Using Emotional Intelligence For Recovery

emotional intelligence

How Emotional Intelligence Helps Families During Recovery

Across the globe, from the realms of psychology right through to business, the buzzword is emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, regulate, evaluate, and use emotions to interact with others. Despite its usefulness, emotional intelligence isn’t taught at school and very often missing in homes. Yet the set of skills it encompasses helps build solid family bonds; the kind that are particularly useful when a member of the family is in the process of recovery from trauma, addiction, or a mental health challenge.
“It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Emotional Intelligence: Skills To Learn

Emotional intelligence comprises numerous skills, some of the most important of which are: self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy. Self-awareness involves being aware of one’s emotions, triggers, strengths, and weaknesses. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes; and to understand others’ thoughts and emotions.
Self-regulation involves knowing how to manage tough emotions and calm oneself down when tensions are high. In order to have a high emotional intelligence (or EQ), people must demonstrate numerous, sometimes difficult skills that take time and patience to master. And many would say that recovery is already a challenging experience for a family. However, it is also the perfect time to hone each family member’s emotional intelligence skills.

Emotional Intelligence: Modeling Behaviors Of Self Awareness

If the loved one in recovery is a child or teen, parents can begin modeling emotionally intelligent behaviors by working on self-awareness. They can do so by tuning in to how they are feeling regularly, and sharing their emotions with other family members. Emotions are a spectrum and sometimes, we may know we feel generally good or bad without being able to pinpoint the exact emotions we are feeling.
Families can start by printing out or using an interactive version of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions—a simple model that shows that emotions sit on a spectrum. Take the basic emotion of joy. In its least intense sense, it can be described as serenity and its most intense state, it is often referred to as ecstasy. Families can use this wheel and point to specific emotions, talking about what situations make them feel the emotions represented on the wheel. They can also talk about the triggers that make them feel a certain way, and discuss ways to avoid or minimize these triggers.

Emotional Intelligence: Showing Empathy

One of the most powerful ways that families can demonstrate empathy toward each other is through the art of active listening. The latter involves listening to each other with full intention or listening to understand instead of simply waiting to talk and give one’s point of view.
To make others feel truly heard, we can ask open-ended questions, reflect on what they are saying, and resist the urge to give unsolicited advice. Empathy goes beyond listening… family members can also commit to supporting each other and finding ways to lighten each other’s burdens. For instance, if one person is receiving child therapy for mental health, other family members can help them out by taking them to therapy, scheduling fun events after a therapy session, and joining the child in an activity they love.
Empathy can be demonstrated by giving one’s quality time and demonstrating an interest in connection, regardless of what form this might take. Within families, a parent may demonstrate empathy by playing a game their child loves, a sibling might do so by simply listening to another child’s problems, and a child might do so for a parent by giving them a hug after a hard day at work.

Emotional Intelligence: Regulating Emotions

Families in recovery are facing a moment of high stress. As such, managing or regulating their emotions can be a challenge. They can therefore benefit from natural means of self-soothing, including yoga, mindfulness meditation, exercise, and spending time with nature.
Family members can agree to take breaks when discussions get too intense. They can commit to a wide range of activities (even a simple family breathwork session a day) to help keep stress levels low so that their emotions do not get the better of them.
Emotional intelligence comprises various skills that take time to perfect. However, parents can begin modelling this quality at home by working on self-awareness, empathy, and self-regulation. All these qualities are particularly vital when a child or parent is undergoing recovery from addiction or a mental health issue, as they help to solidify the bond between family members and to make every member feel valued and loved.

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