Part 2 of 5 “Emotions 101.” Today we explore ~
“Of course I numb, distract, dismiss or bury my feelings when I feel so bad. Got any better ideas?”
Yes, I do actually.
Think about what you’d do if you decided your stomach-ache was a medical, not emotional, condition. You’d go to the doctor and describe each symptom as accurately as possible: “Well doc, it feels like this knife stabbing me, but not continuously. It started over here see, above the belly button. Now it’s down here, lower right. Boy it gets worse when I sneeze, and driving over here didn’t help any.” And so on.
The more timely and accurate your description of the pain, the more timely and accurate the diagnosis; in this case, possible appendicitis. So, how do we talk about emotions like this? On a continuum between Woody Allen’s overindulgence and John Wayne’s heroic suppression is a just-right spot where feelings can be discussed in a timely and accurate way.
“Sure!” you scoff, “Like I’m ever going to want to talk about how bad I feel.”
Here are four (possibly life-saving) reasons to reconsider ~
- NAMING ~ Since I’m a novice sailor I’ll use a sailboat analogy. I’m at the “sad, mad, glad” vocabulary stage vis-à-vis sailing. I get in a boat and see ropes and sails. Captain Helen comes aboard and distinguishes the main sheet, jib sheet, halyard and boom vang for “ropes”. She sees a main sail, jib and spinnaker for “sails.” Having a precise vocabulary for all the distinct parts of a sailboat allows Helen to describe quickly and accurately what needs attention and when. “Pull that rope Gemma!” will get us capsized. “Haul in the main!” might result in a nice tack. Building your vocabulary is Step #1 toward emotional (and nautical) mastery.
(Click below for Parrott’s 176 Emotions sorted into 6 main categories)
- CLAIMING ~ Once you can distinguish (for example) annoyance, torment and envy from the general feeling of angry you get to claim them. You are entitled to your feelings! Even the ugly ones. Especially the ugly ones! Too often we screech to a halt here and think “Oh no! It’s not nice to feel tormented by Kindergarten violinists and note a huge surge of envy for the art teacher whose room is blissfully quiet.” But if this is what you feel, claim your experience. It’s like saying “Oh, better not mention the lump to the doctor. Lumps aren’t nice.” Tell her for heaven’s sake!
- DIAGNOSING ~ Angry is highly imprecise. Makes it hard to know what’s wrong. But sit with annoyance, torment and envy for a while and you’ll have a much more accurate picture of your inner state. This violin class is not working for you; you are annoyed – tortured even – by the noise, and beginning to recognize you need a change. Older students? Teach a different subject? So, with diagnosis comes…
- Treatment TRANSFORMATION ~ Take one feeling at a time and ask yourself “I feel annoyed with this violin class. What would I rather feel? What’s the opposite of annoyed? Gratified? Pleased? Yes, I want to feel pleased with my day’s work, so what do I need?” Now you are off down the rabbit hole of transforming your inner state into one you’d much rather experience. (See Blog How to use feelings to point to needs)
Tomorrow: “I’m fine.” Great, so is my wine! Aren’t you enthralled, excited or triumphant? Let’s liven up your happy place.