I’m often labelled as someone who’s quite emotional. On the surface it mat seem that way but actually I’m very sensitive but in terms of processing, feeling and identifying what emotions I’m having I’m pretty numb. Despite being a deep thinker and crying at things that really don’t matter a LOT, I realised a while back then when it comes to identifying emotions as they are happening, I suck. I also suck at processing important emotions correctly.
Like, really suck.
When I was having cognitive behavioural therapy we realised that as a form of defence my brain is on high alert at all times (hello anxiety!). This means that I try to think my way out of difficult feelings or situations, and over time my brain has learned to react faster than my heart.
This way my mind feels like it is in control of all situations as it can try to control my reactions to things. The problem there is that it became quite destructive.
I would lash out at people, disassociate when my brain was really struggling to process a situation, snap at loved ones, or sometimes just shut down completely so as not to feel anything.
So my fiancé and I came up with this awesome way of stopping those situations and helping me manage my feelings. It’s literally changed the way we talk to each other about important things, and it helps to stop silly arguments that I start escalating. It’s helped us grow closer together as a couple too, as I often use the ‘identify your emotion’ trick on him.
Example A: Coffeegate
Here’s a perfect example of a situation where this way of talking helped us as a couple, and helped us uncover something that had been brewing for a while:
We were lying in bed on a Sunday morning having a really lazy snuggle. I was about to jump on him to get him to get up properly as I was starting to get fidgety, as I was about to pounce he looked so innocent and comfortable I felt bad, then I took this cute pic of him.
I’m obsessed I know.
So anyway instead of ruining his morning, I went downstairs and made him a coffee to have in bed. I came back up to see he was on his phone. I got annoyed. Like really annoyed.
Then I started.
I told him I felt neglected because he never does nice things for me (which isn’t true), and why doesn’t he ever get up to make me a coffee (he does do this) or why doesn’t he offer to make me breakfast in bed (what?!). I said I felt like he wasn’t really that in love with me because he was always on his phone.
So we started the ‘what are you actually feeling’ conversation.
Instantly I started thinking about how I felt.
I started talking it through and I started rambling again.
Then we stopped. I literally closed my eyes for a couple of seconds and scanned for the physical sensations of what I was feeling. Then when I said I didn’t know, we looked at the chart, and I found it.
I was feeling insecure.
Then we drilled it down even more, and ended up having a really good, adult conversation about why I feel that way. He then told me that he sometimes feels that when I tell him he’s not doing enough it makes him feel like he’s not good enough for me…which makes him feel insecure too (he is the most secure person I have ever met, so this was quite upsetting for me!)
I worked out that to avoid my unpleasant feeling, and to try and force him into reassuring me without actually admitting it, I just lashed out instead. I totally projected my feelings and ended up making HIM feel insecure.
Now let me be clear we very rarely argue, we are so lucky that way. But when I look back any of these silly bickering moments have resulted in one of us (usually me) not identifying the actual feeling before reacting to something.
He is very in control of his emotions and is really calm, which is why we work so well as I’m the total opposite. But for me this way of stopping my mind running off into defence mode has changed the way I approach things not only in our relationship but at work, with family and with friends.
How to Identify Your Emotions:
It’s so important that we understand out actual emotion, in the present moment, rather than thinking we know what’s going on. This is a key step for anyone learning to manage their anxiety.
To break it down here are the key steps you need to take to start reprogramming your mind to understand the emotions:
Shut up and close your eyes
The most important step to be honest. You have GOT to quiet your mind for this to have a hope in hell of working. Take a few deep breaths, and start focusing your attention on your body.
Scan for physical sensations
Actively scan your body for physical sensations. A knot in your stomach can mean nervousness or stress, extra energy in your arms may be excitement (or anxiety!), maybe you even feel nothing at all. It could be that your mind has run off with itself on auto pilot and actually, everything’s okay. And that’s fine.
Use the chart
Once you’ve identified the physical sensations you may still struggle to understand exactly what the emotion is that you feel right now.
Not how you think you feel, or you might feel later, or how you felt earlier.
So use this chart. It’s life changing.
Simply scan it for the most appropriate feeling. You can then use it to drill down to the root emotion in the centre if needed.
Evaluate Your Response
Once you’ve identified what on earth is going on feelings wise, often you will feel better instantly. You’ve understood yourself – go you! It’s a big step.
What you do with this information is up to you, you may need to talk about the bigger picture and how you can deal with this with someone else, or the person making you feel this way, Perhaps it’s just about noting the feeling down, or exploring it in a journal. Remember emotions don’t always require an action, but it’s important to recognise what emotions are driving and triggering certain responses in you.
So that’s it! Something really simple, but so effective and it becomes easier over time. Understanding your own emotions is an incredibly valuable skill, and allows you a deeper understanding of yourself. By understanding your deeper emotions you have the opportunity to change or fix the underlying issues to help you get to where you want to be!
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