How do we relate to our emotions?
And do we need to differentiate a wide range of emotions to have a healthy relationship to them?
I sometimes ask myself that question when I see people who seem a bit obsessive in differentiating and mapping out a huge number of different emotions.
It can obviously be helpful to name emotions or emotional states.
It helps communication with ourselves and others.
Labeling the emotions for myself helps me see them as an object within my experience, and that helps me disidentify from them a bit.
And when I communicate it to others, it helps them understand a bit more what’s going on with me.
HOW MUCH DIFFERENTIATION IS NEEDED?
For myself, I find just a few general labels necessary.
For instance… I feel sadness. Anger. Joy. Elation. Hopelessness. Grief. Frustration.
In order to label an emotional state, I really just need the word “emotion” or “state”. That’s enough to recognize it more easily as an object happening within and as what I am. It’s a guest. Something passing through.
And if I want to differentiate a bit further, just a few categories are necessary.
THE STORIES THAT CREATE EMOTIONS
What’s more important for me is to identify the stressful stories that create certain emotions and emotional states when something in me holds them as true. This is where I personally find differentiating and precision helpful.
Pinpointing these stories helps me recognize why I feel a certain way. And it helps me explore them further. It helps me inquiry into them and find what’s more true for me, and it helps me see how my mind creates its own experience by associating certain sensations and stories.
MORE IMMEDIATELY: BEFRIENDING EMOTIONS
For me, the most helpful way of relating to emotions doesn’t require any labeling at all.
And that is to befriend them. Get to know them. Spend time with them. Be with them as I would a frightened animal or child. Listen to what they have to say. Ask them how they would like me to relate to them. Find the stories behind them. And perhaps even notice their nature (which is the same as my nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to me.)
THE ROLE OF LABELING EMOTIONS
For me, labeling emotions in a simple way is helpful, as outlined above.
What’s more important is to befriend and get to know them, whatever label they have. And identify and explore possible stressful stories creating them.
And I am completely open for discovering that labeling emotions themselves in a more precise and differentiated way can be helpful. It’s just that I haven’t seen it yet, in my 35 years of exploring these things.Read More