcome, it is toxic. If real people don’t feel safe enough to enter a sanitized sanctuary, place of business, or home, it’s missing the point.

All any of us wants is love. Rest. Friendship. Compassion. Most of all: acceptance. We aren’t necessarily looking for answers. Just a place to take off our shoes, bow our heads, and rest, as we breathe in peace that no one can take away. The most rebellious thing a follower of Jesus can offer another human being is Love.

Countless people are hiding in church pews and at dinner tables with their own families, fearful of being ousted, just like my friend Ryan. Church leaders only reinforce those fears with their statements and votes.

It’s time to loosen the death grip on our precious moral stances and open our hands and hearts to everyone around us longing for love and acceptance. We can’t depend on the church or the government to care for people exactly as they are. Grace is beckoning each of us to step out, speak up, and make room for everyone.

Love Wins

While conservative Christians use the Bible to justify their discrimination and bigotry, I see a command to love everyone. In today’s context, I think Matthew 25:35–36 would read something like this:

I was LGBTQ+, and you invited me to the Table.
I was homeless, and you gave me a room.
I was an immigrant, and you welcomed me.
I had HIV, and you visited me.
I was a divorcee, and you didn’t exclude me from fellowship.
I was a woman, and you told me my voice mattered.
I was black, and you listened to me.
I was depressed, and you held me close.

I wish we could find grace to be unique, to embrace the story of all of us. My prayer these days is Lord, bind us together. We need the weirdness, the history, the art, the passion, the music, the queerness, and the glitter.

Please don’t back down in your resistance to the lies. You can love and be loved in return, exactly as you are. You might have to try a few places and communities, but there is a place for you. Come. Let’s celebrate the ways we are alike, and glory in our differences. Let’s listen to the sounds of friendship, harmony, and grace. Grace has made space at the table for all of us. Love will never vote you out (even if the Methodist church does).

*This article includes excerpts from Catching Your Breathand has been edited for relevance.

Additional Reading:

  1. How Can I be Gay and Call Myself a Christian? (guest post by Trey Pearson)
  2. How American Christians Use the Bible to Keep Discrimination Alive
  3. I Found God in a Gay Bar

Recommended Books:

  1. Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (by Liz Edman)
  2. Unclobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality (by Colby Martin)
  3. 8 Habits of Love: Overcome Fear and Transform Your Life (by Ed Bacon)
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Pastors and Suicide: What Should I Know?

What do I Need to Know about Pastors and Suicide?

California has mourned the deaths by suicide of two beloved pastors in under six months. Although tragic and sad, the deaths of Pastors Jim Howard and Andrew Stoecklein leave many people—especially within the church—wondering what happened.

The recent deaths also point to the need for mental health care within the church. What can the church do to help?

Thankfully, the editor of the SoCal Christian Voice reached out to me for some perspective.

Click here to read my candid responses to these very important questions.

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You Can’t Glue Ashes: Notes on the First Year of Grief

You Can't Glue Ashes: Notes on the First Year of Grief

“​Blind me to the faults of the other fellow, but reveal to me my own.”

-Ben House, Sr.

To: Ben, From: Ben

A few days before Valentine’s day, my first-grader was sitting at the kitchen table filling out twenty superhero cards for his friends. When he filled one out for Ben, I was a little confused. He’d never mentioned there is another kid with the same name in his class.

“No, Dada. This one’s for Bossy.”

Gut punch. Tears well up. Holy shit.

It was the first time I realized we were nearing the one-year mark.

“Can we take this over to where Bossy lives now, at the cemetery?”

He doesn’t f*cking live there!

No, I didn’t say it.

Deep breath.

“Sure, bud. That would be wonderful,” I said, biting the inside of my lip to choke back the waterfall.

I hate cemeteries, but we went. It was the first time I had seen the headstone. Ben had fallen asleep in the truck, so I left him in the truck with my mom and walked over alone. She didn’t want to get out because it was raining.

Of course, it was raining. Grief is a constant rainy day.

