Saturday, May 14, 2022

Better emotional literacy for better mental health

When we explore “poor emotional regulation”, it’s important to explore which part of emotional regulation is problematic. Is it a difficulty around processing the feelings of others, or is it a difficulty around processing one’s own feelings, or both?

Good questions to ask are….

1. Are we too “zoomed in” or fused with other people’s feelings leading to excessive empathy, over pleasing, emotional sensitivity from others, mood fluctuation, poor self esteem, excessive peer pressure, and other unintended consequences?

2. Are we too “zoomed in” or fused with our own feelings leading to impulsivity, mood fluctuation, stubbornness, inflexibility, self centeredness, and other unintended consequences?

Some of us are great at processing the feelings of others, but are not great with our own feelings.  Some of us are great at processing our own feelings but are not great with the feelings of others.  Some of us are not great with processing feelings in general. We simply don’t trust “feelings”. We may be much more data driven or “logical” in nature.  

Improving emotional literacy and learning how “to hold” those feelings “more lightly” may help. 

We don’t always to have to act on those feelings straight away.  Often, we don’t even have to act on them at all. They may be there to be observed, noticed, and processed if relevant, before taking action. 

It’s not an easy thing to do at all, but it’s super important to learn for our mental health and wellbeing.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Leading with both thoughts and feelings

Being able to sense other people’s feelings or empathy is great isn’t it, but at times, it can work against us too if we are not careful or unaware.


Imagine if someone is angry with us. We then can sense their anger. We then hold their feelings with the anger we sense. They then sense our anger, and now we may have an escalation of two angry people.

Same goes with sadness and anxiety. We may end up with two very sad or anxious people too.

So how can we mitigate this?

Consider holding other people’s anger, anxiety, or sadness with care, hope, and compassion instead. If they can then sense our care, hope, and compassion, they may then be able to use those feelings to hold/shift their own feelings.

We sometimes lead with our thoughts, but don’t forget to lead with our feelings too.

Feelings are “contagious” and can be “transmitted” in both ways.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Start teaching emotional literacy early to prevent mental health problems

One of the biggest benefits of being a Family Doctor working with mental health is our ability to work with it in a transdiagnostic framework.

We don’t have to commit to a “depression or anxiety” diagnosis to help people process their feelings and thoughts. We don’t have to wait for a full blown expression of “depression or anxiety” before we can take action.

We can help our patients at anytime to zoom out from the thoughts and feelings that don’t matter or not in their locus of control, and zoom into the stuff that really matters or in their locus of control. This creates psychological flexibility rather than psychological rigidity.

Start early.

We don’t wait for people to be illiterate before we teach them about literacy, so why wait for “depression or anxiety” before we teach them about emotional literacy.

Prevention is better than cure right?

Sunday, January 16, 2022

How couples can unhook in a conflict or disagreement

The mind is a wonderful tool, but it’s often a tool many of our patients find very hard to manage.

In relationships, we often have the reactive “fight or flight” responses with unintended consequences. It’s hard to unhook from this “fight or flight” response in a heated moment.

So what is a simple way to “unhook” from this reactive “fight or flight” response in our relationships.

We can simply view our life like making a film or movie of our life story. In a reactive heated moment, when our feeling mind takes charge, we can simply pause and ask our partner for a “Take 2”. Something that is agreed to prior.

“Can we do a Take 2” or something similar, may be just enough to do a retake, and stop the spiral into the fight and flight responses.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Following one’s thinking, principles and values when healthy, is not the same as “selfishness”

When one is following one’s thinking, principles, and values, it may seem “selfish” to some folks, especially for folks who tend to do the opposite and follow the thinking, principles, and values of others and society for social functioning. 

Of course, both have a lot to learn from each other for balance. Any extremes can have their own set of problems.

When HEALTHY, one of the main benefits for those who focus more on their own internal thinking, principles, and values, is the intrinsic appreciation and acceptance of others for who they are.

I want to be “me”, and I would love for you to be “you”. We may not agree, and at the same time, I can be “me”, and you can be “you” too. I want that for you.

It’s only “selfish” when I want to be “me”, but you can’t be you and I want you to change for “me”.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Emotional literacy around how we think and process information

Have you noticed the following?

Some of us are great at processing and working with other people’s feelings. We are very tuned into the feelings of others. Our decision making is heavily influenced by the feelings of others. 

Some of us are great at processing and working with external rules and variables to make things workable. Workability is very important to us. We are more practical by nature.

Some of us are great at processing and working with our own internal rules and principles, and do things that make logical sense to us rather than relying on our feelings. We are more logical by nature.

Some of us are great with processing and working with our own feelings and values, and to stay authentic, true to who we are, and to maintain inner harmony.

Which one of the above do you struggle with the most?

Much of counseling is to help us “fill in any of the missing gaps” above.

Conflict is inevitable in any long term relationships. Knowing how to repair and forgive is important to ensure success

In any long term relationship, conflict is inevitable due to difference in our goals, values, beliefs, and cognitive processes. 

Having the ability to repair and forgive is often critical for the long term success of that relationship.

The problem is, many will fall into the trap of avoidance and resentment, OR anger and frustration. 

Repair requires mindfulness, holding space for each other, authentic acknowledgement, and reengagement. Forgiveness requires emotional acceptance which is challenging for most of us isn’t it?