Emotional Intelligence

For as long as I can remember I have been labelled as an emotional person by everyone I know. I was also labelled as meek by many teachers, and when it came to personality quizzes I always felt I matched the introvert best. I am easy to cry (even when laughing too hard), I take offence probably too easily, I am no good at accepting compliments, and I feel deeply affected when something happens (good or bad). Being emotional however, did not automatically grant me emotional intelligence, and as a younger person I would often be upset without knowing why.

One example that comes to mind is the first death I experienced (and I also just feel like sharing this particular story today). When she was alive I remember loving my Nana dearly. She was my favourite grandparent, the one who took me to the movies and gave me cookies as a bedtime snack. I remember watching her put makeup on in the mirror, warming up the plates before putting dinner on them, and hearing the ice clink against the glass in which she had her nightcap. I remember family get togethers at her house, the smell of her perfume, and how there was always a candy dish full of chocolates. I remember her taking me to church and thinking that one day I would join the choir because they sounded lovely and it would make her proud. At one point she got sick, I believe that she couldn’t breathe properly and so had to be put on machines at the hospital. I remember going to visit her, she couldn’t talk but she would write notes to us. She promised we would watch the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ when she got out of the hospital. Unfortunately she never did, I was about 10 years old, and after that I hated hospitals because they made me feel sick. I remember crying a lot, I didn’t really understand why specifically she had to leave when I would rather have her there than my grandpa (her husband). I went to the funeral wearing a blue dress with multi-coloured geckos all over it, and I remember thinking that it was inappropriate to not wear black. I remember sitting in the front row and watching this woman that I didn’t recognize as my Nana’s friend just wailing a few rows behind on the other side of the church and wondering why she was there. I remember the dream I had either a few days or weeks after in which my Nana appeared as a glowing flame-engulfed person with angry eyes. I thought she was angry with me and I was scared, to this day the image is burned in my mind. I was sad for a very long time after her passing – even to this day I am emotional about it. Every year on the anniversary of her death I take a day to myself and watch ‘The Sound of Music’. For a time I wondered if I wasn’t dealing with my grief properly, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case anymore.

I have mentioned in previous posts that my life hasn’t exactly been cheery lately. At some points I have felt completely overwhelmed and like my emotions are controlling me. I wanted to gain control of my emotions so that I could appear cool and collected on the outside as protection from some of the less than friendly people I have to deal with. But when I tried I realized that suppressing my emotions is not effective for me. In fact, when I tried to suppress them they just came flooding out anyway. Gaining emotional intelligence meant putting labels on what I was feeling and really looking into myself to figure out what was making those feelings happen. It meant accepting that it was okay and even an advantage to have these feelings that felt overwhelming. Putting labels on feelings was beyond hard – to me they were just how I felt, I didn’t want to label them because it meant I would have to confront what was wrong and that felt like it would be overwhelming. Working on identifying where my emotions were coming from also caused some confusion. Sometimes I would feel angry or sad without really knowing why or having a reason to. I would be going about my day and suddenly a wave of sadness or anger would come over me. I didn’t understand but I would be nicer to my co-worker or stay away from my mother at home. Recently I heard a really emotional song and felt like I was going to pass out because not only was the song emotional and about loss, but the feeling the song evoked in me brought up my own experiences and I became extremely overwhelmed. I am still working on the emotional intelligence thing, it is really hard.