I really have been doing pretty well these past six months. The tears turned from daily to random times each week. From there, they only started to show up once or twice per month. These days, they mostly get me when a little red bird crosses my path at the walking track, or whenever we drive up that old dirt driveway to his house, or when Nanny gives me some new treasure she’s found while cleaning out a closet or a room. Or if my Mama cries.

I stood there, staring at the tombstone and my mom rolled down the window and asked if I could fix the flowers. Stupid flowers. Why do we try to dress up death?

I did as I was told and knelt and emptied the metal canister the fake flowers were floating in. Dirty rainwater poured out, making room for the flowers to sit again, rather than swim. As I straightened them back, I read the epitaph: Here lies a man.

You Can't Glue Ashes: Notes on the First Year of Grief

​There is No Template

A friend of mine is a district manager for a big box store. I’d never really thought about it, but one day we started talking about templates. Did you know that you can walk into pretty much any big box store in any city in America and the floor plan is going to be exactly the same? They use a schematic, so all customers know what to expect, no matter what city they’re in. But grief is not like Old Navy or Target: it has no schematic.

The truth is, I nearly called this article, “How to Process a Year of Grief,” but I could never tell you how to process your own grief. How could I presume to tell someone else how to put the pieces back together? Sadly, they’ll never fit. You can’t glue ashes.

As my friend Robert told me just the other day, “The stages of grief aren’t linear.” Not at all. So I won’t tell you how to process your own grief. Other than to say, take your expectations and pour them out, like rainwater on tombstone flowers.

Nobody tells you a year of grief can feel like a blink and eternal conscious torment, all at the same time. How can a day feel like a thousand years? I’m not sure, but you can bet it happens. Grief doesn’t follow anyone’s timetable. She is volatile and unruly.

You Can't Glue Ashes: Notes on the First Year of Grief

Grief is a rainy day that becomes a mudslide.

Grief is taillights just ahead, suddenly lost in dense fog.

Grief is a memory, just out of reach.

Grief is a scattering of ashes into the wind.

Grief is a song on the tip of your tongue.

Grief smells like old coffee and dusty books.

Grief is a pair of overalls that will never fit.

Grief will never fit.

Grief is a slow dance with the ugliest girl in the room. And yet, her hands are soft as silk, her scent is strangely familiar. Her embrace is cold. Part of you wants to scream, “Get away from me!” And the other part of you wants to run away with her, snuggle together in an easy chair, and fall asleep under a heavy quilt of memories and tears.

Dance with her, my friend. You have to dance with her. Eventually, she’ll drop you - choosing to share her cheap perfume and cold stare with another poor soul. But she’ll keep her eyes on you, as she flows around the room. You can’t avoid her gaze or ever quite get that smell out of your nostrils. Grief is that way - floating and a fading in and out of sight. Grief is a dance no one ever wanted to learn.

​Grief is a dance no one ever wanted to learn. via @iamsteveaustin #grief #catchingyourbreath

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​Remember When?

Shortly after his death, Nanny sent me home with a treasure chest of Boss's writings: letters from Vietnam, articles he published while he was overseas, school papers, and love notes. There are also photographs, his high school diploma, and a prayer shawl he ordered from some damn televangelist once the dementia had really set in.

The truth is, my grandfather doesn’t live in a trunk in my room any more than he lives at the cemetery, underneath rain-soaked plastic flowers. He lives in my memory. In every story we tell on Sunday afternoons, sitting underneath the clinking of the ceiling fan at Nanny’s house. When we tell our remember-whens and belly laugh to keep ourselves from crying. He lives in my son’s piercing blue eyes, in my wife’s buttermilk cornbread, and in the way my four-year-old daughter naturally commands a room. The country boy lives in my blue jeans and bare feet as I check the mail. The old newspaperman lives in the tears that won’t stop falling as I write this article. It seems that my old Grandpappy lives, even in my grief.

