Working on emotionsA brilliant student since his school days, Sagar Satyal was very confident that he had it all figured out. But his educational achievements did not translate to professional success.
A brilliant student since his school days, Sagar Satyal was very confident that he had it all figured out. But his educational achievements did not translate to professional success. His ambitious plans got him into heavy debt and the ensuing sense of failure and loneliness forced him to reflect on his emotional well-being and its importance in living a fulfilling life.
Satyal started a small platform to help people develop their skills of self-reflection and empathy in order to better understand themselves and in the process, succeed in both their professional and personal lives. When Bhawana Shrestha learned about Satyal’s initiative, she decided to join him and together, they started a company—My Emotions Matter—to help people explore and express themselves.
Since its establishment in May this year, My Emotions Matter has been offering self-reflective sessions and programmes that focus on being self-aware about an individual’s own actions and emotions. Shrestha, an alumnus of Teach for Nepal, also brings her experience of working within the classroom setting to teaching younger students the importance of emotional intelligence and balance.
“When asked how they feel, most people reply saying ‘okay’, ‘fine’ or ‘good’, without giving the question much thought. It is almost like they are programmed to say these things rather than express how they are actually feeling,” says Satyal.
According to the founders, emotional intelligence is the ability to be self-aware, motivated, self-managed, and empathetic. To understand one’s emotional reactions, My Emotions Matter brings forward a vocabulary for feelings. Their sessions and programmes encourage the process of responding to stimuli, rather than reacting, which can be very difficult to learn and process, according to Shrestha.
They offer a total of six programme variations that emphasise learning experiences to develop emotional intelligence in students, teachers and working professionals. They are currently offering programmes such as ‘Self Science’ for school students, ‘Super Teacher’ aimed at school and college teachers, ‘Start Here’ is a 10-day session for everyone seeking personal guidance, ‘One Off Sessions’ is a four-hour session on weekends, ‘EI 101’ is a two-month long, non-credit course for undergraduate students, and ‘EI 360’ is aimed at developing relationships and a proper work environment among employees and employers.
“We had been working on developing these sessions long before we formally registered the company,” says Shrestha. “We went to different colleges and conducted sessions just through recommendations from individuals who had previously participated in our sessions.”
Their sessions, for instance, encourage individuals to understand the difference between ‘sad’, ‘disappointed’ and ‘upset’, which acts as springboard to develop appropriate strategies for each. They stress the growth of one’s emotional intelligence by re-learning the words that describes their emotions accurately. Through various tools and techniques, they have led a group of individuals who are more self-aware and experience less emotional outbursts that arise from confusion. These emotional teachings empower participants with the skills required to navigate through their feelings in various situations and help them lead meaningful lives.
Since their first session at ‘I am the gardener’ garden in Dhumbarahi, My Emotions Matter has provided a total of 111 sessions till date. Attendees at their regular programmes share that they have been utilising the lessons on expressing and empathising in their lives. Chadani Shrestha, winner of the ‘Face of Plus Two 2018’ beauty pageant, attributes her win to attending a session on emotional intelligence with My Emotions Matter. “Earlier I wasn’t confident and was very scared of public speaking, but after I attended one of their sessions, I felt positive and was able to better manage my emotions,” she said.
Individuals, particularly school students, being able to speak up confidently for themselves after attending their sessions is a great success for the team, says Satyal. It also inspires them to research further and develop new techniques to better interact with both children and adults. In order to encourage self-reflection, their sessions aren’t limited to enclosed spaces such as classrooms or meeting halls, but they also hold programmes in more open and peaceful environments like garden and parks.
“We meet a lot of people who are unable to categorise their emotions and often confuse their hurt as anger and express it likewise,” says Shrestha. To be able to correctly recognise one’s emotions or feelings, they have modulated a framework called ‘L-I-S-T-E-N’—a process where the letters stand for ‘Listening, Introspecting, Sharing, Trying and Nurturing’. Within this framework, participants are taught to carry out each activity one step at a time.
The team from My Emotions Matter, with co-founders Sagar Satyal (third from left) and Bhawana Shrestha (second from left). POST PHOTO: ANISH REGMI
However, emotional intelligence in Nepal has long been limited by various stereotypes and is often viewed to be same as mental health and depression. The founders at My Emotions Matter claim that emotional intelligence and mental health are not the same but they are certainly inter-related. According to them, many mental health problems can be avoided if we are aware of identifying and managing our emotions.
“We want to make people more aware about their emotions so as to prevent them from falling into depression,” says Shrestha. She also made it clear that they do not provide psychological counselling or treatment for any mental health issues.
Not being fully aware of one’s emotions will only push individuals towards feelings of failure and loneliness, the founders say. A person may get angry without a valid reason and a failure to understand the manifestation of that emotion can make them angrier—leading them to further deviate from contemplation and self-reflection.
Various studies have shown that students with high intelligence quotients from childhood to late adulthood were more likely to achieve career success and showed greater “will power, perseverance and desire to excel”. Similarly, the ‘Marshmallow Test’—where children are given more treats if they show self-control by waiting to eat them—shows that delayed gratification and self-control show links to better school grades, job earnings and job satisfaction. Lower self-awareness, on the other hand, leads to “a risk of not realising how we come across to others and at times, letting an over-inflated self-image skew our behaviour and social interactions,” according to another study.
An organisation like My Emotions Matter can thus be a key for individuals who are looking to explore and express themselves in a nurturing environment, improve their confidence and learn more about themselves.