How to understand our feelings?


We’re biologically wired for emotions and they contain rich and valuable information.

Being emotionally intelligent requires a commitment to exploring and honoring your emotions or feelings. You have to do this with yourself before you can do it with others. This makes sense. How can you accurately sense and identify anger in another if you can’t do it with yourself? Your first goal is to be able to correctly identify your emotions. Most of us are pretty good at identifying the major categories of feelings, which are happiness, distress, surprise, anger, fear, shame and disgust.

These major feelings are tied to a core aspect of our survival. So each one kicks off different reactions in our bodies. Start your exploration by going through the day, and identifying which of these major feelings you’re experiencing at any given time. Note how the feeling shows up in your body. And the thoughts that are affiliated with it. It’s also interesting to note if there are patterns. Like, always feeling happy when you see your pet, or distress when you talk to your sibling. Within each of these categories are much more subtle feelings, or even combinations.



Your next goal is

To identify the nuances between them. For example, what’s the difference between feeling embarrassment, guilt, humiliation and shame? How do you express positive sentiments like satisfaction, happiness, excitement and joy?

Your second goal is,

To be able to feel your feelings. It’s one thing to identify that you’re sad, and it’s another thing to let yourself feel the sadness. This means having the time and space to honor the sadness, perhaps even letting yourself cry. This is a bit tricky in our modern society. The time and place is often not conducive to feeling our feelings. And while we may know we have feelings, we push them aside and at the end of the day when we’re tired, we often veg out with TV or our media devices, again distracting ourselves from feeling our feelings. But you need to carve out time to feel.

Some people have found that meditation is a great way to do this. Others say that time in nature is the key to their process. Personally, I like to journal. I sit down and write about what I’m feeling, pausing to let the expression flow. And then I ask myself, and what else, to make sure that I get to the different layers of my feelings. Feeling your feelings is not just about negative feelings either. It’s important to take time to feel your happiness and joy, too, in fact it’s actually the most important.

Dr Brene Brown has researched how we get more happiness and joy in our lives, and she found that the two key components are expressing gratitude and allowing yourself time to play.

When was the last time you did either of those things? They need to be a regular part of your practice.


You want to appropriately express your feelings. This means a couple of things. First, don’t let feelings build up. We’re a little bit like a tea kettle. Unexpressed feelings build up pressure until they come steaming out, often at inopportune times. When we blow off steam, we often do damage to relationships we care about. It’s better to express your feelings throughout the day. I recommend building in brief moments throughout the day to ask yourself, what am I feeling? I do this on my commute to and from work, at lunch, and at bedtime.



Second, don’t ever take action when you’re amygdala has hijacked you. Not ever. Remember, your higher brain is offline. So while it may seem like a great idea to tell your colleague what you think of him. I promise you’ll regret it once your thinking brain turns on again. You may still need to talk with your co-worker. But only do so after you can come at it constructively. Third, learn how to speak authentically about what you’re feeling and what you want. This is harder than it sounds, because it requires vulnerability. Working with your feelings can be a little uncomfortable at first.

But remember, it’s a practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. 

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