Although the uncomfortable feelings tax a person’s sense of self, they may allow for the development of insight, self-awareness, accountability, and empathy. These experiences may feel unpleasant, but they allow a person to evolve as a human being and embody qualities that create and sustain healthy relationships. They also indicate a person may have a high EQ or emotional quotient.
Take the example above. Lisa made a mistake. She experienced a serious lapse in judgment. However, if Lisa were truly confident, she would not need to employ the defensive artillery which prevents her from experiencing authentic remorse.
An active conscience and intense remorse are healthy capacities that motivate an individual to take responsibility for his or her actions, make amends, and repair the damage that was done.
Instead of playing the victim in order to garner sympathy for herself, Lisa takes responsibility for her mistake, conveys a sincere understanding of how her mistake hurts others and goes to great lengths to make amends. Because searing remorse is painful, the experience is not easily forgotten, and Lisa is less likely to repeat the mistake in the future.
Taking the second example, say Rick has softer defenses that allow him an awareness of his insecurities. He opens up to Kara: “Kara, you are so lovely. Sometimes I worry I am not good enough for you. Maybe it is silly, but I worry you’ll fall for someone else when you go out with your friends.”
Hopefully, Kara values Rick’s ability to open up and be vulnerable. She may offer empathy and support: “Rick, I only have eyes for you. You mean everything to me. That doesn’t just go away when a Luke Bryant look-alike walks through the cafe door. I love you.”
An awareness of insecurities allows a person to cope with these insecurities in a healthy way, which may promote healthy self-regulation. If a person is unaware of his or her insecurities, he or she may be unconsciously employing deflection and projection to an extreme. An individual who is highly and rigidly defended may be unable to access the deeper and uncomfortable feeling states which tax his or her fragile sense of self.
Yet it is these feeling states that allow for self-awareness, insight, and empathy. Differentiating between the victim stance cognitive distortion and authentic accountability is also critical when assessing a person’s EQ. Insight, self-awareness, and empathy are capacities that allow an individual to grow, evolve, nurture, and empower those around him or her.
Written By Erin Leonard
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today