Emotional Baggage Check


(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.

You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.

As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.

Half joking, we developed a plan.

“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”

We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?

How could it work?

  1. When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
  2. You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
  3. You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
  4. You attend the event emotional baggage free.
  5. When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
  6. Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.

We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.

Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.

And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.

Emotional Rickets

I think I have Emotional Rickets.  (Bear with me on this one.)

During a recent conversation, I was explaining how certain situations cause an emotional response that is hard for me to regulate. Anger moves pretty fast, and there are times it catches me off guard.

According to Daniel Goleman, there are five hierarchical levels of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness

2. Self-Regulation

3. Motivation

4. Empathy

5. Social Skills

I like to picture these five areas as going up steps, one at a time to reach the top. Mastering a prior step helps bring you to the next. Whenever I have an issue with one of these steps, I back up a step to see if there was something in a previous step area that would provide a clue the issue at hand. In this case, I was having an issue with Self-Regulation (step 2).   That left only one step to return to: Self Awareness (step 1).

Rickets is a disorder caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. It leads to softening and weakening of the bones. Bones are not only are weaker, but have additional pain and tenderness.

So, Emotional Rickets is when you have a lack of some positive emotional events (and perhaps some negative ones) that leave you in a weakened state.  In additional to weakness, you can add additional pain and tenderness from an emotional perspective.

I repeat, I think I have Emotional Rickets.

This revelation seemed to help, suddenly I could picture the issue.

If my legs were injured, I would not run as hard.

If my arms were injured, I would not lift as often.

If my back was injured, I would not move around as much.

For some reason, I was expecting my brain and emotions to respond to events as if there were no prior injury, no prior events, no limitations. As if it were strong.


(Image Courtesy of blogs.hawkeyecollege.edu)

But my Emotional Rickets require me to be much more aware of my limits. I may need to work harder than others to achieve the same results. I will be sore, and will not want to go again. I may need more rest and recovery time after each event.

In time, I hope to strengthen this area. I do not kid myself about the amount of work and time it may take to do make even small gains. Progress will require some discipline and work.

Where have you had Emotional Rickets? Where have you been left in a tender and weakened state? Where has this hindered relationships or caused issues? Maybe a little progress in this area for all of us could really change the world. 



HALT or you may regret the outcome

About half way through a session with senior leaders on how emotional intelligence impacts the work place, I had to admit that the prior day I failed miserably at it myself. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control your own emotions, while being able to empathize and work with others and their emotional state.

The discussion traveled toward finding ways to slow the world down, and understand your own emotional situation. We talked about identifying certain negative emotional triggers, or those events, people, or activities that can hijack you and cause you to react instead of respond to those around you.

One leader spoke up about a technique that served them well during their career. This technique was a simple way that a mentor encouraged them to think about their emotional state, before the term emotional intelligence was in the mainstream.

One simple word: HALT

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. When you feel yourself getting emotionally charged, you are supposed to stop (the word HALT helps you remember that part) and ask yourself if any of these attributes are true.

Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?

These four states are not exclusive and more than one can be true at the same time. The mentor compared these four to an engine: one with four cylinders. If all four are in a good state, the engine (our emotional state) runs smooth and without issues. If one cylinder becomes disabled, the engine starts to run pretty rough, but it may still get us there. If two or more are disabled, it is time to shut the car off and seek help.

For me, about two and a half cylinders were disabled at the time when I interacted with a few people in my circle. I was angry (my primary emotion), tired, and little lonely. The HALT approach would have helped me identify some of the primary causes of the hijacked emotional state. My emotional glass was cloudy, and it spilled out on those around me.

Of the four parts of HALT, lonely was the one state that at first felt strange to consider until I unpacked it a little. It is easy for me to identify when I am hungry, angry or even tired. Identifying the lonely that proved most valuable. Most days I am surrounded by people, but do not have time to connect deeply. Connecting with others becomes even harder as I pack more and more events into work and life, but the lonely remains.

HALT helped me as an “after-the-fact” diagnosis of what happened, and the new goal is to use it prior or during the next stressful event.  I hope it provides you with some insight into your world and your relationships.

After apologizing and trying to own my emotional state, I went and had breakfast with a close friend. With the lonely cylinder repaired, the engine is beginning to run smoothly again.