Yale’s Prof Marc Brackett has a five-step principle to analyse and strategise which can help decode how you feel.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Finding it hard to address the anxiety? If yes, then it’s time to learn how to become an emotional scientist. Even as the pandemic upends mental health, the negative impact of Covid-19 is causing a higher incidence of depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, loneliness and insomnia. Add endless Zoom calls on work, a disconnect exacerbated by talking to a box 24X7, and being stuck at home with no social outlet, and the tumult is palpable.
This is where Marc Brackett, founder of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence,a psychologist and professor brings his 20 years of research and expertise to make everyone manage their emotions and those of others. Or at least learnhow to decode this.
Brackett’s mission is to educate the world about the value of emotions and the skills associated with using them wisely. “I want everyone to become an emotion scientist,” he says. “We need to be curious explorers of our own and others’ emotions so they can help us achieve our goals and improve our lives.” At the heart of this learning is RULER which Prof Brackett has (as lead developer) developed that helps manage emotions in five simple steps. The Ruler approach of social and emotion learning has a wide umbrella of influence, and can help many struggling with emotional issues thereby enabling a more healthier approach. Brackett’s tool is being used to manage feelings in the workplace, at home at school or college or in relationships.
RULER is an evidence-based approach to social emotional learning (SEL) which has been approved by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning).“Recognise and understand your own feelings, label them, express them and regulate them,” Brackett advises those dealing with a gamut of different emotions.
The acronym RULER involves these five steps – recognising, understanding, labelling, expressing, and regulating emotions. For any emotion you are feeling, recognising emotions in oneself and others is key. Understanding the causes and consequences of these emotions will help decode it. Labelling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary can help to get to the next step of expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context. The final step is key, when you learn to regulating emotions with helpful strategies.
In Ruler, Brackett addresses five emotional skills that can explain why you are feeling a certain way, and then pave a way to work on them. There are other tools to help in the process – charter, mood meter, meta moment and blue print to enhance this. According to Brackett, RULER intends to increase personal wellbeing, effective teaching and leadership, academic achievement, and classroom emotional climate change. An essential aspect of RULER is that it has involved training for educational leaders, teachers, support staff, students and families, and has been adopted by 2009 schools across the globe, reaching over 1,000,000 students.
At the heart of RULER is what Brackett calls a “granular” approach to feeling. For instance, let’s go back to “feeling overwhelmed.” Recognising the feeling is the first step. Ask yourself why are you feeling overwhelmed? Understand the reasons… it could be pressure, expectations, etc. Label these and analyse your behaviour when feeling such emotions, slowly learn to express them in a healthier manner. Once you begin this process, you will also slowly learn to regulate it.
According to a report in the Statesmen, Brackett himself spends his days on the Yale campus regulating his reactions to one of his biggest triggers: entitlement. His father was an air-conditioning salesman and he grew up not knowing what Yale was. When handing over $3 for a coffee at Starbucks, somewhere deep down inside him his temper flares, too.
The bottom line is to find the triggers and thus manage corresponding emotions. The professor also teaches a course on Coursera called Managing Emotions in Times of Uncertainty & Stress that has 62,264 already enrolled. Prompted by the lacuna Brackett was seeing in managing emotions during Covid 19, he explains, “At the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, we conduct research and teach people of all ages how to develop their emotional intelligence. We offer training to school communities that are interested in systemically implementing social and emotional learning. This past year, school communities across the world were experiencing collective trauma influenced by the pandemic, racial, political, and socioeconomic divides, and we knew we had to do something to help. Building and offering this course was something we could contribute to help people heal, persevere, and thrive,” explains Brackett.
With the education system undergoinga monumental shift, research shows that school staff who are better at managing their emotions have greater physical health, well-being, and job satisfaction. “This creates a more supportive learning environment for students where there’s more engagement, less disruption, and better performance. When children and adults are skilled at managing stress and anxiety, life is better,” he adds.
For the many who are struggling to make it through the day, with the increase in depression and negative feelings, Brackett cautions, “Chronic stress or anxiety occurs when we feel like things are unpredictable and uncontrollable, and that they won’t go away. This coupled with low cognitive resources due to any combination of poor nutrition, lack of sleep, reduced physical activity, or general mental or physical exhaustion can cause us to act irrationally toward ourselves or others. A few helpful research-based strategies to help us feel less stressed and anxious and to better handle our own and others’ emotions include mindful breathing, social support, positive self-talk, hobbies and other meaningful activities, and self-compassion. We can be proactive by managing emotions like stress, including preventing depression, in these ways. Still, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional if you are struggling with clinical depression or chronic stress.”
The biggest hurdle we face is accepting and letting ourselves feel – this Brackett speaks of in grave detail in his book that delves into how he was sexually abused from the age of five to 10, and finally told his uncle. This non-judgemental dialogue between a young Brackett and his uncle inspired his best-selling book Permission to Feel. Brackett recently co-founded Oji Life Lab, a corporate learning firm that develops innovative digital learning systems on emotional intelligence. His goal is that everyone becomes an emotion.If you feel at sea working through RULER, Dr Marc Brackett’s blog https://www.marcbrackett.com/the-emotion-scientist-blog/ can give you an insight into the science of emotions.