Name That Emotion, the Prequel!

I admit it. Occasionally the mind – shall we say – slips. I swear I wrote this page to come before the one on naming emotions we just published. Lin says no. My search engines say no. Apparently the answer is…no. I was delusional.

So, here it is….Name that Emotion, the Prequel!

Emotional regulation a la DBT says we need to know what we feel before we can regulate it. DBT also recognizes many people are out of touch with themselves and do not know what they are feeling. Thus, DBT teaches how to recognize emotions.

The way this is done is by being an emotion detective. We need to look at the situation in which we had the mystery emotion. What emotion do you think other people would experience under those circumstances? That is your first clue.

Next comes your interpretation of the event. Believe me; nothing is ever straightforward! Depending upon what thoughts are going on in the other person’s head and what memories and interpretations you are stirring up, just saying “nice day, it’s it?” can get you in a load of trouble! Those interconnections we make to things are important.

paperdolls
Body maps highlighting emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns

Third step:  your head may not know what you are feeling, but your body does! A 2013 study published in PNAS indicated people across a variety of cultures all colored their ’emotional paper dolls’ (my term) pretty much the same way. Depression felt heavy in the arms and legs. Pride swelled the chest. The article offers examples of a number of different feelings all mapped out on the ‘paper dolls’.

What is cool about this is the fact that emotions are not cultural. They are universal to the species and we feel them pretty much all the same way. (I am resisting the urge to type the words to “It’s a Small World” here…but it is). If we all experience emotions in our body pretty much the same way, that means we can all scan our bodies to decide what we are feeling.

The last thing we need to do is to look at the aftermath of the emotion. Different emotions have different impulses attached to them. These are what are called ‘action urges’. So, if you say you are looking forward to spending the day with great-aunt Tillie and you are constantly late? You are deluding yourself and probably don’t like spending time with the old girl. The after effects of situations are very telling, too.

And that is pretty much how we can help ourselves identify what we are feeling. Identifying true emotions is a good thing. Being emotionally aware can lead to more stable relationships and better problem-solving strategies.

There are also some really cool neurocognitive benefits of being able to recognize and label your emotions. I will cover these on the next page. Ooops! I already did!

Next: lowvisionmatch.com

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