I watched this and nodded along as Susan David described what has been so toxic in my own life; the attitude that emotions are either good or bad and the judgment placed on them. The idea that sadness, anger, and grief are not welcome, and must be either ignored, repressed, or apologized for.
The idea that a positive mindset and go-getter attitude is what you need to be successful and healthy. That can be very dangerous. It can lead us to a culture of shoving aside any mention of grief or anger, and shaming our students, our children, and our spouses for showing those emotions.
Susan David invites us to dig deeper. She asks us to ask why to ourselves; why we are feeling the anger. If we get enraged when we read the news, why? Is it hitting something we feel very strongly about and wish to amend, or are we redirecting some other anger onto an easy and socially accepted outlet? Emotions are data. They tell us about what we’re seeing and doing, and what we’re reacting to or repressing. Always keep asking why.
She also stresses the importance of accuracy. When we’re not okay, we most often answer with “I’m just stressed out.” But that’s too vague. That can cover anything from a bad hair day to having no idea whether you’re in the right career or the financial debt that’s stacking up. Being specific helps us to identify it, and that makes it easier to articulate to others and to get help.
Finally, she reminds us that while emotions are data, they are not directives. We learn from them, but they don’t own us. They don’t control us. We choose whether to act out of our emotions or not. We get angry at our children, but we refrain from shouting at them. We are saddened by the loss of a friend, but we don’t let ourselves sink into isolation and depression. We are stressed out because of work, but we don’t add more work or watch hours of TV to cope.
It’s a fascinating watch. David wrote a book called Emotional Agility. I haven’t read it yet, but after watching her Ted Talk, it’s on my list.
Have you read it?