French painter Paul Cézanne said, “Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.” If we take the 19th century artist’s definition, great thinkers are people who are able to live the world again and again, to find new emotions in the monotonous days and mundane tasks.
For many who abuse drugs and alcohol new emotions – any emotions, really – are things to be avoided, and misusing substances is the way to accomplish this. Addiction is numbing oneself to the outside world including all the emotions (painful and joyous) that one experiences.
How can treatment for addiction teach us to embrace the act of feeling? Addiction rehab is a commitment to living, and living is learning how to swim through an often-overwhelming mass of emotions.
Addiction rehab is an opportunity to develop emotional intelligence, or the ability to decipher between which emotions acquire thought and attention, and which do not. Emotional intelligence is also the ability to regulate emotions, and to handle the difficult emotions that the unpredictability that life promises – such as a sudden tragedy.
Working to cultivate emotional intelligence is a step towards living without the urge to numb life with drugs or alcohol.
Understanding what emotional intelligence is
Tantamount to having emotional intelligence is understanding what emotional intelligence is. Start to tap into your self-awareness by pinpointing which emotions you are feeling when confronted with specific life events; do you experience anger when someone ignores you, or do you feel sadness and regret? Do you feel a sudden urge of happiness when you receive a call from a friend, or do you become anxious instead?
Practice seeing without judging
In order to see your emotions more clearly, you can begin to practice non-judgment. See the emotions as simply what they are – grief, frustration or glee – instead of ‘bad’ emotions versus ‘good’ emotions. We are always going to feel negative emotions, but viewing them without judgment will ensure that no more negative emotions are generated in the process.
Consider meditating or using other relaxation techniques to regulate overwhelming emotions
Part of emotional intelligence is learning to regulate your emotions. Find a relaxation practice that works for you. Some examples are meditation or yoga, while others prefer reading or watching a film.