You may have heard the expression “you’re in your head too much” which usually refers to the person overthinking an issue.
But why does this happen?
Back in the early 20th century, Freud, echoing the discovery of Eastern spiritual traditions 2000 years before him, identified that overthinking was a way of protecting ourselves against anxiety and difficult emotions.
Emotions tend to get bad press. But they’re a clever evolutionary system providing fast information about the value you place on an object, person, or situation. They’re also a component of what makes us feel alive.
The willingness to feel the discomfort and intensity of emotions without resorting to defensive behaviours and distractions can take your life experience to a whole new level of flow, clarity, and focus!
“A person’s success is directly proportional to the number of uncomfortable conversations they’re willing to have.” -Tim Ferriss (Author of the Four Hour Work)
Here are two questions to help you tune into your emotions, widen your emotional range, and fulfil your emotional potential.
[Read on or watch the video below]
First pick your favourite defence mechanism when something doesn’t go according to plan or you feel upset by someone (e.g. do you withdraw and defend; conquer and attack back; or rescue and pacify?). What sorts of typical thoughts run through your head? If you think you’re a rescuer here’s a previous video that might help you identify your defence mechanism in more detail.
Then ask yourself:
How much discomfort can you be with before your defence mechanism kicks in?
More than the answer itself, it’s the insights you gain from asking yourself the question repeatedly over time that are enlightening and transformational. The answer itself will change as you practise noticing how long it takes before your defence mechanism interferes.
It’s not just intolerance to difficult emotions that can lock you into overthinking… Most people inadvertently place a ceiling on the amount of joy they give themselves permission to feel, perhaps due to disappointment or weariness (some call it realism, cynicism, or being English if you live in the UK!…).
You may notice this when you speak to people (how they deflect a compliment, self-deprecate, or focus on the negative). Lifting the cap on the amount of joy, spontaneity, and excitement in your life will amplify the inspiration and enthusiasm you have access to.
So the second question is:
How much joy can you be with before your defence mechanism kicks in?
When I started to reconnect my head and my emotions about seven years ago, it felt like I’d opened Pandora’s box. I began experiencing all sorts of intense emotions including “difficult” ones like anger and sadness…
But it was worth it.
While it was unpleasant and a little alarming to start with, the willingness to stay calm and contemplate what was going on in the midst of difficult emotions meant I was less reactive, clearer about my motivations, and more effective in my actions and decisions. I had more emotional intelligence.
It’s ultimately how I was able to take a big career leap; handle a lot of uncertainty when stepping out of my comfort zone; as well as have more authentic conversations and relationships.
If the popularity of mindfulness is anything to go by, fulfilling our emotional potential could be the key to more happiness and harmony for all.
Have a great week,
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