No, I mean really, how are you today? What is it that you are feeling right now, and why?
According to research by the psychologist Robert Plutchick, there are eight basic human emotions; joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation. We may sometimes experience a basic emotion in its pure form but most of the time our emotions overlap and mix up to create a wide spectrum of personal feelings within us.
And yet the answer we give to that most ubiquitous of questions “How are you?” rarely reflects the wonderful kaleidoscope of our human emotions. We tend to describe how we are with a simple: “I’m good!” or, if we in a low mood we might say that we are “feeling bad”.
If we want to be more self-aware, we need to be able to understand our own emotions. We may still choose not to share them, depending on who we are with and what the situation is, and that is fine. I am certainly not advocating that we all start pouring our hearts out every time someone offers a polite enquiry after our health. But it is only when we have a good understanding of ourselves and what we are feeling that we can make the best decisions about how to think and act.
The accepted black and white language of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is unhelpful because it implies a self-judgement that can cloud our thinking and get in the way of deeper self-understanding. The danger is that we can end up in a negative spiral, beating ourselves up about the ‘bad’ emotions. Or we might experience the emotional yo-yo effect of trying too hard to hang on to those emotions we label as ‘good’.
So try this. Next time you start to feel an emotion, take a minute to experience it. What is it that you are really feeling and why? Avoid the temptation to label your emotions as either good or bad but instead, try to develop the habit of observing without judgement.
Over time, you’ll find probably find that your emotions will flow more smoothly. As you get to know yourself better, you’ll be able to enjoy the spectrum of your own emotions more fully.
By Nevin Stewart