Awhile ago I came across the term empath. From what I have read, it seems that empaths are individuals that are extremely sensitive to not only their own emotions, but those of other people as well. Finally my emotional experiences made sense to me. It made sense that my happy and sad emotional experiences were over the top sometimes. It made sense that I ‘knew’ my co-worker was going through a hard time and needed someone to be nice to her. It made sense that I would avoid my mother because I ‘knew’ she was angry and I didn’t want to be in her line of fire. I’m not saying I am an empath for sure, but I know that I strongly relate to most if not all of the empathetic qualities that the empath articles talk about. So as much as I think I have benefited from gaining some emotional intelligence, I also think that it can only help me so much. I think that being an empath (in theory/my mind anyway) I will not be able to control my emotions, since I am so affected by others around me and tend to take on their emotions. What I am working on now is accepting this, and trying to find balance in my emotions so that instead of drowning in them I am able to ride the wave, whatever it throws at me. Giving myself the empath label also makes me feel confident that I am able to be an amazing S-LP (if I get accepted into the program, fingers crossed I get called off the waitlist) because of my ability to put myself into ‘other people’s shoes’. I am not sure that I fully buy into the whole holistic healing thing, and I realize that the label of empath fits into that category. I am a scientist in training, but a natural dreamer so it can be challenging for me to balance both sides – I guess at the end of the day I just really have an overall issue with being mentally/emotionally balanced. This is almost an ironic thought because my physical balance is also not quite right due to an ankle injury. I’ll save that story for another time.

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Girls in 3’s are as dangerous as anything…

*This post was taken from my tumblr – written in March 2013 when I was taking a class about clinical and counselling psychology. However it is still super relevant as far as my experiences go.

Today I was reminded of an important lesson I learned early in life, which is that girls are horrible in groups of three’s. Yes this seems silly, but it’s true. I don’t know what happens in these groups, I’ve never really been in one. I also don’t understood why having 3 people is so key to the group horribleness (they are usually fine one on one), but they manage to turn on people and can get pretty vicious about it.

In psychology there is a stereotype that we are all trying to analyze everyone around us, but the fact of the matter is that this is untrue for the majority of psychology students. I honestly have better things to do with my time. However, there are a few that think they can and that do go around diagnosing people with things (no degree needed apparently). Even their friends that they hangout with and see everyday are not safe from this, especially if you are a friend outside of the unholy trinity of girls.

Today in class the unholy trinity that I speak of wrote up a list of “symptoms” of a friend, and gave them to our clinical professor and asked him to tell them what is “wrong” with the person. They also gave details from the persons personal life and divulged their name. There were still many people left in the class gathering their belongings that might  know the person (since it is a small university). The professor, who is also a clinical psychologist, actually answered their questions and wanted more details.

Needless to say I think this is extremely inappropriate on both the students and professors part. I could see that maybe in a very misguided way they were trying to help, but I can’t be sure. I feel dirty having associated with these people, and quite frankly wonder who they haven’t done this to. At least I know who I will never tell a secret to…
Also friends don’t go to clinical professors to ask about friends. Period.

Dreaming

Dreams are a funny thing. There are many views on what their purpose are, but nothing is certain. Which is almost ironic because dreams are never really certain things either.
Some say they are random neurons firing.
Some say they are a path of enlightenment, a path into your subconscious.
Some say they are a way for your brain to work out problems and make sense of what it had to process during the day.
I don’t have the answer to that question.

I don’t know about how most people experience dreams, but for me dreams happen with almost every sleep. I start to get anxious if I haven’t had a dream for a couple nights. I remember my dreams. I have some dreams more than once, or sometimes dreams continue from one night to another. Sometimes I can control what path my dream goes on. I can read what things say in my dreams. I speak and understand both English and French in my dreams. Sometimes my dreams have an impact on how I feel the next day, even leaving me in a daze at times because the dream was filled with such intense emotion. Sometimes after I have physically woken up I need to also mentally wake up from dreams and come back to reality.

For me there are different kinds of dreams, ones that comfort, ones that scare, and so on. I’ve had dreams before that happen later in life, I don’t want to say my dream predicted what would happen, but I find myself at a loss for how else to describe the situation. More recently I’ve been having strange dreams, ones that could be laced with all sorts of symbolism that would take a few moments to ponder over and decode. Sometimes I know what they mean right away, and other times it is a mystery to me. I don’t mind sharing my dreams with close friends, but to me dreams are a bit personal and not something I share with everyone. I feel like my dream life is a huge part of myself, I am a dreamer to the core.

