3 months ago · Leah Fogt · Comments Off on Connecting with Your Emotions
So many times when we encounter a friend, loved one, or even an acquaintance we automatically ask “How are you?” as a habit of politeness. When the question is asked of us, the response is usually just and automatic – “Fine.” – But how do you REALLY feel today? Can you answer that question?
The cliche “getting in touch with your emotions” task is intimidating to some people, especially those who have struggled with past hurts or traumas. It can be a little scary to really connect with our feelings when we struggle to manage our actions when feeling intensely. It can also be scary to connect with emotions if we have a “Pandora’s Box” of feelings that might come rushing out. It’s okay to be uneasy though.
Sometimes it’s helpful to just think of emotions like the weather. It can be sunny, windy, cloudy, stormy, foggy, etc. Sometimes we can predict the weather, and sometimes a change in the weather can surprise us or even come out of nowhere. We have limited control over the weather, but we can cope with it or adapt. We dress according to the weather. We wear sunblock when it’s sunny and carry an umbrella when it rains. Sometimes we’re unprepared for the elements, but the more aware we become of the climate, the more equipped we will be. Emotions are the same. The more you observe the trends and patterns of your feelings, the more prepared you will be to respond in healthy ways.
Some characteristics of emotionally aware people include:
- The ability to feel emotions deeply
- Sensitivity and recognition of feelings in themselves and others
- Willingness to experience emotions – even the uncomfortable ones!
- Appropriate expression of a wide range of feelings
- The ability to manage behavior in the context for strong feelings
As human beings, we have the capacity for experiencing a wide range of emotions from irritation to rage, delight to exhilaration. However, many people do not allow themselves to feel even at all. They avoid, restrict, limit, or bury their feelings. Sometimes we limit our emotional experiences because:
- We want to limit unpleasant feelings and only experience pleasant feelings. (Or vice versa!)
- We confuse feeling an emotion with acting on it.
- We lack the vocabulary to describe various feelings.
One downside to a lack of awareness of emotion is a lack of information. Emotions can teach us so much! For example, if I ignore the fact that I feel perturbed every time I come home from hanging out with a certain person, I might be missing a problem occurring in the friendship – perhaps a problem that can be resolved! Or if I feel fearful when the wind is howling outside my window, the emotion might be telling me to be alert in case of danger. Or if I feel joyful and giddy after a date, my emotions could be telling me to explore developing a closer relationship with that individual.
Another benefit to emotional awareness is appreciating the ups and downs, highs and lows, light and dark or life. We are not superficial beings. We are deep and complex. Experiencing the fullness of our lives requires a variety of emotions, giving our existence color and flavor and helping us continue our evolution as individuals. Recognizing hurt can lead to healing. Acknowledging excitement can lead to growth.
So if you’re ready to dig in deeper…
Commit to feeling your feelings! If you’re interested in building more awareness of emotions in your daily life, here are a few ideas of things to try. If you are currently in therapy, be sure to bring this topic up to your therapist. If healthy emotional awareness and expression is not already a part of your treatment plan, perhaps it could be!
- Put pen to paper! Divide a sheet of paper in to four sections. Label the sections “happy”, “angry”, “sad”, and “scared.” In each section, challenge yourself to come up with as many versions of basic emotion. For example, under the “happy” category you might list words like joyful, energized, silly, enthused, or content. Next time you’re communicating an emotion to someone, try use a word that best describes how you feel, rather than settling on a general term.
- Do a self-check. Three times a day (I like to use meal time), pause for a brief moment and take a deep breath. Think about where you are and what you are doing. Then simply ask yourself what emotion you are experiencing in that present moment. Label the emotion. You don’t necessarily have to respond to it or change it. Simply allow yourself to notice and feel it.
- Link feelings and sensations. Next time you observe yourself feeling a strong emotion, take a moment to scan your body from head to toe, slowly observing the physical sensations that correspond to the emotion you’re feeling. For example, when I feel embarrassed, my face always feels warmer, and I feel my heart beating harder than usual.
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