Last week I published a post called “3 Tips to Help You Cope With PTSD” in which I listed three distress tolerance tools: Wise Mind, Name Your Emotions, and Radical Acceptance. Today I’d like to focus a little more on Name Your Emotions.
Naming emotions is a very useful and helpful exercise. It allows you to connect with your feelings and understand them better. Moreover, it helps you to regulate your emotional state and change it. When you label your emotions, you are able to see them for what they are.
Emotions are very powerful and they affect the way you see the world. When I’m in a dark place, everything looks impossible. It feels like everything is shit, everything has always been shit, and everything will also be shit. My Wise Mind knows that’s not true, so I remind myself that this feeling is temporary.
Name Your Emotion
Emotions can sometimes feel like a black hole. You know that they are there, but you don’t know what it is. You just know that it is sucking you in. Using different words for emotions is a good way to bring them to light and recognize them. You will be able to see them and understand them better.
When we are feeling an emotion, we often don’t know which one it is, which can make it difficult to understand and manage your feelings. It can also make it difficult to communicate your emotions to others. Learn to name your emotions and you’ll be able to understand what you’re feeling and manage it more effectively.
Ask yourself these questions to help identify your emotion:
- When did you start feeling this way?
- Where are you feeling it (your body)?
- What are you doing when you feel it?
- What do you want when you feel it?
There are specific words for the emotions which help us to understand and react to it. Certain emotions like anger, jealousy, fear or shyness seem to be universal, but how do we describe a feeling like awkwardness in a precise word? The same goes with other emotions such as distress, envy, or pride. When we put a name to the emotion, those words help us understand and experience our feelings better. It is important to recognize them and name them in order to manage them and channel them appropriately.
Use this Berkeley list to help you pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling. Once you find the emotion that you are feeling, you can name it.
You must name your emotion to change your emotion.
Change Your Emotions
will pass. In the meantime, I’m still feeling shitty, so in order to process that emotion, I name it.
Once I get to the root emotion, I’m often able to change that emotion. This process usually makes me feel at least somewhat better right away. Naming your emotion takes away some of its intensity, its power.
Let’s take it step-by-step.
The first step is to understand why you are feeling that specific emotion. Identify the cause of your emotion and validate yourself. I usually say, “It’s okay to feel _______, Christine. Anyone would feel the same way in your position.”
The second step is to radically accept the situation, then make a plan. Recognize that your painful emotion is valid and you have every right to feel that way. Then check in with yourself. Is this emotion serving you at the moment? Are you able to acknowledge that it might be causing your more distress? Try to choose another emotion, consciously. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot. If you’re unable to do this, radically accept that, too.
The third step is to use your senses. You can use your senses to re-direct your emotions. For example, you can use your sense of smell and re-direct your emotions with the smell of a flower, or you can use the sound of the ocean to re-direct your emotions. I often use my sense of touch to ground myself during distressful times. I press my hand against something hard and cold or rough and focus on that sensation. It helps pull you out of your head, putting a stop to circular thoughts. This has also worked for me to quell a panic attack.
The words we use have the power to shape our reality.
When we label our emotions, we are better able to understand them, channel them, and even change them. Naming emotions is a helpful exercise that allows you to understand your feelings and regulate your emotional state.
May you find peace.