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Embrace Emotional Intelligence: A Guide to Processing Your Emotions





It’s time to restore! 

 

What is your inner experience with the element of emotions?  Today, take time to reflect how you understand emotions.   

 

First, let’s examine the definition of emotions. Emotions are energy that happen in the body. Emotions are experienced physically. You know when you have sensations like butterflies, a pit in the stomach, exhaustion, compassion, or tension. These are all emotions, and the experience is physical in the body. Emotions are complex and purposeful within you.   

 

The substance of emotions have been studied throughout the ages and in recent years, researchers are learning more and more about the human experience of emotions.   The American Psychological Association (APA) defines emotion as a complex reaction pattern that includes experience, behavior, and psychological responses.  Emotions hold the ingredients that produce feelings about a situation or the residual feelings about a previous situation.   

 

Emotions produce within you a broad array of feelings. Feelings are your inner message that the emotion evokes. Feelings are usually not consciously determined or intentional. Instead, feelings are usually messages sent and interpreted in the mind through a very fast process.  You are most likely unaware it is happening because it is automatic.  

 

Each person experiences emotions differently and uniquely based on biological make up, early family experiences, personality traits, and other factors.  It is unfair to expect that every person will be able to automatically experience, interpret, and express emotions in the same way as others.  Because of that, I encourage working with a professional to process emotions based on your unique situation.  That said, here are some simple tips to help you gain some understanding and skill engaging with your emotions. 

 

One of the most beneficial skills you can learn for your overall health is taking time to slow down and identify feelings. Next, you can examine the feelings and track the meaning.  Once you do that consciously, you can determine if you want to keep the automatic meanings your mind assigned the emotion. You also empower yourself to decide if you want to alter the meaning to fit the given circumstance.  More information helps you either process or choose feelings.  

 

Some legitimate feelings we do not actually want to experience. To change feelings because we do not like them will only lead to toxic positivity or false faith. Instead of trying to change a feeling, sometimes it is best to experience acceptance and comfort alongside the feeling. 

 

Some feelings are harder, more painful, and need further help and support. If you talk your way out of those more difficult feelings and what they mean, you may miss an important opportunity for understanding, comfort, relief, validation, or growth.   

 

Let’s break this down into an action. For example, if you experience butterflies, it might mean positive anticipation or hope. That is a wonderful thing!  Simple right? Actually, no. The process becomes more complex.  Your mind might interpret the butterflies with a memory of a time in which the experience of butterflies led from excitement to disappointment, embarrassment, or pain. Your mind will automatically produce feelings associated with the experience of butterflies like foreboding, fear, anxiety, or impatience, along with hope and excitement. Your mind notices the physical warning signs and leads you to avoid whatever it was that caused the butterflies.  

 

Problem number one is that you might miss out on a truly wonderful experience. Problem number two is that you might react negatively to people or opportunities around you, and in turn they learn not to offer you the same kind of action in the future. This automatic meaning in your mind and consequent reaction effects your relationships and mood!  

 

Many people become skilled in protecting themselves from pain and disappointment that happened in the past by avoiding whatever brought about the butterflies in the first place. Have you ever wondered why you shut down potentially positive experiences? It might be because you need to examine what meaning your mind is making out of your emotional experiences.  

 

 

RESTORATIVE PRACTICE  

IDENTIFY FEELINGS 

 

Many people have no conscious idea what they are feeling.  You most likely need help understanding your emotional experience.  Even if you can recognize some feelings like mad or annoyed, there are likely more feelings that go undetected.  When feelings are undetected, they are unmanageable and impossible to process.   


You may have heard of the anger iceberg.  This is a common term used to describe all the individual feelings piled under the surface of the emotion of anger. Like an iceberg, most of its mass is under the surface where we cannot see.  Only the tip is exposed to your awareness.   

 

One simple but very effective tool is called a feelings wheel.  There are many variations of these wheels online.  It is basically a picture of a round pie broken down into a lot of different feeling words. A quick google search will bring you to different wheels.  Find one with a broad variety of feelings.  The one I use in my practice has a breakdown of 130 named feelings. 

 

Once you find a good feeling wheel you like, sit with a pen and paper.  

  

  1. Think of a situation that has bothered you or is currently affecting you in some way.   

  1. Notice how your body reacts. Where do you feel it? Some commonly felt places are stomach, chest, neck, shoulders, legs, hands, or head.  Breathe deep.

  1. Look through each feeling on the wheel and notice when a named feeling on the wheel connects with your reaction to that specific situation.   

  1. Write down each feeling 

  1. When you are done with your list, you may find anywhere between 3 and 30 feelings or more that you did not even realize you are feeling.  As you look at your list, do you notice any sensation of relief just from being seen?  

  2. Apply some understanding and compassion toward yourself. Pray for comfort and grace. Ask for wisdom to know how to proceed with the feelings.

  3. Finally the emotions that have been stirring, stifling, driving, and paralyzing within you are identified! This is the start of emotional intelligence. Now you can begin to figure out what you want to do with them. 

  1. What do you need? Below are ideas of how to help yourself move through emotions. Once raw emotions are processed, you will be able to more clearly access your logical and rational thoughts that actually lead you into healthy forward motion. 

 

 

CHART A COURSE 

 

You don’t have to have it all figured out in order to begin this step.  Emotions are designed with a purpose.  The purpose is meant to move us toward an action. Sometimes that action is not available to us or it doesn’t actually make sense given the circumstances. When we figure out how to move ourselves through emotional material in a productive way, we feel even more relief.  

 

Options of helping emotions move productively include:  

  • Cry 

  • Walk 

  • Sing 

  • Write 

  • Pray 

  • Yell  

  • Dance 

  • Communicate 

  • Vigorous movement 

  • Easy flow movement 

  • Musical instrument   

You do many of these things naturally in reaction to your emotional experiences.  The work of maturity is to be strategic and productive in using these expressions.   

 

On the other hand, there are more destructive ways we work out our emotional experiences that can be damaging.  For instance, a little distraction and lighthearted screen viewing can be helpful.  But too much causes a sense of numbing and avoidance.  Eating comfort food can give us a much needed sense of enjoyment and pleasure.  But too much can bog us down and eventually we feel even worse.  Same with alcohol, drugs, explicit sexual experience, and things of that nature.     

 

I hope this has helped you understand your emotional experiences and how this element of life is connected to the other elements. Emotions have an integral role in your life physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually. Welcome a practice of emotional processing.



Thank you for finding time to restore! 



 

 

 

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