by Restorations Therapy Center on Thursday, April 23rd, 2020
Much of the recovery from a substance use disorder is about increasing your emotional intelligence. While cognitive intelligence is reflected in your ability to do well on tests and in school, emotional intelligence is reflected in your ability to manage your emotions and relate to other people. Research in recent years suggests that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in our ability to achieve life’s goals as well as our ability to avoid life’s pitfalls, such as addiction.
Emotional intelligence comprises five attributes: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness is the key to the other attributes. Without these and even empathy, it becomes much more difficult. Unfortunately, being self-aware is harder than you might think. We all have our own blind spots, biases, and comforting delusions that prevent us from seeing ourselves clearly. As a result, we often end up making the same mistakes over and over. Developing more self-awareness is a huge asset in addiction recovery. The following are some tips for becoming more self-aware.
If there’s a shortcut to developing more self-awareness, then it’s seeing a therapist. A skilled therapist won’t necessarily tell you the things about yourself that you can’t see but they will ask you the right questions to help you understand yourself better. We often get locked into a single narrative of our lives and are unwilling or unable to consider alternative interpretations. When something conflicts with that narrative, we tend to ignore it. Sometimes we end up connecting the dots in pretty strange ways. A therapist can help you open up your sense of who you are and help you escape your self-imposed narratives.
Group therapy can be even better for this because you get several different perspectives rather than just that of your therapist. Your group members can share their interpretations of what you say and eventually you learn to anticipate how someone else might interpret a situation or problem. This allows you to get feedback in a safe environment, which helps you learn a lot about yourself.
Another direct way to increase your self-awareness is to ask for feedback. Your friends, relatives, and coworkers probably see you much differently than you see yourself and asking for their feedback can open your eyes in some ways. The trick here is to find a way to get honest feedback. Most people are reluctant to tell you the truth if they think you’ll be hurt or offended. Even if you really want to know, they might not think it’s worth the risk to tell you. You have to find ways to give them permission to tell you the truth. For example, you might say something like “If I had one weakness, what would you say that is?” It might help to preface your questions with something like, “My therapist is making me do this self-awareness exercise. Can you help me out? I promise I won’t be offended no matter what you say.” You may also get more honest answers if you ask via text message or email since people often find it easier, to be honest in writing than face to face.
Keeping a journal is a great way to get to know yourself better. Most of us just go through our days, reacting to things as they happen and not thinking about them too much later or, perhaps ruminating on them, which is unhealthy. Keeping a journal is a way to review what happened during the day, to think about what you did and why, and to dig deeper into why things happened.
If you don’t keep a journal already, start with the basics. Just write down what you did that day. It doesn’t have to be in great detail, just notable events. If you do this for a while, you will naturally start to write in more detail and add your thoughts about what happened. After a while, you will start to notice patterns. You will realize that you write about the same problems frequently and start to explore them in greater depth. You will have something to refer back to when your memory is a bit fuzzy. Writing about your emotions also clarifies your inner world and helps with self-regulation.
Psychological tests can be a great way to gain insights into your personality and behavior. These can often show how particular behaviors are part of a larger pattern or explain why you keep making certain kinds of choices or mistakes. A good place to start is the five-factor personality test, which is based on the model most frequently used by psychologists. The Myers-Briggs is a hugely popular personality system that can give you some interesting insights too. These tests are both widely available for free online.
There are many other kinds of tests, including the DISC test, IQ tests, other kinds of personality assessments, learning style assessments, career assessments, and more. The Clearer Thinking website has a number of tests specifically designed to help you learn about your hidden biases and reasoning errors. It’s not a good idea to take the results of any test too seriously but they are a good way to start thinking in depth about your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Finally, consider taking up a mindfulness meditation practice. Meditation, and mindfulness, in particular, has gotten a lot of attention in recent years but it remains widely misunderstood. At its core, mindfulness is about experiencing your thoughts, emotions, and sensation without judgment. Most of us are in the habit of reflexively avoiding or suppressing challenging thoughts and emotions, which both makes them worse and cuts off a valuable source of self-awareness. Mindfulness is about opening up to those experiences rather than turning away. The self-awareness aspect of mindfulness is one reason it has been incorporated into many treatment programs and methods of therapy. Self-awareness is not easy. We all have aspects of ourselves that we’d rather ignore or pretend they didn’t exist. We like to preserve a certain image of ourselves and true self-awareness threatens to undermine the self-image we are comfortable with. However, self-awareness is necessary for growth. We have to have a clear idea of our strengths and weaknesses if we are going to stop repeating the same mistakes and move forward.
Located in Centennial, Colorado, Restoration Therapy works with patients who are struggling with addiction, intimacy disorders, and trauma who are seeking treatment. In order to offer patients a more holistic view on healthy sexuality, Restoration Therapy offers individualized and group therapy, workshops, psycho-educational classes, and more to restore the harm brought on by addiction and intimacy issues. For more information, please call us at (720) 446-6585 as we are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.