Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Are You Feeling Today?

Can you name the eight basic emotions?
If you’re working in EI, this is a gimme question. If not, this may be tougher. Try to name them now. I’ll list them at the bottom of the post.

It’s very common for all of us to avoid naming our feelings (too vulnerable) and talk around them instead.

In the course of a somewhat difficult conversation, my cousin recently said to me, “I want to tell you what I am feeling.” (She knows I like that.) “What?” I asked.

“I’m feeling that you’ve changed a lot,” she said. “That’s what I’m feeling.” I didn’t want to correct her. But she hasn’t gotten to her feelings yet. Is she angry at my change, or sad? Or was she fearful? She keeps circling and circling around the same idea: “You’ve changed a lot, you never used to be like this. I can’t get used to your changes. You’ve changed a lot haven’t you?”

Maybe. I guess I’ve changed. We all do. But why is she repeating and repeating this? Her obsessing about this isn’t a feeling. It masks her feeling. What is Mary feeling? My guess, based on other conversations and her nonverbals, is that Mary feels guilty. If I’m right, her deeper thoughts could be something like: “What if I’ve been treating you one way and you’ve actually been different than I thought? What if I misread you all along? Have our fights come from these misunderstandings?”

Feelings are often very difficult to decode (see previous post). But if we can uncover our underlying feelings (one of the basic eight), this self-knowledge can lead us to helpful and healthy actions.

Can you name the basic eight? They are universal:
anger, sadness, fear, joy, trust, disgust, anticipation, or surprise.

What are you feeling today?

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