Tool within the Multilevel Emotion Regulation Theory – MERT
Improve emotional resilience
The PowerBook is a tool that will help us (or our child) give ourselves emotional credit, so we can take a comment without feeling criticised, it helps prevent any unnecessary energy drainage and therefore increases our Baseline, which is our emotional resilience and energy level.
The process is simple: every day we write five real felt compliments in a special book (the PowerBook). A real felt compliment is one that focuses on the process and ignores the possible outcome. With this, we are focusing on those tiny steps that we might otherwise not notice that indicate a step towards behaving as our ideal self (please see Gap energy), or instances where we have applied an Awareness Mantra to negative thinking patterns. The Awareness Mantra is a simple congratulatory form of words, such as ‘I am proud and grateful to ….’ that we apply when we catch ourselves in an unhelpful thinking loop. You can also use the Awareness Mantra to further compliment yourself when you write in your book.
This powerful practice can improve your emotional resilience by creating Emotional Credit (Gottman) with yourself; help you to focus on the positive instead of the negative (as we are all evolutionarily inclined); reduce anxiety; and may help you change neurological pathways so that you are able to experience more positive emotions.
How gratitude helps us
People who express more gratitude have been found to have better physical and psychological health.
According to one of the world-leading gratitude researchers, Robert Emmons, in How Gratitude Changes the Brain – And How to Make it Work For You.
“We’ve studied more than 1,000 people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits.”
These benefits included (as reported by participants):
- Stronger immune systems – lessess bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercising more and take better care of their health
- Sleeping longer and feeling more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous and compassionate
- More forgiving
- Feel less lonely and isolated
- More outgoing
Remember it’s not about being perfect, but about raising awareness, which is always the the first step towards change.
Focus on the Awareness
It is important to compliment ourselves on our awareness, independently of how we have thought, felt or acted.
Focusing on complimenting awareness in ourselves raises our emotional resilience. The focus on awareness also helps to keep at bay the judgmental reflections on how we (or others) internally or externally reacted, that often follow the awareness – what you went on to do, say, think is not important here, it is noticing that you were triggered. Also, be vague when you are describing a trigger (eg your husband snapping at you) to prevent focusing on and therefore increasing the chance to repeat the trigger .
Examples of what we can write down in our PowerBook:
- “I’m proud and grateful to be aware that I managed to go to the kitchen this morning when I felt overwhelmed and did the Awareness Mantra and the 4-7-8 (a relaxing breathing technique)
- “I’m proud and grateful to realise that last weekend I was triggered in a stress response when M. asked me to help them move, and I managed to do the Awareness Mantra and the 4-7-8”
- “I’m proud and grateful to be aware of an involuntary action/thought/feeling.” This can be whenever it happens, it might be long afterwards, this is also to prevent unhelpful train of thoughts about self. Än involuntary reaction is where we behave in a way counter to how we would wish (see the stress response)
- “I’m proud and grateful that I managed to calm myself, well done ME!” (and ask yourself how you managed and write it in the back of the PowerBook – see below)
- “I’m proud and grateful to be aware that I managed to …….. (fill in what you did to strengthen your Baseline, meaning anything you managed to do that gave a good feeling, energy or joy, also detail it in the back of your PowerBook as precisely as you can).
How to – PowerBook
Buy yourself (and/or your child) a beautiful empty book: Your PowerBook.
Focus on the positives with help of this PowerBook in which every evening you write at least five little steps of awareness you made each day.
In the front
Every time during the day that you applied the Awareness Mantra (or whatever personalised words you use, for example, “I am proud and grateful that I’m aware of an unhelpful train of thought” and applied a tool to reset your brain, e.g. the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, you give yourself a real felt compliment about that in your PowerBook. Remember, the compliment should focus on the process and ignore the possible outcome. For example, you compliment yourself on noticing that you felt irritable with your child not on how you resolved a difficult situation.
You can write in the evening in your PowerBook, and add every time you managed to do the 4-7-8 as well, or whatever helpful tool to calm yourself. These are all worthwhile writing in your PowerBook: “I’m proud and grateful to be aware that when my son called me a b…, I was having a not helpful feeling, and I did the awareness Mantra and the 4-7-8 to calm myself.”
“I’m proud and grateful that I’m aware that when Rachel asked me to help move, I felt compelled to say yes.”)
In the back
In the back you note down all the strategies, things and actions that give you pleasure, joy and energy and that help you strengthen, maintain and increase your Baseline, and ultimately help you to achieve your goals.
Keep it as simple as you can, as these will be instructions to yourself when you feel overwhelmed and don’t have access to your thinking, creative and practical abilities. See it as talking to a little child that is overwhelmed by the world and can’t make any decisions.
For example write (be as specific as you can):
- ‘It gives me energy and makes me feel better to go for a walk on a weekday morning at 10am. I go out the door, go right, go through the park, and enter the house again. I will be home at 10.30am and feel better.’
- ‘If I can phone Hannah at 2pm on Tuesdays, her children are then always with their gran and Hannah has real attention for me, it gives me a sense of connection and energy and she makes me laugh.’
- ‘I can take a 30-minute bath on Saturday mornings, it makes me feel more relaxed, and if I add 2 cups of Epsom salt I also sleep better that night’
Writing it down this way will help you to be able to apply your own instructions when you feel low and can’t think straight. You will be able to just pick the one from the back of your PowerBook that appeals to you in the moment and follow the instructions to get it done.
You might want to leave post-its around the house during the day to collect in the evening to write down in the PowerBook. These will help you remember all the tiny steps you managed to take as you moved through your day and remind you of what gave you energy, joy and pleasure.
PowerBook with your child.
A PowerBook is also an excellent opportunity to talk through with your child what great efforts (the tiny tiny steps that normally are never seen nor appreciated but that make all the difference in the world) he or she has managed. You can thank her or him for any behaviour that helped them or you to stay cool, e.g. if she or he walked away when you were really grumpy, when they didn’t react when you were snappy, they had a fight with their sibling etc. Say “Really well done that you stayed calm when I was grumpy, and really well done that you went to your own room” etc. etc.
This also builds emotional credit between yourself and your child as well as the child creating emotional credit for themselves, which will make it easier for them to listen to information that can be taken as criticism.
Remember the 5:1 emotional credit rule by Gottman: your child needs to have had a least five real felt compliments before they are able to listen to a remark that can be taken as criticism – and this is also for everyone, including ourselves.
Giving real felt compliments will also help our child to raise awareness about what effort she or he has made.
To enable this journey together with your child, open communication lines are very helpful.
Before talking with your child, check you are both rested, well fed and not emotionally affected. Make sure you are not emotionally involved with the outcome at that moment, as emotional dependence will trigger the emotional block or stress response in our child and ourselves. Before any encounter in which you want to achieve something, please apply the 4-7-8 to make sure you don’t bring your own emotions to the equation and plan a strategy in advance for removing yourself from the situation if either you or your child gets triggered e.g. you can say something like: “Ooh I completely forgot I promised to call auntie M.”.
Modelling as a parent how to be in charge of our own emotions, or being aware we are not, are opportunities to share our strategies on how to deal with situations in which we feel triggered, e.g. removing ourselves from the situation, going for a glass of water, writing down a list of what is being discussed etc. and this is a great help for the child.
Please prioritise your own Baseline, because then you will have the reserve energy to be able to creatively react to a challenging situation. It’s much easier to stay strategic, even under stress, when you take good care of yourself!
Keep your Baseline up by taking your own needs seriously!