“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we have a clear picture of it”
– Benedict Spinoza
Given all the many challenges in the world, how about some good news?
Emotional intelligence, or EI, can help—both in your personal professional life. Studies indicate that EI can help with both burnout, and with wellness. Dan Goleman is the author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ, and Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Dan and I recently collaborated for an article on this very topic in Harvard Business Review (HBR). The article, titled “How Healthcare workers can help themselves,” contains many practical tips specifically tailored for stressed healthcare workers in the coronavirus era.
So what is emotional intelligence? It’s simple and intuitive structure is one of its strengths: four quadrants comprised of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Described by Salovey and Mayer in 1990, it has subsequently been shown to be a key driver of leadership success.
Self-awareness is our attunement to our emotions and their impact on others. It can be influenced by reflective practices such as journaling, 360s and other forms of feedback.
Self-management is our ability to navigate our emotions, especially ones commonly found to be problematic such as anger and frustration. Skills in self-calming aid this quadrant.
Social awareness comprises what is commonly known as empathy. Physicians are typically strong in this quadrant but may have less skills bringing empathy to themselves and may struggle in the area of self-care.
Relationship management is how we interact with and influence others and manage the supportive or stressful bonds of our relationships.
As with many things in life, simple does not mean easy. There is a seemingly infinite depth in this four quadrant model. Insights about self and others, and skills in navigating these relationships, can be continually deepened and applied to enhance one’s behavior and experiences.
Increased flourishing is possible; there is definitely hope, even amidst the heavy challenges in our world. EI skills can be built, and they can help. Engage with a mentor, colleague, or coach for added support. The benefits are many—both for you, and for all the lives you touch.
Now on to this week’s ideas…but first a brief note – given the feedback from our readers, please see our new physician spotlight section at the end of this newsletter. This allows us to highlight the work of physicians and medical students making a difference in the world.
This week, we are featuring Michael Federle, MD who is Professor Emeritus of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Over his career, Dr. Federle has had a tremendous impact on thousands of residents, radiologists, and physician colleagues. His commitment to education, research and collaborative clinical care has been instrumental in advancing the fields of radiology, surgery, and transplant medicine.
“Everybody experiences painful emotions. From anxiety and grief to shame and disappointment, emotional suffering is both universal and unavoidable.
And yet, how we respond to emotional suffering varies dramatically from person to person. For many people, emotional pain triggers a cascade of negative thoughts, self-defeating behavior, and increasingly painful emotions. While others seem to bounce back almost immediately from emotional pain.
The difference is this:
Emotional resilient people are able to experience profound levels of emotional pain without being consumed by it.”
In this terrific article, psychologist Nick Wignall outlines 5 habits that we can cultivate to improve our ability to manage difficult feelings and emotions. Contrary to what may seem like a superpower, this emotional resilience is a learned behavior available to all of us. We just need some guidance. Here it is.
2. 3 Foolproof Ways to Build Resilience During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Three Marks of Existence
“Pain and suffering are part of the lot of all human beings, and probably all living beings. This probably does not come as a surprise. When you consider your life thus far, have you experienced suffering and difficulty? I suspect that you have. With the pandemic, certainly, there is, suffering aplenty. So, you know that difficulty and challenge are a fact of life. But do you still find yourself railing against the difficulties that life presents you?
Or thinking something like “This really isn’t fair“ or “Why do I have to struggle in this way when others don’t?” or “Why do all these bad things keep happening to me?” Perhaps, with all the comparisons that Facebook and other forms of social media so readily offer us, “Why is their life or marriage or family so perfect when mine is a shambles?”
Mindfulness expert and physician coach Gail Gazelle discusses how physicians can use 3 key tenets of Buddhism to improve our emotional well-being especially during this time of uncertainty and stress. Awareness that suffering and difficulty occur for all of us, that change is a part of life, and that human beings tend to bring a great deal of ego to everything they experience can fundamentally alter our relationship to suffering and ultimately increase our happiness.
3. I transitioned to a non-clinical career. What did that mean?
“Over the past 16 years, I’ve watched the continuous decline in autonomy and decision-making abilities for doctors in clinical practice. I’ve heard from doctors who tell me their children don’t know them, their spouses don’t like them and that they have a hard time getting out of bed each day because they don’t look forward to living. Many of these doctors are probably clinically depressed. Some are suicidal. Many just long to be doctors and take care of patients in an environment where they can flex their intellectual muscles, have more than ten minutes with a patient, and leave the hospital or clinic before 8 p.m. in the evening without bringing home two hours of charting work. It hurts me to hear their stories, but I know there’s hope for every one of them.”
In this KevinMD article, Michelle Mudge-Riley shares her journey to a non-clinical career well before it was popular. Given how this transition positively impacted her personal and professional life, she has spent the last decade helping other physicians make similar transitions.