Written by Nour El Ali, Psychologist at The Valens Clinic
Just as we learn to communicate using words and phrases, there is another language that often goes unexplored: the language of feelings. Understanding and expressing our emotions is a crucial aspect of our well-being and interpersonal relationships. It is a language which we have to actively learn as it tends to cause disruptions in our relationships with others and self.
Many individuals are unable to express how they feel as they do not have the vocabulary to identify what it is that they are feeling. This confusion leads to a rise in negative feelings such as frustration, anger, overwhelmed, flustered etc. The individual would feel overwhelmed by the intense amounts of feelings within themselves and the inability to identify what they feel. If we take the example of a child who is experiencing pain by accidentally hurting themselves, we notice that parents rush to make sure they are “okay.” What tends to happen is they comfort their child by telling them that it is not a big deal and they should not be “sad.” This may lead to invalidation as the child feels one feeling but is told to feel another. In addition, this may lead to a lack in emotional regulation. The child does not learn how to regulate and sit with the uncomfortable feeling rather they are taught to avoid and push it away.
Once we adapt our emotional literacy it develops a stronger sense of self-awareness and self-expression. This aids in identifying the feelings and regulating them. Emotional literacy is accompanied by a sense of normalcy and acceptance towards feelings. It allows individuals to recognize that the feeling is felt by others and is part of the human journey. It is important to note that we cannot pick and choose what we feel. However, we can work on regulating our emotions and controlling our reactions.
Tips to help you develop your emotional literacy and navigate the language of feelings:
- Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary: Explore and familiarize yourself with a wide range of emotional words. Research and learn the differences between similar emotions to better understand and label what you’re feeling. Once you expand your vocabulary it helps you in self-expression. A tool which aids in identifying and learning about the different feelings is the feelings wheel (https://feelingswheel.com).
- Practice Mindful Observation: Schedule time during the day to observe and tune into your emotions without judgment. Notice how different emotions feel in your body and the different sensations associated with them. This self-awareness lays the foundation for understanding and expressing your feelings.
- Reflect and Journal: Engage in self-reflection and journaling to explore your emotions. Write about the experiences, thoughts, and emotions that arise in different situations. Reflecting on your emotions enhances our ability to recognize and understand our feelings.
- Identify Triggers and Patterns: Pay attention to situations, people, or events that trigger specific emotional responses. Reflect on these triggers and patterns to gain insights into your emotional reactions to better understand them and have room to grow and heal.
- Practice Emotional Regulation: Learn strategies to regulate and manage your emotions effectively. Explore techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, or physical activities like exercise or engaging in hobbies. Developing emotional regulation skills allows you to navigate and respond to emotions in a healthy way.
- Explore Different Means of Expression: Engage in creative outlets like painting, writing, music, or dance to express and process your emotions. These forms of expression can provide a therapeutic release and deepen your understanding of your feelings.
If you find it challenging to navigate your emotions or need guidance in developing emotional literacy, consider seeking mental health treatment in Dubai from a psychologist. They can provide valuable insights, tools, and support on your journey of emotional learning. Remember, learning the language of feelings is a lifelong process with many bumps along the way. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you navigate this journey of self-discovery and emotional growth.