Getting in touch with one’s feelings is not that easy for most of us. For years, 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.
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 feelings are present that you are aware of?
- Is there one feeling that stands out from the others?
- How would you describe it?
- When did you realize this feeling was first present?
- How long has it been there?
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 for many of us to write out what we are feeling before being able to articulate it. 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.
For example, you might experience anger when your friends cancel plans with you at the last minute. Then, later, you learn they went out with another group of friends instead. Since these friends have canceled before, it is easy to understand why you are angry. One solution to alleviate this stressor is to stop making plans with people who do not value spending time with you. Or perhaps it’s time to set a boundary for friends who say one thing and do another.
What If I Don’t Know How I Feel?
How do we get in touch with all of our feelings if we don’t even know how we feel? We start by exploring our daily lives and learning about emotional intelligence. One aspect of emotional intelligence is reflecting on how our experiences influence our emotions and how we respond to them. Another component is our awareness of our impact on others. Here are some possible questions to ask yourself:
- Stop and pause for a moment before speaking if you are feeling emotional?
- Acknowledge and own your mistakes and apologize?
- Try to look for the good in others?
- Explore basic feelings and try to get to what is truly bothering you?
- Ask others for feedback about how they perceive you?
- Think about your feelings or how others are feeling?
- Get curious about why you or others behave the way they do?
Many people who think they don’t know what they are feeling are often surprised when they get curious and discover they are more in touch with their feelings than they originally thought. If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you, too, are more in touch with your feelings than you might have believed.
Once we can recognize what we are feeling, then it gradually starts to become easier to express our emotions—both the positive and the negative. 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 your 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 are just a cover-up to other deeper emotions like fear. To learn how to recognize your emotions and how to express them, as well as improving your emotional intelligence, please feel free to check out Heartmanity’s self-guided programs or contact us at (406) 577-2100 for further assistance today!