“…la vue des étoiles me fait rêver…”
– Vincent Van Gogh

Falling Apart

Today I came across this quote:

The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)

It made a lot of sense to me. Over the past two years I have felt like my life is crumbling down around me. I have had to deal with a lot including emotional abuse at home, losing family members, being told I’m not good enough at school, being in a long distance relationship, doubting myself, and losing friends. Despite the fact that I have some family support, a caring and wonderful boyfriend and some really lovely friends, I have felt so lonely. Up until recently I really tried to push through things, keep going, just keep trying and it will get better. Unfortunately things haven’t gotten better. So many things have fallen apart that it is becoming hard for me to push on, and at times this week I feel like all I am capable of is sitting and staring blankly. I have decided to embrace that. Maybe instead of pushing through I need to take some time and just stop going for a little bit. Maybe in the moments that I sit and stare blankly I will come up with new plans, and new hope. Maybe instead of pushing past, taking the time to stop and properly let go is what I need for things to get better. Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t…only time will tell, but I am hopeful that I am heading toward a happier path soon.

Little Thoughts 2

Here is an untitled post of mine from March 2011 that feels relevant today, except that I am the one that got crumpled this time instead of watching it happen to someone else.

Sometimes things that happen take a toll on you.
They can brake you down, they can get you overly excited, they change you in some form or another.
But no matter what it is, sometimes it absolutely wipes your mind clear of things (important or not) so that you cannot have anything else on your mind for a time being, and that absolutely exhausts you.
So in the end everything is all supposed to balance out, but as of right now I do not see the balance point, I just see one side to the teeter toter being shoved endlessly into the ground, until all you see is a pile of dirt from its burial.
And I cannot for the life of me get the image of a face, one that I thought was strong and have not seen upset at the worst of times, an image of this face deteriorating in front of me, and there was nothing I could or can, do or say, to stop it from happening.

Sometimes its painful to love someone so much that when you see them crumple, it crumples you too.
Tonight, I am just happy they did not see me crumple for them.

The Undergrad

I know I said I would write this a few posts ago, but life threw some things at me that were more relevant to write about at the time so here you go – slightly out of order but hot off the press – my experience as an undergrad!

When I was applying to university I applied to four Psychology programs; one in my hometown, two a few hours away, and one as far away as about 7 hours in a car. I was nervous I would not get accepted, and I figured I would just go where I got in. So, when I got accepted everywhere I had a big decision to make – where will I go? I decided that I did not want to stay home and that I did not actually want to go to one of the other schools I applied for. Since it was down to two I went to the open houses of both schools – one was a big university and the other was a small university. We started at the big university which was relatively close to home. I was really excited about the research program there, but the bigger city and the feeling I got that no one really had time or patience for undergrads, and the idea that residence wasn’t guaranteed didn’t make me happy. So we went to the smaller university that was far away where everyone was very friendly, residence was guaranteed and actually quite spacious, and the professors emailed me back when I had questions about their research. I still spent a fair amount of time debating where to go – it was a really big choice for me to make as to how far away from home I wanted to be and where I thought I would fit in. As you might have figured out from previous posts I picked the small university far from home, and I have no regrets.

