When we are having trouble understanding our emotions, one of the reasons may be because we cannot find the right words to explain them. Words are our tools for understanding; when words fail us, our emotions can feel too elusive to manage. Our emotions are more complex, nuanced, and intimate to us than we may give them credit for.
When we feel a new, specific feeling that we cannot describe or explain, it may seem easier to paint them with broad terms such as happy, sad, angry, or afraid, even if those terms do not fully or accurately depict our feelings. Each one of us is a unique individual with different life experiences. Therefore, understanding our emotions requires much more specification. To do this, here are three practical ways to become more self-aware and ultimately a more eloquent spokesperson for your feelings.
Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary
Language and words have incredible power over how we feel. Being able to acutely name what we feel, gives us a jump-start toward insight and healing. When we have something we can face, we have something we can fathom; therein lies the power of giving our suffering a name. When we feel like we are in an emotional storm, losing our minds, and can’t understand what we are feeling, this can occur because the emotional side of the brain overshadows the part of the brain that focuses on reasoning. One way to overcome this is by applying the simple, yet tactful phrase, “name it to tame it,” coined by Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. When we lose grasp of what it is we are feeling, we can use this tool to let our emotions inform us rather than consume us.
One way we can start building upon our emotional vocabulary in order to “name it,” is by paying attention to the words we habitually use when describing our emotional states. Once we focus on this, most of us will realize that we are using the same words repeatedly, even when our feelings vary. This can lead us to feel trapped by our feelings. When we identify the words we are using too often, we can begin looking up various emotional vocabulary lists and spending some time studying them. Then we can begin to replace the words that did not accurately describe how we felt with our newly expanded and precise vocabulary. After some practice, we may start to notice that we are experiencing the world and ourselves more sharply. The way we understand our emotional states can become more finely tuned.
Keep Track of Your Moods Alongside Your Activity
Life moves fast. Sometimes we do not have time to deal with each thing that happens to us. However, if we slow down for a little while and become more aware of our day-to-day actions, we can learn when we are in control, and when our feelings take the driver’s seat. Do you feel stressed in your car on your way to work or when you lie awake in bed? What thoughts are stirring through your mind, and how do you describe those feelings? Paying attention to your thoughts when a new feeling arises is important because your thoughts lead to feelings, and your feelings can lead to actions. Therefore, if you understand your thought processes based on the various situations you are in, you can better understand those feelings.
One way we can all do this is by writing our feelings down with our now robust emotional vocabulary, alongside our activity. It can be helpful to take quick pauses throughout the day and check up on ourselves. Over time, we can look back on our notes and learn from how we react to certain things, and accurately name those emotions when they arise.
Turn to Other Forms of Communication
Even after diving deeper, building a better emotional vocabulary, and being more aware of your daily moods and feelings, you may still have a nagging emotion you can’t quite put into words. However, it is likely someone else has already done it for you. Maybe the obscure emotional description you are seeking lies within a piece of music, a painting, a movie scene, or a poem. It’s an artist’s job, after all, to explain the unexplainable or at least in a new, interesting way. Some of the best poets are the ones that can convey even the most complex of emotions in just a few lines. In a sense, art picks up where our words leave off.
Even though language has its limits, there are other valid forms of self-expression that we can comprehend just as well as words. When in doubt, get creative. Look toward the things in life that speak to you. Sometimes we can find the right words to describe our emotions in a song, a poem, a book, or another area in life that speaks to us.
The ultimate goal of finding the right words to describe our feelings is to allow our thoughts and emotions to be lessons that we can learn from. Once we can master this, we no longer have to walk in fear or uncertainty, but rather, in confidence and clarity. This can often be the first step toward healing. Some ways to achieve this is to work on expanding your emotional vocabulary, keeping track of what activities affect your moods, and turning to other forms of self-expression when words fail. This can allow you to become a more eloquent spokesperson for your feelings. If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health, well-being, or addiction problems, reach out to us at Alta Centers. We are a premier substance abuse treatment in the Hollywood Hills. We believe there is a unique road to recovery for each individual and we are here to help. Call (888) 202-2583 for more information today.