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  • Writer's pictureSusie Csorsz Brown

Not just semantics (12)

How are you today?

You are angry … or are you irritated and embarrassed?

labeling feelings
I'm so upset!

You are sad … or are you lonely and uncomfortable?

You are anxious … or are you worried and nervous?

See, I’m not just trying to get your to test your synonyms here. Remember way back when your kids were little, and you helped them to learn how to label their emotions? How that helped them to deal with big feelings by understanding better just what those feeling were, and by the mere act of labeling them, they became seemingly more manageable? As your teary-eyed child looked into your heart, still emotionally but now leaning towards gratefully, telling you that yes, yes, that is the why, that is the reason they are so very upset.

Now, we’ve turned a corner and it is perhaps you who are upset. Perhaps it is your teenager. Perhaps it is your spouse. Suffice it to say, it is a grown person and they are upset, and irrational and getting more spun up by the moment. Labeling the emotion, really drawing out what the feeling is, what it is that has us so very upset, is a key trick to understanding it, accepting it, and moving through and past it.

Remember, being emotionally well does not mean you are always happy and laughing. It means you experience the full spectrum of emotions. And some of those emotions are big and maybe not a pleasant experience. But naming them, really drilling down into what it is, helps us gain an understanding and acceptance. And we, too, can own it, and get through it.

It turns out, we don’t really know that much about the human capacity for emotions. We know we feel a lot, and we know we are generally supposed to fall on the positive end of the spectrum. We know when people ask, we are supposed to say we are ‘fine’ and not elaborate. We know feelings can be big and complicated. We know, too, more and more that the more in tune we are with how we are feeling, the better we understand the unique nuances of our emotions helps us acknowledge and reduce the burden they might create.

Sad Ansel
So sad and not sure why

Next time someone asks you how you are feeling, don’t just automatically answer. Really think about it, notice and name it. And smile gratefully at your passerby. Maybe you can tell them how they have given you a little gift of insight, and you really are so much better than ‘fine’.

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