First year was amazing (and yes I am saying this looking back with rose coloured glasses). I was taking classes that I loved (most of the time), I made friends that I felt I had known forever, my grades had dropped from high school but I was still doing okay. Looking back I also remember that it was a hard adjustment. I wasn’t used to living on my own or sharing space with strangers, there was a lot of drama, I was far away from everything I knew, I had lost some friends along the way, and as much as that was scary I think it was something important. I found out a lot about myself and what was important to me that year. When I went home it was obvious to me how much I had grown and how much everyone else that stayed at home hadn’t, and I was really proud of myself for that. First year was really challenging for those reasons, but it was also really fun. For probably the first time in my life I was one of the cool kids, I was friends with the really attractive cool guy, I was friends with the fun older crowd, I got asked out on dates (one day I got asked out three times – I was floored and said no to all of them). My friend C (the really attractive popular guy) really helped me to open up and become less of the shy girl I was used to being and a little more of the adventurous woman I am now. I had a massive crush on him, but he had a girlfriend so I was happy enough to have his attention since she was at a different school. His friends became my friends and we always had a good time – regardless of whether it was drunk bowling, driving around, or watching the aquarium channel. Nothing ever happened between us and to this day he is one of my dearest friends, the only difference is that my crush turned into more of a brotherly love. I have so many memories from that year of late night walks alone or with company, of hanging out in peoples residence rooms, of doing laundry and painting at 3am; memories of just doing anything and everything that came my way. Of course in order to learn you have to make mistakes. Like most people I know I skipped a couple classes to sleep, got a bad mark on a midterm, broke a heart. I feel bad about that last one. This guy kept texting me to hangout and so I would because he was nice enough and because of my relationship with C I didn’t think anything of it. One night he tried to hold my hand and kiss me and I basically had to ‘break up’ with him because he thought we were dating (even though he never asked me to be his girlfriend). I do not regret it, but I feel bad and wish that I hadn’t made him cry…I wish it hadn’t come to that end. But like I said, you learn by making mistakes and I haven’t gotten myself into any situations like that since. One of my favourite memories from that year comes from a road trip to C’s girlfriends place for his birthday. I had a friend in the same city so I tagged along with him, T and G for an overnight drive to spend the weekend. T was the kind of guy some people would describe as redneck. He was in charge of the radio but instead of the country music you would expect (which he doesn’t listen to), he had brought along the latest Harry Potter audiobook. We made a stop at Tim Horton’s, and when he realized he forgot to pause the book he went screaming back to the car because he didn’t want to miss anything. The rest of the weekend was just as fun packed and hilarious but that part stands out in my mind. There are a million other stories I could tell about first year, but I will leave it at that for now.

While I was still in first year I applied to go on exchange – C was doing it so I did too. I had always loved to travel and I figured that going to France would give me the perfect opportunity to practice my French, I also really wanted to go to Australia. I got accepted to go on exchange to Australia for the first semester of my second year. In the summer I went home and it wasn’t fun. My home life was worse than I remembered, I didn’t really have friends there, and I wasn’t happy. I made a trip to visit one of my friends from university for a week and we had a lot of fun. We stayed up all night, went out dancing, went out to the lake on boat rides, basically all the fun summer things packed into a week. During that summer I was also dating someone I had met at university that lived a couple hours away which was okay at first. I saw him a few times and we had fun. A couple weeks before I was leaving he didn’t text me back for a number of days and I called him out on it. He was furious and told me I was being a child and ruining his night and that it wasn’t a big deal he hadn’t texted me back. He broke up with me, he didn’t want to try and make it work. I was completely devastated and heartbroken, but I was also leaving so I had to pull myself together and try to forget that I cared about him.
I will write about my exchange experience in another post because I have a lot to say about it. But when I got home it was really hard for me. For one thing I had arrived in December (or mid-summer in Australia) to a cold Canadian winter. One day I put on shorts and then realized that it wasn’t exactly appropriate attire for snow. Talk about reverse culture shock. Christmas has never been my favourite holiday but that year things actually went pretty well. I was excited to get back to school and see my friends though – as much as Skype had kept us somewhat in touch I needed them fully back in my life. A part of me wanted to get back together with the guy I had been dating, but I found out he had been cheating on me when we had been dating in the summer and so that squashed those feelings. Coming back was hard because in the time that I had been away my friends had made other friends, friends I had that were on exchange had left,  and C was still on exchange. I didn’t realize how much I had relied on him until that point. So I made sure that the friends I was excited to see knew I was home and tried to adjust to the new way of things. It kind of felt like starting first year over again but with familiar faces. On Wednesdays I had two classes with a dinner break between them so I would meet up with my friend N who had the same break and we would have dinner. One day she was waiting for me to meet her and she was there talking to this guy I thought was pretty cute. He left, but then came back shortly after to have dinner with us – he was in the same class as N. He had left to go to the candy store and offered to share his candy, which was a mistake on his part because I love candy and basically ate half of it. A few days later I was at school early just sitting at a table and he happened to be there early too and asked me for my number. We started texting at the end of January, finally hung out in early March, and haven’t looked back since. We have been dating for more than 4 years now, and I am forever happy that N kind of introduced us and also that he was willing to share his candy. The rest of second year is a blur, mostly spent between hanging out with friends and the boyfriend and trying to get homework done in-between.

