There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently (it’s behind a paywall unfortunately) that focused on the power of naming emotions.
We obviously move through the spectrum of emotions on a daily, weekly (and sometimes hourly) basis, depending on what’s going on in our worlds, but as a society we’re not all that great at talking about them. And even when asked how we’re feeling, we tend to give the polite answer “fine”, even if we’re clearly not!
Now it may be that the other person was just being polite, but typically those around us care and are genuinely interested. Now it could be that we’re choosing to ignore the emotion (perhaps to protect ourselves or others), although unfortunately this rarely lessens its impact. And it usually results in a big outpouring at some other point, often with someone else on the receiving end. And us potentially then feeling guilty afterwards.
Or it could be that we’re simply struggling to verbalise it, as the executive part of our brain doesn’t work well when we’re experiencing strong emotions.
Whilst we can’t always change how we feel about something, psychologist Dan Siegal coined the phrase “name it to tame it” when it comes to emotions. And this works with children just as well as it works with adults.
Choosing words to describe your emotions jumpstarts your executive brain and calms down your emotional response, giving you more ability to reflect on how you’re feeling and to make a better decision about what to do next.
So next time you’re feeling any kind of negative emotion, say it out loud to decrease its power and because there’s typically truth in the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved!”
(Links to some great resources I’ve used personally, to deal with both my emotions and thought processes and those of the girls, are as follows.
Please feel free to share anything that’s worked really well for you!