Identifying feelings and emotions

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Professor Marc Brackett is clearly an advocate of emotional literacy. He certainly barks up the same tree as I do!

I saw this idea of a mood meter a while ago and at the time, I didn’t fully buy into it.  This is probably because I had been going on about emotional literacy for so long that I lost sight of the idea that some people can really struggle to identify consciously they are even in the grip of an emotion, let alone be able to identify it or its trigger. So this is where this tool fits in well. It can be used to help someone identify whether what they are feeling is something that is high or low energy (vertical axis) and if it’s a positive or negative emotion (horizontal axis). Of course this process then lends itself nicely to increasing emotion vocabulary. As new feeling words are learnt, you can decide which quadrant they go into although some of those around the middle of the quadrant are a little hard to place.

Here are some examples of where some common feelings sit in the mood meter.

  • red: angry, anxious, scared, frustrated, worried
  • yellow: happy, ecstatic, excited, enthusiastic, inspired
  • green: peaceful, content, serene, relaxed, satisfied
  • blue: sad, concerned, apathetic, bored, exhausted

The advantages of using a mood meter: 

  • If you become curious about your emotions because the mood meter has helped you focus on them, you are far more likely to notice your emotions as they arrive. This is a very key skill in advanced emotional literacy.
  • While you’re getting used to recognising the arrival of emotions, you are focusing inwardly and therfore less likely to succumb to an impulsive or damaging reponse.
  • Noticing feelings as they arrive gives you a different focus and helps you own your emotions rather than blame other people for them. (Remember the same incident can trigger different responses in different people. Your unique values, personality and history contributes to how you respond to different circumstances.)
  • You can start to see how emotions affect your thoughts and behaviours. When your expeirence of any emotion is not overly conscious, you are likely to just be aware of your thoughts and behaviour (or possibly just your behaviour) and not the emotion that triggered them. Linking emotions, thoughts and behaviours starts to make you far more self-aware and therefore more in control of your decisions. When you’re making decisions while in the grip of a strong emotion, it will influcence you. Decisions are better made with a conscious acknowledgement of how emotions influence your thinking and you can’t do this if you’re not even aware of what you are feeling. e.g. when you’re anxious, you’re likely to be cautious about decisions you make, when you’re happy, you’re far more likely to be happy-go-lucky!

The advantages of being able to label an emotion include: 

  • Research has shown that even naming your emotion (especially if you get to express it resourcefully) starts to deplete its potentially uncomfortable impact.
  • Being able to express what you are feeling in precise terms can clarify what it is you need. e,g,  Being able to say you feel disappointed, rather than just sad. Identifying you feel disappointed, rather than sad means you can more precisely link the emotion to the trigger and you know exactly what it is you need to let go of, reframe or manage in a way that means the emotion can ‘move on’.
  • Being able to express exactly how you feel can mean you are more likely to get the help you need.
  • A greater feeling vocabulary automatically improves your emotional literacy.
  • Knowing what an emotion word means adds it into your conscious acknowledgement of that way of feeling.