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Learn to Recognize and Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions

Getting in touch with one’s feelings is not that easy for most of us. We have been taught to suppress and hide certain feelings. For instance, when we are feeling down and blue, we are often told to put on a “brave face” and smile, even though we know we are hurting inside. Over time, it can become more difficult to express what we are truly feeling.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Exploring emotions through journal writing

How to Identify Your Emotions

In order to get in touch with our emotions, it's helpful to start by asking ourselves a few questions such as:

  • What am I feeling?
  • Is there one feeling that stands out from the others?
  • How would I describe it?
  • When did I realize it was first present?
  • What happened that may have triggered the feeling?

When answering these questions, try to avoid generic answers like telling yourself you feel “fine.”

Grab a notepad or journal where you can write down your answers to these questions and record your feelings. It can be much easier to write out what we are feeling. And just the act of writing helps us to begin processing our experiences.

An added bonus: Just like a computer, when the hard drive is too full, writing helps our mind to empty and relieve stress.

As you start to get reacquainted with your feelings, you will want to take notice of any stressors that are triggering various emotions. Understanding how stressors trigger emotional responses makes it easier to recognize what causes feelings associated with stress.


Emotional Regulation: How to Self-Calm and Decipher Your Emotions

Let's take a real-life scenario. A woman, we'll call Judy, had made plans with friends that she was really looking forward to, but at the last minute, they canceled. Of course, she was disappointed.

Then, a few days later, she found out that they went out with another group of friends that same night instead. Now, she not only felt hurt, but she also felt angry and a little betrayed by their thoughtlessness.

Emotions are the signals to process our experiences and guide us to the right action to feel better.

So, what do you do when emotions bubble up?

Allow. Embrace the emotion with loving acceptance.

Identify what you're feeling. And if the emotion keeps churning, it's time to soothe yourself.

One way to self-calm is to go for a walk. Or practice deep breathing. Another is to journal as mentioned previously. Once you calm down, it's time to decipher what your emotions are telling you. 

In the above situation, perhaps it’s time to set a boundary for friends who say one thing and do another. Or maybe stop making plans with people who appear to not value spending time with you. Or if they are important to you, you could have a heart-to-heart talk with them.

However you choose to respond, make sure it is authentic for you and leads to the outcome you want.

Related reading: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"

 But What If You Don’t Feel Anything?

Do you ever feel numb? Void of feeling?

How do we get in touch with our emotions when we don’t even know what we feel?

We start by exploring our daily lives and gaining emotional awareness.

Emotional awareness (also called emotional literacy) is the ability to sense and acknowledge emotions in ourselves and others. And secondly, being able to track them to what triggered those feelings.

One aspect of emotional intelligence is reflecting on how our experiences influence our emotions and how we respond to them.

To grow emotional awareness, pay attention to your body and any tension that arises. Even though you may not "feel," the body will reveal physiological changes, such as tightness in your chest, sweaty palms, or nausea. These symptoms can lead you to what you're feeling.

It just takes practice.

Related reading: "How to Stay Calm Under Pressure."

Five Levels of Emotional Awareness

According to Jean Piaget, there are five levels of emotional awareness in ascending order:

  1. awareness of physical sensations
  2. action tendencies
  3. single emotions
  4. blends of emotions (i.e., feeling multiple emotions at once)
  5. blends of blends of emotional experience
The "highest level encompasses the ability to distinguish blends of emotions in self vs. others."

Many people who think they don’t feel are often surprised when they get curious and pay closer attention. They discover they are more in touch with their feelings than they originally thought.

Once we can recognize what we are feeling, then it gradually starts to become easier.

For instance, initially, you might think you got angry because your son talked back to you, or your boyfriend stood you up or your boss slighted you in a project meeting. However, upon deeper exploration, while the other person’s behavior might be what pushed you to a breaking point, what truly was bothering you were financial concerns because your work hours were just reduced.

As you can see, sometimes certain emotional responses like anger cover deeper emotions like fear or an unacknowledged hurt.

To learn how to recognize your emotions, express them effectively, and improve your emotional intelligence, check out Heartmanity’s self-guided programs.

Yes! I want to increase self-awareness.

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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