Signs Of Emotional Wellness–Part 3

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Emotional Wellness Part 3

Dr. Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD, a licensed psychologist recently published an article on The Huffington Post titled “7 Signs Of Emotional Wellness.”  This article addresses the seven “most salient factors psychologists find in people who are emotionally well.”

Here is Dr. Kolakowski’s list of emotional wellness factors:

1. You treat others well. 

2. You like who you are.

3. You’re flexible.

4. You hold gratitude for your loved ones. 

5. You’re in touch with your emotions. 

6. You have meaning in your life. 

7. You value experiences more than possessions.  

On Monday, I commented on factor #3 in this list—the value of being flexible. Then, on Wednesday, I shared some thoughts about factor #2—liking who you are.

Are You In Touch With Your Emotions?

Today, for my final post in this three-part series, I want to focus on factor #5 in this list—being in touch with your emotions.

While I believe it is certainly good to be in touch with your emotions, as long they are not too extreme or overpowering, I don’t think this statement goes quite far enough when it comes to capturing the essence of emotional wellness.

Yes, it’s important to know when you are angry, or when you are anxious, or when you are sad.  And yes it can be healthy to “experience” your emotions and eventually let them pass, instead of fearing them, suppressing them, denying them, or otherwise trying to block them out.

But is this all it takes to consider yourself emotionally healthy?  I think there at least two other criteria that I would want to evaluate:

1)    Are you in touch with the fallibility of your emotions?

2)    Are you in touch with internal causes of your emotions?

How Often Do You Suppose Your Emotions Are Unjustified?

How often would you estimate that your emotions—the very same ones Dr. Kolakowski wants you to be in touch with—are based upon inaccurate thoughts, incorrect assumptions, distorted perceptions, or faulty presuppositions?  Would you guess this happens:

  • 2% of the time?
  • 10% of the time?
  • 25% of the time?
  • More than 25% of the time?

The more I’ve studied emotions over the past 30 years—my own as well as others—the more I’ve come to appreciate that the answer to this question is much more than 25% of the time.  For some people, it could even be more than 50% of the time.

If this is true, and if you are not in touch with this important aspect of your emotional life, can you really say you are emotionally healthy?

How Well Do You Understand The Hidden (Internal) Causes Of Your Emotions?

Another key question to ask is how well do you really understand the internal sources of your emotions?   Do you know, with absolute certainty, exactly how you have to be thinking in order to become angry?   Do you know how you have to be thinking in order to feel afraid?  Or feel guilty?  Or feel either frustrated or sad?

The sad fact is that most people are not able to answer these types of questions, so they are living their lives every day without being in touch with the inner causes of their emotions.  And if you don’t know the specific causes of your emotions, how are you ever going to assess whether they are justified or not?

So you see, this topic of emotional wellness is much more complex than the seven items in Dr. Kolakowski’s list might lead you to believe. 

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