9. Our Emotional Content – Part 2

In my previous blog post on our Emotional Content I explained a journaling exercise. The journaling exercise was asking us to write about an event, each day, writing in detail using all our senses to describe the moment. The week’s prompt included an important reminder that, as triggers to emotional memory, smell and taste are as important as sight and hearing. The writing exercise was “express your feelings about this event and how your sensory inputs and interactions with others made you feel”.  This mindful journaling exercise occurred whilst I was preparing for a College inspection, working through some exams and completing external studies. Needless to say, I didn’t do each day but completed them on days where things felt they’d gone awry.

One day I realised I had written four pages and was even more unsettled by the experience. I still wasn’t able to identify the true emotions I was experiencing. I went on a hunt to try to find something to help.

Many theorists have suggested journaling to express views and sort out emotional baggage, including Carl Jung, James W Pennebaker and Julia Cameron. But I wanted more information on the emotions themselves and how to deal with them. Again, there are so many theorists, from Darwin and James-Lange to Cannon-Bard, Schachter-Singer and Fredickson.

So much out there; but I just wanted a simple list of emotions to at least identify what I was experiencing. One book that helped was The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin which has pages of positive and negative emotions to choose from. Then I found the following lovely table from Positive Psychology (https://positivepsychology.com/emotion-wheel/)  that explains the joining of the emotions and how they work:

Love Joy + Trust Remorse Sadness + Disgust
Guilt Joy + Fear Envy Sadness + Anger
Delight Joy + Surprise Pessimism Sadness+Anticipation
Submission Trust + Fear Contempt Disgust + Anger
Curiosity Trust + Surprise Cynicism Disgust +Anticipation
Sentimentality Trust + Sadness Morbidness Disgust + Joy
Awe Fear + Surprise Aggression Anger + Anticipation
Despair Fear + Sadness Pride Anger + Joy
Shame Fear + Disgust Dominance Anger + Trust
Disappointment Surprise+Sadness Optimism Anticipation + Joy
Unbelief Surprise+Disgust Hope Anticipation +Trust
Outrage Surprise + Anger Anxiety Anticipation + Fear

This chart helped me understand the joining of primary emotions and helped me identify what I was feeling in certain situations. It allowed me to consider how I was expressing emotion and my actions based on different stimuli. It explained some of my reactions and helped me reflect on my behaviours (positive and negative). This is an ongoing process and I am still learning which are my triggers and what can be left behind. I’m still learning how to create good boundaries and how to move forward with acceptance.

By continuing with journaling I have been able to share my experiences in a stable and more balanced way with my husband. I have allowed myself to create the changes I need to self-improve and I feel I am empowered to share my emotions in a much more constructive way. It is a wonderful way to reflect and analyse my own emotional patterns to help meet any changes or challenges that are occurring.

Maintaining a mindfulness practice allows me to attend to my emotions, be curious and patient with them, learn to accept we have different emotions and change my emotions to other emotions.

Time to Have a Go!

Using your Journal (using pen and paper) take as much time as needed to look at a relationship issue. This could be related to work, a personal relationship, family, children, or anything else.  

Remember your journal entries are private and the journal is a way to express your own feelings and problems without hurting anyone involved. As you write, you may be able to see the situation more objectively (after letting off steam), thus allowing you to pinpoint more accurately the reasons behind your anger, sadness, frustration, etc. When you are ready to have a conversation with the people involved you may be able to resolve them more easily.

Really take time to notice words you are using. Sometimes they are markers to deeper feelings within your subconscious. Highlight or underline words and feelings that seem to recur. Try to understand why these things are important to you.

8. Our Emotional Content!

Our emotions are sometimes simple and at other times highly complex. How many times have you been flummoxed by your emotions? Plenty of times probably. I know that I have been flying high after a great success at work (e.g. a struggling student who finally passes an exam and comes to say thank you for your help or a dyslexic student who produces a strong written piece of work after hours of struggling to get it onto paper) and in a moment that can flip to a feeling of disappointment or disenchantment as you head into another meeting with a negative manager.

Emotional health is an area that many of us hide from by putting on a brave face. Hmmm…nothing like having false pretences.

At some point the masks crack and eventually fall. These cracks normally occur when our values clash with what is being asked of us. I know that’s when my mask started to crumble. Being asked to act several different ways to several audiences becomes exhausting and debilitating. We all play a part in different settings: parent/child; siblings; friendship; professional face/s; lover; significant other half; house mate; colleagues; social or personal space; owner of a business; employee; self-employed; etc.

So many roles and so little time.

Think about all the different roles or expectations that you have each day. Make a list of them to clarify how many different roles/expectations you have and what might be asked of you. You might find the list rather long.

My husband has had the discomfort of watching me go up and down and through the wringer with my emotions and emotional investments: to my job, my students’ wellbeing, colleagues, friends, family and him. At one point he noted I was all at sea, not knowing what to do with my energy or emotions and not knowing how to switch off. He asked me to explain what was going on… but I couldn’t. I didn’t even know where to start.

Oddly enough, that week whilst working on my mindfulness course, one of the journal tasks asked us to record our emotions throughout a week. My heart sank a little as we’d have to delve into and record what we were feeling. The week of this journal recording just happened to coincide with the week of our College inspection. I think the universe was jumping up and down with JOY but I just had a sinking feeling: another task to add to an excessive workload.

The journaling exercise was asking us to write about an event, each day, writing in detail using all our senses to describe the moment. The week’s prompt included an important reminder that, as triggers to emotional memory, smell and taste are as important as sight and hearing. The writing exercise was asking us to express your feelings about this event and how your sensory inputs and interactions with others made you feel. The final prompt was: take 15 minutes without lifting your pen off the page, just write. “Right,” I thought, “That’s a small, easy task!”

There is more to come in my next blog on how I did with this exercise. In the meantime, give the below a go.

Time to Have a Go!

Throughout the next few weeks take the time to write in your journal each day. Remember your journal is private and for your eyes only. You should take a minimum of 15 minutes without lifting your pen off the page.

Write about an event, each day, identifying all the emotions linked to the event. When writing use all your senses. Express your feelings about this event and how your sensory inputs and interactions with others made you feel.

For example: walking to school with the kids (note interactions between yourself, your child/ren, your partner, other parents, the walk itself – perhaps noticing of colours, smells, parks, trees, dropping them off at the gate, etc).