How to Pay Down Emotional Debt

An Iterative Approach to Paying Down Your Debt

Over the past three weeks we’ve covered:

This week, we’ll dive into how to pay down Emotional Debt.

Measuring the Debt

The first key to paying down the debt is to measure it. Let’s go back to the chart I introduced in the first newsletter but adapted for Emotional Debt:

Remember, Emotional Debt is unresolved emotion. The more it builds up, the harder it becomes to address. Measuring it will help you know what kind of help you need.

For example, paying down the debt is fairly easy if it lies on the bottom left of the chart. But if it’s on the top right, it might be worthwhile to seek professional help like a therapist.

There are three ways you can measure where your Emotional Debt lies on the chart.

First is to figure out how much the debt is impacting your life:

  • Not bothered at all = low debt.

  • Harder to do something you normally do = medium debt.

  • Unable to function = high debt.

Second is to measure how difficult it would be to pay it down:

  • Fairly easy = low debt.

  • Decent amount of effort = medium debt.

  • Really hard = high debt.

Third is to go through the exercises of identifying and exploring the emotions that I introduced in the past couple of weeks. This will give you a good idea of just how much debt needs to be addressed, especially after you explore the Emotion Iceberg. It will also help focus your plan when creating a strategy using PAALP.

Paying Down the Debt with PAALP

PAALP is an iterative approach to paying down Emotional Debt. It stands for:

  • Plan - Plan a strategy by making an informed decision on how to address the underlying factors that are fueling the Emotion Iceberg.

  • Act - Act on the plan.

  • Assess - Assess how successful the plan was.

  • Learn - Learn from your assessment and iterate. Incorporate it into the next cycle to improve your next approach. If it’s working, keep doing it. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board.

  • Prevent - Once you identify what caused the debt, take proactive measures to prevent it from building up again.

What Does “Iterative” Mean?

The iterative approach is a way to reach a desired result by repeating and improving the same process. It’s when you experiment with a strategy to see if it will solve a problem. If it doesn’t work, you learn from it and try again. The goal is to keep doing this and learning from it until you reach your goal.

There are three advantages to taking this kind of approach to your mental health.

First: Paying down emotional debt can be complex. For example, I would not pay down Fear in the same way I would Shame. Those are two very different emotions that require different strategies. Also, there can be multiple factors fueling each of these emotions and parsing through them can be tricky.

Second: It teaches us that failure is a part of the process. When you first explore paying down Emotional Debt, your strategies may not work the first time and that’s okay. Learn from it, get better, and try again.

Third: We learn about ourselves. We learn what works and doesn’t work. We start to understand what makes us tick. This helps us pay down Emotional Debt faster.

This last point is important because everyone is different. We all have different families, cultures, relationships, personalities, and bodies. It’s impossible to recommend a cure-all technique because context matters. That’s why in the very first newsletter, I made sure to mention that what worked for me may not work for you. As human beings, we are all unique and come from different backgrounds.

That’s why I recommend you work with a therapist, especially if you have high Emotional Debt. These wonderful individuals train for several years, dedicate their lives to helping people, and are well equipped to guide you through this (or an even better) process. You deserve to be heard and understood in your own way.

Here are some basic strategies that you can try plugging into PAALP.

Basic Strategies to Pay Down Debt

  • See a therapist - I know. I’m beating a dead horse. But I highly recommend it if you can afford it. I saw a therapist for a year and he helped me grow significantly over that period of time. But the trick is, you have to find the right one for you. If you don’t know how to seek out a therapist, don’t worry. I’ll send you a guide on how to do that later.

  • Journaling - Journaling does a lot of things. It makes our emotions concrete because we write them down. It’s also a cool way to track our progress and see how much has changed over the years. This strategy is perfect for exploring the Emotion Iceberg and going through PAALP.

  • Self care - Self care is any intentional action we take to care for ourselves. This can be physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Examples of self care are exercising, taking a break, meditation, prayer, reading a good book, dancing, talking to a friend, playing a game, or eating a pizookie (my personal favorite).

  • “Life be like that sometimes” - Accepting the fact that there are somethings that happen to us that are simply out of our control can be a powerful step of freedom.

  • Focus on what we can control - Just because there are things we can’t control doesn’t mean we’re powerless. Focusing on things we can control empowers us to take ownership, responsibility, and builds our self-esteem.

  • Reframe - Reframing is looking at a person, event, or relationship in a different way to change its meaning. We may not realize it, but we can cause ourselves a lot of pain and stress because of the way we choose to view things. For example, last week I talked about how I had unrealistic expectations of myself. By reframing and changing the way I look at basketball, I am able to break the cycle of self-criticism.

  • Challenge false narratives - Sometimes we grow up believing certain lies about ourselves. For example, I was a pretty terrible driver in High School. I got a lot of tickets. My dad, out of frustration, would say that I’m always a bad driver and that I’ll never learn from my mistakes. I learned to challenge this narrative everytime that thought entered my head. Yes I was a bad driver, but only sometimes. Not always. Today I’m proud to say I haven’t gotten a ticket in several years. Haha. Go me!

What strategies have you tried to improve your mental health? Share with Heem!

Share With Heem

Heem Publication is a community built to listen. Do you have a question about mental health? Did you relate with today’s topic and would like to share it with your fellow subscribers in an upcoming newsletter? Share with the Heem community by clicking the button below!

Share With Heem