In order to have healthy emotional wellness, you need to know how to regulate and manage emotions. The first step in managing them is to learn ways to identify your emotions, only then will you learn to understand them.
Knowing how to identify your emotions is a learned skill. It’s a technique you can practice and continue to improve upon.
Do you remember when you learned how to swim?
Swimming isn’t something you’re just born knowing how to do. It’s an ability you must be taught.
For me, the teaching came from formal swimming lessons. Twice a week, my sister and I would walk the six blocks from our house to the public outdoor pool.
We’d change into our swimsuits, shower off, put our long hair up into swim caps, and off we’d go.
Day by day we learned a little bit more, swam a little further, moved a little closer to the deep end of the pool. Until finally, we could swim from one side to the other and not drown.
Eventually, we could even jump in off the diving board and swim underwater to the other side.
I got so good at swimming, and loved it so much, my mom would have to drag me out the pool kicking and screaming, I swear If she’d have let me, I’d have lived in the pool.
Every summer of my childhood, my blonde hair was a muted shade of green, an undeniable testament to all of my aquatic obsession.
Learning how to identify your emotions is a lot like learning how to swim. Neither skill is something you were just born with. Both require practice and tenacity.
With a little persistence, before you know it, you’ll not only be able to identify your emotions, you will master them.
What is an emotion?
An emotion encompasses a wide range of elements.
The fundamental factors are:
- Internal dialogue
The way you think or the thoughts you have can be affected by past life experiences. Those thoughts would lead to an emotion that you’re experiencing. Your emotional reactions to situations may be completely different from someone else who has had different experiences in their life.
Emotions can definitely be triggered by behaviors, both your behaviors and the behaviors of others.
This one’s pretty obvious. Feelings and emotions go hand-in-hand. Feelings are what you experienced on the surface, it’s usually easier to express what you’re feeling, for example, angry or happy.
Emotions, on the other hand, are a little harder to pinpoint. Emotions run deeper, usually a simple I’m angry or happy doesn’t do the emotion justice.
Here we are talking about “the look on your face” and what that look is telling people. Your Expressions can say a lot about how you’re feeling. Sometimes your expression will give away your true feelings about something and contradict the words that are coming out of your mouth.
Desires are strong wants or feeling strongly about having something or doing something. These can be a desire for power, acceptance, love, money, fame, social contact, family, etc. That strong feeling can definitely be emotionally driven.
Having the ability to recognize your emotions and those of others. Being aware of the emotion and the ability to name it.
Besides these factors, emotions also have either negative or positive connotations.
Emotions may also be driven by an underlining motivation, whether consciously or subconsciously.
What are basic emotions?
Basic emotions are the emotions we feel as an unconscious response to something. They are the emotions that happen automatically and without us having to think and say, hey that made me feel ______.
These core emotions are anger, fear, surprise, sadness, love, and joy, they are the emotions that are wired into our brains at birth. They occur naturally in response to danger, happiness, or repulsion.
When we are kids, we learn a lot about our emotions by simply watching how our parents respond to us when we express one of these core emotions. If they withdrawal and become upset when we express anger, we learn to suppress it. However, if they show joy in reaction to our own joy, we learn to declare when something makes us happy.
Because humans desire acceptance and contact with other humans, we learn to suppress the “bad emotions” and only reveal the “good” ones. We determine which ones are “good” or “bad” through our own experiences with the people who raised us.
Another interesting fact to mention here is that emotions cannot be controlled. If you had a parent who told you to control your emotions or get a grip on them, all they taught you was to suppress them. Suppressing your emotions just turns them into a different emotion, it doesn’t make them cease to exist.
We talked about the basic or core emotions, now let’s discuss the secondary emotions.
What are secondary emotions?
Secondary emotions happen as a result of having other emotions. For example, feeling guilty for losing your temper when you were expressing anger.
Here are some of the most common secondary emotions:
A SIMPLE WAY TO IDENTIFY YOUR EMOTIONS
Emotions aren’t rational, but when you’re trying to identify the emotion that you’re feeling, you need to rationalize to discover the reason behind it.
You can do this by following these steps:
- Try to identify which emotion you’re feeling. Use physical clues such as rapid heart rate, tightening of your jaw, or an adrenaline rush to help you determine what you’re feeling.
- Try to pinpoint the event that occurred that is causing you to feel the way you’re feeling. Do your best to think of it rationally instead of emotionally.
- See if you can decipher why this situation went the way it did. For instance, was it something that you did or said or something that someone else did or said. Could the situation have had a different outcome?
- Analyze your reaction. When you experienced the emotion or emotions how did you react? Did you think about it before you reacted or did you just have a knee-jerk reaction?
- After all is said and done, try to take an honest look at the situation and your reaction. Really dig deep and go beyond just saying this situation made me angry. Perhaps anger isn’t the correct emotion maybe instead what you’re really feeling is hurt or betrayal.
- Lastly, think about if the situation is something that just happened and you’re going to forget about it in five minutes, or is it something you’re going to be thinking about for days or weeks to come. This will help you determine how deeply you felt this emotion.
- Once the situation is over and you’re alone, try to come up with at least three ways you could have avoided the outcome. Was there anything you personally could have done to change it?
Remember, practice, practice, practice. You didn’t just jump(or get tossed) in the water and immediately start to swim. You learned the how, then over a period of time, and with consistent practice and a little determination(or a whole of it), you honed your skills and became the swimmer you knew you could become.
Learning how to identify your emotions will take time, it will take practice, and will take dedication, but before you know it you will do it without even having to give it a second thought.
Knowing is half the battle.
Being able to identify your emotions is step one, learning how to embrace them and accept them without guilt or shame is step two. You will get there, with time.
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