The summer between second and third year I spent working as a research assistant. It paid well and gave me free time to take classes that I had missed while I was on exchange. One of the classes was taught by an S-LP and her career sounded really cool. I didn’t move home that summer, but the boyfriend and I did visit my home for a week. We went to my brothers wedding together, it was nice to have someone to show off to the family.

In third year things got serious. For one thing, I was a Frosh leader for the first time and I wanted to properly introduce these new fresh faces to all of the wonderful things about the university. These were also the grades that ‘really matter’ for grad school, and you had to have an idea of programs you were applying for so you had the right pre-requisites. I didn’t know what I was doing – at the time I was torn between research and Clinical Psychology, with an after thought of S-LP. I worked as an assistant in student services and they needed me to put together information packages on applying to professional programs, so that provided me with the perfect excuse to figure out what I wanted to do. I also started to volunteer with an S-LP and CDA at the public health unit to learn more about the career. In the meantime I was focused on spending time with the boyfriend and less so with friends. I kind of lost touch with a friend, J, that was really good to me and I still feel that gap now. See, when you say no to hanging out enough times eventually people stop asking. I don’t think that its a fair thing to do because sometimes timing it bad but it is what happens, and again I learned that the hard way. I worked really hard for my grades that year. But I did have an issue – my French prof that year was a nightmare. She spoke in a lot of English, and had a nickname for me “petite souris” (little mouse) because I spoke quietly. She also poked fun at the clothing or accents of some students. At one point I wrote an essay and met with her for feedback and she told me that I did not have the knowledge or ability to discuss the topic I had written my paper about. I was furious because she was wrong – I had written the paper, she had understood the paper, so how could she say that? I was also devastated because she said that I would not achieve an 80 or above in her class. I did not have to be taking French classes but I wanted to because I loved French, and for the first time in my life she was making it unenjoyable for me, and something that could ruin my chances of grad school. Thankfully we had a brilliant exchange student from France that I had gotten close with, and he helped me with my papers. He had actually helped me by editing this paper for me, and so from that point on he also helped me to brainstorm topics and ideas as he was very philosophically and theoretically minded. I still did not get the grades I deserved but she did not say anymore absurd things to me, other than calling me her little mouse. My French friend left after that year, and I was quite saddened by it. I remember when he came to say goodbye I was working in the student services office and after he left it was different, more empty. We kept in touch for awhile but now we do not…it is hard to keep ahold of international friends when you live such different lives. Around this time my boyfriend also found out he was accepted into the grad school program he applied for, which was great – but it was also a 10 hour drive away. It was a really hard time for me with so much changing out of my control, but I put my efforts into studying and being supportive – I knew he had to go.

