The ability to know what you’re feeling and when is called emotional awareness. Not everyone has this ability and it takes some time to build. However, it’s vital that those who are in recovery from addiction develop some emotional awareness in order to heal.
One of the most common reasons for turning to drugs or drinking is to avoid emotional pain. When someone you love passes away, for example, or if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, it can be incredibly difficult to face the pain of grief, loss, or separation. Emotional pain doesn’t only include grief or loss. It can also include feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse. Sometimes the weight of past experiences can also stay with us and drive us to drink or use drugs.
One of the most transformational steps you can take in recovery (second to putting an end to your addiction) is facing those challenging emotions that drove you to drink or use in the past. And part of learning to face those uncomfortable emotions (with the right support) is also learning how to be more aware of your emotions, and here’s why:
- Becoming more emotional aware gives you the ability to respond versus react to your feelings. In this way, you can make healthier and better choices especially in the face of uncomfortable emotions.
- Developing a greater ability to manage emotions also grows your capacity to manage stress. The two go hand in hand. And with this skill, you’re less likely to choose to use drugs or alcohol to manage emotions, but instead, you might use another healthier coping tool.
- Becoming emotionally aware gives you the ability to become responsible for your own feelings, versus placing blame on others. Blame and denial are the unhealthy roots of addiction. Learning to take responsibility for your own life – including your emotions – is part of healing.
- When you are emotionally aware, you are also more aware in general. You’re not living out your life unconsciously, in the old ways with the old unhealthy choices.
If you want to develop your emotional awareness, here are suggestions to do just that:
Work with a therapist. A therapist or psychologist is someone who is trained to facilitate psychological change. If you want to face feelings that are challenging (especially feelings you’ve been running from for many years), you may want professional support in doing so. You may want the expertise of a professional to gently and safely guide you through a process.
Journal. One way to facilitate self-acceptance (including your feelings) is to keep a journal and write in it on a regular basis. Journaling builds self-awareness and reduces the possibility of getting caught up in self-delusions.
Talk to others. When you have others with whom you can share the same feelings, you feel validated for feeling the way you do. You might also feel supported versus feeling isolated in whatever feeling you’re struggling with.
Join a support group. Having a group with whom you share a common struggle can be a powerful experience. A support group can provide you with other people to talk to about your struggle in a way that’s different than talking to family and friends.
These are suggestions for developing emotional awareness, a skill that’s crucial in recovery.