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Eight Habits of Emotionally Healthy People

November 29, 2018 | by Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT

They don’t beat themselves up after reading this article.

1. They listen to and learn from their feelings.

Emotionally healthy people understand that their feelings provide them with invaluable information. The rabbis teach us that there are 48 ways to spiritual empowerment. One of them is binat halev, “understanding the heart.” Emotionally healthy people listen to their heart. They are not afraid of their feelings. They understand that feelings are our teachers. The more we understand them the better we understand ourselves, which is essential to self-discovery and personal growth.

So if you find that you consistently have bad feelings towards another person, often the pathway to learning how to love him is to understand why this person bothers you and to use that information to understand the deeper message that it reveals about yourself.

2. They don’t lie to themselves about how they feel.

Strong feelings can be overwhelming, shameful, and threatening. When we are afraid or ashamed of what we feel, we tend to lie in order to protect ourselves from the discomfort. Emotionally healthy people possess the strength and courage to face their feelings and not run away from them, dismiss them, or lie to themselves.

When we are not emotionally honest, we lose a precious opportunity for self-discovery. If I feel extremely envious of someone, I may feel ashamed to acknowledge that I feel this way. Acknowledging the truth about how I feel allows me to explore the unique personal meanings of my envy, allowing me to learn more about myself in order to get to the root cause of my envy.

3. They use the information gained from their feelings to make consistently good choices.

Something bothers Sam about the girl he’s dating. Friends tell him what a great girl she is and what a fool he’d be to pass on her. But something doesn’t sit right with him. If he doesn’t listen to and understand what he’s feeling, Sam may marry her only to wake up in three years regretting his decision. Red flags are hidden in our feelings. If we make decisions without accessing what we feel, we run the risk of making a bad decision. Emotionally healthy people know that they need to acknowledge their feelings before making any important life decision.

4. They understand that emotional pain is a symptom of a deeper personal issue.

Emotionally healthy people do not interpret strong feelings such as sadness, loneliness, terror, envy, confusion, panic, shame, anger, guilt as being “bad feelings.” Rather, they understand that just like physical pain is a symptom that the body is sick, so too emotional pain is symptom that the soul is sick. Emotional pain is often a symptom of a deeper moral or existential problem.

All too often, people’s first response to emotional discomfort is to try to get rid of it, often through the use of prescription medications, drugs, “screens,” and other distractions. Emotionally healthy people embrace their pain and seek understanding. Emotional distress calls to us to pay attention to our life distress. If we get the lesson, we move on. If we ignore the pain and don’t learn the lesson, we remain stuck and no more enlightened.

5. They don’t say “yes’ when they mean “no.”

Emotionally healthy people take care of their emotional needs. They understand what they need, what’s good for them and what’s not. They take care of themselves even when they are pressured to do something they know is not good for their emotional and spiritual well being. They don’t give into social pressure for the sake of looking good. Emotionally healthy people are not accommodators or people pleasers, rather they are assertive, knowing when to say yes and are not afraid to say, no.

6. They reach out to others when they need help rather than suffer alone.

Emotionally healthy people are not afraid to seek help when their emotional struggles become overwhelming. They do not isolate themselves when they are in pain, rather they reach out. They understand the truth behind the rabbinic wisdom, “A prisoner cannot free himself from the prison.” The rabbis teach that everyone is “obligated to acquire a friend and make a mentor for oneself.” Emotionally healthy people are not ashamed to be vulnerable and admit that they are in pain and need help. They let others in and are not afraid to lower their protective walls. They know the difference between normal life pain and suffering and have sufficient self-esteem to choose not to suffer.

7. They are self-accepting and self-forgiving

Emotionally healthy people don’t beat themselves up. They accept themselves with all their weaknesses, imperfections, and limitations. Their self-worth is strong and in tact. They can make bad mistakes and not fall into shame and depression. They fully embrace and celebrate their humanness and understand that to err is to be human. They don’t put pressure on themselves to be “perfect.” They accept themselves with all their messiness because they know that God accepts them. God desires progress, not perfection. Spiritually healthy people are also careful not to compare themselves with others except to motivate themselves in a positive way.

8. They respect, value, and listen to other people’s feelings

Emotionally healthy people have a profound respect for other people’s feelings and emotional pain. Another one of the 48 ways to spiritual empowerment is “to carry the burden of others.” They understand that one of the greatest acts of kindness and love is to listen and connect to others. They understand that being emotionally attuned to another person’s feelings is healing, empowering, and transforming. Their motto is, “Listen first, give your opinion second.”

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