Most of us have discovered that naming our emotions helps take the edge off them. And, not surprisingly, a recent study found just that.
I feel nervous, name it, and it feels more manageable. I have fear about something, confess to it to myself and perhaps someone else, and it’s a little easier to do it. I feel anger, tell it, and I don’t have to live out that anger.
Here are some things I notice happening when I label an emotion.
From subject to object. Before I name an emotion, I am often identified with it. As I label it, it becomes an object to me instead. It goes from subject – something I take myself as, to an object – something I am aware of happening within awareness.
Fuzzy to clear. Before I name an emotion, the emotion itself and the images and stories associated with it may be fuzzy to me. I am not exactly sure what’s there, so it’s easy to go into additional stories about it and scare myself further. As I name it, the emotion becomes clear to me, and it feels more understandable and manageable.
Honest connection. When I name an emotion and share it with others, it’s often a relief. I am honest with what’s here, and there is a sense of a more real connection. I confess to what’s here.
All of this makes the emotion a little more manageable, and that goes for the images and stories associated with it as well.
The way I described it above is a more causal way of describing it. It can be explored in a much more precise way, and I can do this through investigating it through the sense fields:
When there is an emotion here, what happens when I label it – either as emotion or a type of emotion? What happens when I label it for myself? What happens when I share it with someone else?
And…. where in the body do I find the emotion? Where is it located? Where are it’s boundaries? Where does it end?
What’s here in pure sensations? How is it when I bring attention to the sensations alone? (Out of images and stories about it.)
What’s the image(s) overlaid on these sensations?
What’s the thoughts and stories that comes out of these images?
Can I notice the movement from sensations to images to thoughts? What happens if I notice it as it happens? Is there less of a tendency to get caught up in the images and stories?
Taking it further, I can identify and inquire into this secondary overlay of images and thoughts:
It’s…. (fear, anger, sadness).
It means…. something bad will happen / has happened.
It’s too much. It’s overwhelming.
It’s easier / more comfortable to distract myself.
I am (afraid, angry, sad) because…..
I am (afraid, angry, sad) and that means…..