When stuck at an unpleasant point, we can either change the way we feel, leave the situation or communicate our needs without expectation of them being met. I thought I chose to change the way I felt about things but I was really just pushing my emotions down and ignoring them. The constant lack of validation led to a numbing effect and eventually I couldn’t feel a thing!! That’s right. If you suppress your negative emotions you become unable to feel positive emotions as well! The process of unpacking my numbness was painful and confusing.
Here’s the process I used to identify my emotions:
1. I had a list of emotional vocabulary and carried it around with me everywhere. It was a giant list of like 100 words. Unless you’re looking to increase your vocabulary in general, I wouldn’t recommend starting with a list that complicated. A therapist had given the list to me…GO FIGURE right? There really are only a handful of emotions.
Use this simple list to get started:
2. Identify which emotion you’re feeling and put words to it. Sometimes it’ll be more than one emotion at a time. If that’s the case, focus on the most prominent. It could help to describe this emotion to someone who is VERY EMPATHETIC so they can help you put words to it.
3. Care for your emotions by acknowledging and validating them. You would do this for a friend so do it for yourself!
4. Next learn how to express my emotions to the right person, with the right intensity, at the right time. LOL ok, I’m still in the process of learning that. I’m a trial by error learner meaning I try different responses on like clothes and feel my way to right. If you’re more of a think things through person you’re probably able to play out each scenario in your head and choose the one that’s best for you.
5. Then learn how to use your feelings as a compass, as data points and attributed more useful meanings to them. Refer to the image below. This step doesn’t always look like a straight line. Sometimes I had to identify situations that made me feel and work my way into what the feeling was. For example the first one is clearly “rejection” however I didn’t know that at the time. This is why writing things down is super helpful. It gives you an opportunity to get outside your mind and it’s easier to identify things when you’re further away from them.
This process brought about some interesting discoveries in how I learned to ignore my feelings in the first place!