Good Morning Families, today is Wednesday April 1st 2020 and it’s now time for our moment of SEL.
Today I’d like us to learn about a powerful tool we humans can use to support ourselves when life events happen and the messages we tell ourselves about those events make us feel bad. I want to tell you, I think SEL skills are like Jedi skills, and this particular thing we’re going to learn about today this tool is like a lightsaber. And trust me, you’re gonna want to have a lightsaber.
The tool is called re-appraisal. In SEL when we say awe are appraising something it means we are assessing it, or we’re evaluating it, or we’re attributing some kind of value to something. Say there’s a situation or event that happened and there’s a shift in our thoughts, feelings, or physiology. For example, you recognize that your fists are clenched, your neck and shoulders are tense, your eyes are wide, you are yelling, the basket goes in the hoop, your team just lost, you’re not going to states. At some point either immediately or later you may notice some thinking about this loss. You may start to hear yourself saying all kinds of things about the loss. Now, for some us, particularly folks who are prone to optimism, the messaging may not be painful, the explanatory style may not be one that brings up uncomfortable feelings. In fact, they may be sharing with themselves some type of understanding, or compassion, or awareness, or even hope.
Just so you know, I’ve not typically appraised loosing that way. At least not in the immediate aftermath. For me I hear myself saying all kinds of negative things like “we suck”, “they cheated”, “I don’t care anyway.” None of those have ever really been true by the way and I could probably avoid that whole cycle if I were using my emotional intelligence to simply be aware of and comfortable with the fact that among the many things I feel, the most prominent is sadness. However, I need more practice to make that happen. And practicing using re-appraisal can help me.
So when re-appraise something we are looking at it again. We are looking for things that we may have missed in our primary appraisal. We may approach it from a different angle. We might reframe it. In the case of loss or of the explanations about loss we are doing another evaluation, but this time exploring other possible thoughts and feelings that we did not experience the first time. And, students, just so you know, the ability to reappraise a situation is a college and career readiness skill. In fact, it’s a highly sought-after skill in the adult working world.
So, back to my initial appraisal of losing the game. First, I was entirely is focused on the material event and looking to assign blame. We lost a game and it was someone’s fault. In this manner I was trying to assign a place for my anger to focus, because I am more comfortable with anger and I can express anger that something or someone made me sad and thus was making me suffer. Which is unfair. Hence anger.
There are couple levels of re-appraisal I could use to help me manage my suffering. I will go from the surface level to the deeper level. On the surface level I could begin by reframing what just happened. I could shift my focus on some of the positive aspects of my team’s season. For example, we clearly worked hard, we were one game away from making the state playoffs. Not bad.
On a little deeper level, once I was calmer, I could reflect on how, losing this game may help my team to improve. Maybe there is a chance to discover some aspect of our play that we could improve so that next time we make different choices.
On a deeper level still, I could reappraise what it is I am putting on this game that may be causing me to feel such distress. And I could see if the message declaring that this loss is causing my discontent is actually true or if there isn’t something else that is the source of my deeper discontent.
On the deepest level I could reappraise my experience with sadness in general and consider why I should disfavor this emotion so much more than others. Maybe I’m missing some experience with sadness that could benefit me in many different parts of my life.
If you visit https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/reappraisal.html you will find several activities to help you start to be able to use reappraisal.
One thing to consider, there is no right or wrong about when to use reappraisal, it’s going to be individual experience. However, do try to recognize if you see yourself using reappraisal as a mechanism of avoidance. That is, something has happened, and you recognize anger or sadness and as a response to these perhaps unwanted feelings you jump straight to reason the event that brought on these feelings was actually great!
I’m not advocating for that you try to make yourself suffer unduly, just that you also give yourself the permission to feel the uncomfortable feelings as well. Which, in my example above, I did not do. I felt sad so I went straight to anger instead. Anger that was directed at the thing that made me sad, which I appraised as, “my sucky team” or “those cheaters”. So, when I reappraised the situation, what I was actually able to do was to recognize and experience sadness.
Here is a way to practice today. Again, you can find more at www.berkeleywellbeing.com Here are two easy questions you can ask yourself that can help build your skills with reappraising.
Consider a situation you recognize you are appraising as bad. That is, it is associated with uncomfortable or even unwanted feelings. And I would recommend you start with situations or events that present mild discomfort. I would not recommend doing this with something that is associated with profound loss. Once you recognize the situation or event, ask yourself, are there any possible positive outcomes that could result from this situation? Really allow yourself to consider what could be gained, no matter how far-fetched, after all, we’re just practicing. After that, ask yourself if you are able to identify something that you have learned for this event or situation. Remember, even learning that “you would never do that again” can be positive learning. And that last statement alone is a method of reappraising.
I wish you the very best and look forward to connecting in any way we can, tomorrow.
May your thoughts and feelings be with you.