Emotion Identification

Have you reached a point where you feel flooded and overwhelmed by emotion? Whether that be sadness (depression), worry (anxiety), or fatigue (hyper vigilance or obsessiveness). There is a wide range of feelings that someone could be experiencing at any one point in time and part of the work in recovery, coaching, and therapy is helping sort out what feelings they are having.

This can be a hard process when we have been living with a mish- mash of emotions, life challenges, familial coping strategies such as stuffing or denying, and not taking the time to identify the feelings because we feel too much. This process of undoing (after we already have reached a point where we feel too much emotion to bare) can be incredibly arduous and painful.

Many times in coaching, consultancy, and therapy the first steps of the process with an individual, family, or system must be identifying the emotions and feelings they are overwhelmed or consumed by. This identification process is profoundly important as it is the beginning of figuring out the next steps in recovery, healing, or resolving, what can be done. Not only is it an incredibly important phase, I believe it is the most challenging, as often people and organizations are coming to therapy or consultancy after years of patterns. The second most challenging part of coping with emotions, is figuring out what to do about them, which my Emotional Regulation blog speaks to.

One of the reasons emotion identification is so difficult for us is because for most of us, feelings start out small. They grow over time, whether that be hours or days or years. We don’t always notice what is happening to us, or for us, within our emotional life in time to prevent them or intervene when they are small (which is the easiest and most effective intervention). One of the most important parts or emotion identification is understanding what we individually look like when we are starting to feel sad, lonely, worried, fatigued rather than when we feel completely consumed by the feeling.

Our feeling are all unique to ourselves but here are some examples of common and shared experience for certain emotions:

  • A very common symptom of anxiety (depending on what culture we were raised in) is tightness in our chest
  • One of the common symptoms of depression (considering what culture we were raised in) is lack of motivation.

If we can identify what we look like when we are experiencing emotion, we can identify them early.  

An important and integral part of identification is allowing space and time to experience the feeling or emotion. Stillness and sitting with the feeling, will help all of us identify sooner what we are feeling by looking inward and finding the symptoms. We need space and time (stillness and sitting with the feeling) because if we are distracted we can miss the clues and data that suggest to us what is happening.

The final piece to identification is self-compassion and validation. If we are not careful, we will miss the elements of the feeling because it is not ok with us to be feeling it. To identify, we must be ok with what we find there. To identify, we must understand that we as humans feel feelings, there is a unique range for each of us, our families and our systems, that we have no control over whether we feel feelings or not. We must know we only have control over whether we see them, acknowledge them, and identify them.

The second most challenging part of coping with emotions, figuring out what to do about them. Learn how with my second blog, Emotional Regulation.

Tips on working towards identifying emotion:

  1. Learn from ourselves and the front end of our unique experience of emotions that have similar and shared experiences. 
  2. Provide ourselves stillness and quiet to identify how we are feeling, sitting with the emotion without distracting ourselves will provide the best identification.
  3. Accept, acknowledge, validate and be compassionate toward our own human experience as individuals, families and systems.  
  4. Be kind to ourselves.  Understand that emotion is how we achieve growth, development, and actualization and we have to go through it, there is no way around it.  

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