What is Emotional Sobriety?
When people hear the word “sobriety” they’re most likely to associate it with being sober from alcohol. However, there’s a side of sobriety that we can all benefit from.
I know, it somehow doesn’t sound like those two words should go together, side-by-side. But they do.
So what exactly IS emotional sobriety?
I suppose at the opposite end of the spectrum there might be “emotional drunkenness” but instead, let’s just refer to it as emotional mismanagement or poor emotional regulation.
I think it would be fair to say that all wars, murders, rapes and other heinous acts against humanity would have their origins in emotional mismanagement.
And then there would be the more obvious examples we hear about everyday, often in our own neighborhoods and communities, such as:
- Domestic violence
- Road rage
- Child abuse
- Elder abuse
Although not quite as intense as the first set, these are still extremely disturbing and clearly emotionally irrational.
But what about those much more subtle examples that can negatively impact everyday life decisions and outcomes? You know, the ones that cause stress, anxiety, depression, arguments, break-ups, lying, deception, etc.
No matter how “big” or how “small,” every emotionally mismanaged situation has the potential to seriously tear down one’s self-esteem, destroy relationships, split up families and bankrupt businesses.
Therefore, it’d be an extremely worthwhile investment to improve your emotional management skills, otherwise known as raising your emotional intelligence.
Here are a few self-reflective questions to ask yourself if you’d like to live a more emotionally sober life:
- Can you identify your own emotions?
- Do you know how to effectively and appropriately express your emotions?
- Can you identify early warning signs of becoming emotionally unbalanced?
- What steps do you take to get yourself more emotionally balanced?
- Are you able to empathize with other people’s emotional states and respond appropriately?
- Do you recognize the emotions that play a significant role in your decision-making process?
- What steps do you take to create emotionally rational decisions?
- Do you have a support system that can help you see your emotional blind-spots?
- Are you willing and able to embrace and accept your emotions as part of your “chronic and terminal humanness”?
Remember that we live in times in which very few of us have had much training in the proper identification and appropriate expression of emotions. And we don’t live in a culture that helps much with that either.
We’re not taught much, if anything, about emotional management in our traditional schooling. Many of us were brought up in environments that either had almost no emotional expression and a lot of emotional avoidance, or perhaps the other end of the continuum that was more emotionally unpredictable and explosive.
So where are the good, healthy, emotionally balanced role-models?
Good question (if I may say so myself).
Oftentimes, too often in fact, people don’t recognize the power of their emotions until they’re cleaning up the aftermath or the consequences. Even then, it’s easy to blame others or rationalize due to some other external cause and not see the role the emotions play.
People seem to have a natural response to avoid other people’s emotions, especially the more intense emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety or hurt. And even when people are engaged in a conversation about another’s difficult or challenging emotional state, they are quick to give advice or suggest why they “shouldn’t” feel that way.
Here’s a simple formula to consider for yourself:
Simple, yes, but maybe not so easy.
When you “stop” and “pause” (which essentially means you’re stopping twice…yes, very sneaky of me!), you’re preventing yourself from reacting emotionally, which is the core internal behavior of emotional sobriety. Stop yourself from reacting emotionally before you can even get started.
And then when you add “think” and “choose”, you’re prompting yourself to consider the consequences and giving yourself an opportunity to make a rational decision that would best serve all parties involved.
It’s interesting that the word “responsibility”, if split and reversed, suggests “the ability to respond.” The ability to respond, however, can be easily hijacked and overridden by runaway and unregulated emotions. Therefore, when you “respond” you are giving yourself a chance to choose a responsible response rather than an emotional reaction.
We already have far too many emotional reactions in the world today, and we could all benefit from more emotionally sober, clearheaded, grounded people.
Are you onboard? Yes? Remember:
It’s that simple AND that challenging. Take the challenge and direct your life with less drama and trauma, and more happiness and peace.