Over the summer between third and fourth year I moved into a house with an acquaintance. I also worked with a few of the Psychology professors on research projects and continued my volunteering. I was very fortunate to be working with A, who is without a doubt one of the brightest shining stars in my life. She is beautiful and smart and she just cares so much it hurts sometimes. She is the kind of girl you brag about being best friends with. Together that summer we took on the world and faced all sorts of childishness. While at work we were doing science, planning for our theses, and also organizing a charity run, at home I was dealing with an unfortunate roommate situation. I have a lot of stories you may or may not believe about that summer with that particular roommate – I can touch on them more later. But to start my roommate apparently liked to smoke, and when she thought I wasn’t home she did it in our basement apartment. She also never cleaned the bathroom. When I found black mould that the landlord insisted was nothing I knew it was time to leave (for my physical and mental health), so I found a new house and moved out within a week – just in time to start the new school year. While this was going on, A and I were combatting administrative staff and unhelpful people on the student union in order to get our charity event going. We had planned a “colour dash” (similar to the colour runs that were popular at the time) to happen on campus to improve student life (which was lacking) and also help the community by donating funds raised to the local hospice. People told us that we would be lucky to have 30 people to show up to the event and it wasn’t worth our time. But when the university finally agreed to have the event as part of homecoming, we were also told to stop promoting the event from our personal social media accounts. It was frustrating to say the least, and those are just a couple of roadblocks we ran into that come to mind, but when October came around the event went off better than anyone had imagined. We had a lot of people sign up and raised over $2000 for the hospice. It was one of my proudest moments of my university career.

When fourth year started it was hard because not only had C left to go on exchange again, J had left to start her masters degree, and my boyfriend had also left to start his masters degree. Thankfully I had a thesis class full of friends, including A, that became fairly close knit and felt like a real support system. My boyfriend came home a few times, and while he was gone I threw myself into school work and my thesis. I also spent a lot of time applying to graduate programs – I applied to a Masters in Psychology, a Masters in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and 3 S-LP programs. I also had another interesting roommate – she was very religious and made dietary choices (aka fish heads) I was unfamiliar with. Overall she was harmless, kept the kitchen clean, and was friendly most of the time. Half way through the year she moved out and another girl moved in – she was a train wreak. The stories I could tell about this girl would also blow your mind, but for the most part she was messy, rude, and inconsiderate – I really wanted the other roommate back. It was a busy year, and doing a thesis project in such a short time is no joke. But I think that together my thesis class and I made it a good time. There are a lot of jokes and good times we shared, and everyone was really supportive, including the professors. Our thesis conference day was amazing. We had all worked so hard, and the presentations were really great. The thesis prof got us all a little drunk after at dinner, and together the thesis students went out dancing. It was really hard to go back to class after that, even though there were only a few left, because it was just such a perfect end. Shortly after that I found out I had been accepted to the Psychology program, and waitlisted for two of the three S-LP programs. I was set to interview for the other program in May. At the end of April after exams were done and I had handed in my school keys and rental keys, it was time to move home. In June I went back for the graduation ceremony. It was so lovely to see everyone again, celebrating all of their accomplishments from the past 4 years. It was also hard to only see them for such a short period of time, goodbyes and see you soon have never been my favourite words to say. But I have to think that if I hadn’t had such a great growing experience there that I wouldn’t have been as sad as I was to leave. Sure there were hard times, but I made best friends, I met brilliant people that were respected professors that also respected me, and it was a beautiful city to study in. I will forever be happy that I chose the university that I did, although it may be small it was exactly what I needed. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.

Little Thoughts

Before this blog I used to write things on Tumblr. Anyway, I really liked a few of the little things I had written so since they made me smile because of a memory or think “oh hey that’s really good, did I write that?!” I decided that I will periodically share them on here.

Here is my post “Technology today has come so far” from March 2011

Tonight my favourite band, Said the Whale, was playing a live show for JunoFest and it was broadcasted live by CBC radio 3. Today, it’s not a big deal for band to play a live show and have it broadcast online, with full stream video and everything. Which is great, especially when they are not playing a show near you, or if you cannot afford to go to shows. Tonight was different though, it was just the radio, just the beautiful music the band was creating, and the screams of joy from the audience as they listened on as well.

This got me thinking back to when children used to crowd around the radio to listen to their favourite show, because TV and computers were not around yet. It was what they did for fun. So tonight, as I was listening to the band play, I couldn’t help but feel like one of those children lying on the floor; feet up in the air, listening to something giving them great joy. The world was simple again for a time, as I listened, enjoyed, and got goose bumps.