An Emotional Checkpoint – Developing Awareness
The range of emotions that humans can experience is as diverse as a whole spectrum of colour.
Much like colour though, there are a subset of primary emotions that are combined and mixed in different quantities to give the range of emotions that we can experience.
The primary emotions are:
- Joy and Sadness
- Anticipation and Surprise
- Fear and Anger
- Acceptance and Disgust
Each of the eight emotions has a polar opposite outlined in the pairings above. There is also a spectrum for each emotion based on how strong we are experiencing it. For example:
- Annoyance > Anger > Rage
- Apprehension > Fear > Terror
- Serenity > Joy > Ecstasy
Climbing the Ladder
Sometimes, we climb the ladder of an emotion as a situation unfolds. When this happens unconsciously is when it can be a problem for us.
When we learn the warning signs of our emotions, we become more able to manage any escalations. Remember, emotions are essential and we need them; the purpose of developing awareness is to empower us with the choice of which emotions we want to feel (act out) or express (let go of).
Developing awareness is a choice.
If you decide you want to become more aware then it is a practice that will involve time and effort. It is a skill that you can improve over time. Just like with rewriting your scripts, it starts with reflection and review; you need to identify a situation that is triggering an uncontrolled feeling that you think is unproductive.
Examples would be where you are feeling fear, anger, guilt shame or anxiety. These unpleasant emotions are just as important as the pleasant ones. They help us to identify where we think we are falling short of our aspirations. The skill of awareness in this area will help us when it comes time to use the creating congruence tool.
But Which Emotion is the Problem?
If you are struggling with naming your emotions, that is fine; it is why we are trying to develop awareness! The thing to look out for is a feeling that your behaviour in a situation was not the way you wanted it to be.
You need to be honest with yourself.
Start small by picking one situation or particular emotion. You can increase the range and complexity of emotions you choose to tackle over time.
Once you have identified the situation, take time to centre yourself by bringing your consciousness in to the present moment; use mindful breathing and sensing your body to help. The time check tool is great for this. You need to become I, so you can effectively observe what is going on.
Once you are centred, the next step is to replay the situation in your mind; the purpose of this is to recreate the trigger for the emotion.
When this has happened, first, simply try to name the emotion. Without judging yourself for feeling the emotion, or even judging the emotion as good or bad, try to point as it in your mind and say what it is.
While you are doing this, feel and observe the sensations in your body. Can you feel any warm sensations, tingling or tightness in your muscles? If you can, where can you feel it?
These physical cues can help you work out what is going on. Here are some signs to look for:
- Anger – A warm sensation in the base of the spine or in the base of the skull. Tingling sensations throughout your chest and arms.
- Fear – A fluttering feeling in your chest with tingling across your scalp.
- Disgust – A feeling of unease deep in your lower abdomen with a warm sensation in your throat.
- Sadness – Arms and legs feeling cold and devoid of energy with a dull fading warmth in your chest.
- Shame – Warmness in your cheeks along with tension in your temples. It may feel difficult to light your head high.
- Anxiety – A tingling feeling throughout your body accompanying a warm sensation around your solar plexus. A tell tail sign is tension in your muscles; when I am stressed and anxious, I notice it in my ass! I can literally feel the tension in my butt cheeks as I struggle to sit comfortably.
While you are practicing this exercise, it is important to remind yourself that you are not your emotions. Be kind to yourself. You have a choice about what emotions you choose to engage and feel.
Once you are able to connect the physical sensation of an emotion with the actual name for it, you will develop a much deeper sensitivity to the impending arrival of the emotion. Your awareness will be primed to intercept the emotion and empower you with the choice of how to respond.
This exercise will provide you with enough insight so you can start to develop an awareness of your emotional habits. It is not a silver bullet though; sometimes you will need to keep digging. Curiosity and the question of ‘but why’ is the tool we can use for this.
Why So Angry?
Taking anger as an example; anger is a response to an obstacle that we perceive as threatening. With this in mind, other than if you are actually being attacked, anger predominantly is a secondary emotion that is being used to cover up and misdirect from unwanted feelings of jealousy, disappointment, insecurity or hurt.
To uncover this, we need to persist with asking ‘but why’ and try our best to be honest with ourselves. If you want to dig deep in to a particular emotion, it is really helpful to grab some paper or even better a journal and write your thinking down.
Digging deep is tough. It is important to remember that you are not your emotions, and how you feel about your emotions is a choice.
We mentioned in the introduction to this tool that our foreman may have a word to chip in when our emotions surface – this is how our scripts are triggered.
As you focus on the physical sensations in your body then start to dig and ask ‘but why?’, you might just well hear the foreman start to pipe up. It is the words of our foreman and the unconscious scripts of our emotional beliefs that lead to the manifestation of these secondary misdirection emotions.
This is where the next insight comes in… challenging beliefs.
Enjoy, for now.