As a psychotherapist, I live in the world of emotion. How my client’s feel and how those feelings impact their lives is the focus of my work. My client’s mock me when I ask the stereotypical therapist question, “How did that make you feel?”
They mock me, but in truth, it is a really important question. Our emotions guide us, influence decisions, and can even affect us physically. Emotions are at the root of our being. And yet, many of my client’s have difficulty identifying and describing how they feel.
In an era of social media, 24-hour news, and a constant barrage of information, it’s easy to see how our emotions take a back seat. When people talk about their emotions, they are seen as weak and ineffectual. Yet, emotion, whether we identify it or not, is constantly affecting us. The emotions we acknowledge aren’t even affecting us as much as the one’s that we aren’t acknowledging.
We don’t bury our emotions dead. We bury them very much alive. I think of those buried emotions like the alien in the movie, Alien. You know how the alien bursts out of the person and killed them? Our buried emotions are a lot like that. They wait and grow until they erupt in meltdowns, depression, anxiety, or worse. They can also appear as anger and self-loathing. Buried emotions don’t do us any good and they always come out one way or another. Sweeping things under the carpet works for a while, but eventually, you have no room to move.
Here are some tips to help you get in touch with your emotions.
Start with the first until you feel comfortable with it and then move on to the second and finally the third. Identifying emotion is a skill. Move at your own pace and let me know how it goes.
Get an emotions chart (you can find one on the internet). You can’t identify them if you don’t know what you are looking for! Spend some time with the chart and see if anything feels familiar. Write down the emotion and perhaps some of your thoughts about it, too.
Start an “emotions journal.” After you become comfortable with the chart, start to review your day. Ask yourself the questions: 1) How did I feel today? 2) What were the circumstances? 3) Was I able to identify my emotion in the situation?
Now, begin to go “within”- Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Allow your emotions to surface- you can focus on current or past situations. Write down how you feel. Keep doing it and more will emerge for you. If it becomes too intense, please seek a therapist who can help you to navigate through your emotional landscape.
Identifying your emotions around people and incidents in your life can be the first step to knowing yourself and understanding who you are and where you need to be in the world.