In Memory of Ben House, Sr., 1935-2018

​You Can't Glue Ashes: Notes of the First Year of Grief via @iamsteveaustin #grief #catchingyourbreath

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4 Elements of Emotional Wisdom

Is It Okay to be Really Sad? 4 Elements of Emotional Wisdom

It's Okay to be Really Sad

Around the same time my Grandfather died last year, my son’s best friend moved away. I told Ben, "It's okay to be sad." The kid’s parents bought a beautiful new home across town, so my son has lost his favorite friend, the kid who sat next to him every day at lunch. To my little boy, it seems unfair. And although losing a friend he had only known six months pales in comparison to losing the patriarch of our family, the same truth applies to both: it's okay to be really sad.

When we prevent ourselves from experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion, it's like we're sawing off an arm or leg with a dull butter knife. It's hard, painful, and unnecessary work. In denying ourselves the right to feel angry, sad, or disappointed - anything but joyful - we're amputating pieces of our souls. This just causes more trauma that will eventually, stubbornly, rise to the surface.

We treat much of our trauma and pain the same way sickness is treated in the Western world. Too often, we treat the obvious symptoms while ignoring the root cause. Over-the-counter cold medicines are designed to treat the effects of the illness: a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion. They make us feel better because we can’t see the symptoms anymore, but the virus is still wreaking havoc on our systems.

It’s the same when we feel overwhelmed. We might use words like anxiety, stress, despair, worn out, exhausted, or just plain done. If we aren’t dealing with a genuine psychiatric diagnosis, we’re describing intense emotions that we are used to stuffing down or covering up. But what would happen if we stopped trying to squelch or rush through it? What if we asked our emotions what they’re trying to communicate to us? Isn’t listening to our inner voice a great mark of wisdom?

It's okay to be really sad: the truth about emotional wisdom. via @iamsteveaustin #emotionalintelligence #catchingyourbreath

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4 Elements of Emotional Wisdom

What is emotional wisdom? 

Emotional wisdom is the collective knowledge and experience that result from having lived a life of emotional diversity. You obtain emotional wisdom by learning from past mistakes and taking that which you’ve learned into the future with you. It is give-and-take: you receive the experiences and decide what serves you the best to remember and use in the future.

Our emotions are continually giving us messages about what feels good and what doesn’t, what feels right and what feels wrong, what is acceptable and what isn’t, and the ultimate direction we should be going. Our emotions tell us when things are great, or when they need to be improved.

In denying ourselves the right to feel angry, sad, or disappointed - anything but joyful - we're amputating pieces of our souls. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #emotionalintelligence

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In this article, we’ll examine 4 steps to help you achieve greater emotional wisdom.

  1. Listen: A huge part of developing emotional wisdom is in learning how to listen to and interpret the experiences we have. By listening to your emotions, you can gain a broad understanding of what’s going on inside you. What’s going on inside you can affect your physical health and mental well-being, so it pays to listen carefully. Doing so will help you manage stress, which can manifest itself in many negative emotions.

  2. Trust: Trust in your ability to feel and be felt, and interpret your feelings accurately. Trust that you can handle whatever emotions come your way - after all, you’re still here, aren’t you? We are all much more capable than we tend to give ourselves credit for, so while you’re listening to your emotions, trust that what you’re hearing is the truth. Never second guess yourself when it comes to feeling. Whatever it is you are feeling is valid and worthy.

  3. Reflect: Your ability to look at your emotions realistically concerning the situations with which they arise is essential in developing your emotional wisdom. Notice we said reflect - not react. As you are listening to your emotions, logically examine whether your emotion matches the situation that it came from. Often, we are used to telling ourselves stories regarding our feelings that simply aren’t true - they are just habits. Therefore, honest reflection is a valuable skill to possess.

  4. Adjust: The ability to adjust your emotion to your present situation is a sign of true emotional wisdom. Like anything, this takes practice, but when you learn to interpret the messages your emotions send you accurately, you can adjust as you feel necessary.

True emotional wisdom comes from looking within and listening carefully to what we feel to give us clues that help us live healthier, happier, more productive lives.

DO YOU CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS OR DO THEY CONTROL YOU?

LEARN 14 EASY WAYS TO MASTER YOUR EMOTIONS

Watch this transformational webinar by author, life coach, and suicide survivor, Steve Austin. 

Do you control your emotions or do they control you? Read this. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #emotionalintelligence

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