Labelling And Managing Emotions

The Path to Self-Mastery.


Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.— Publius Syrus

 As long as I could remember, I would continually project my feelings of anger on my younger brother whenever my mother got me angry. He seemed to be the perfect person to comfortably transfer my anger to. It was later in life that I got to understand this act as Displacement, a defence mechanism.

Over the course of my life, I would struggle with dealing with one emotion or another except happiness. I liked to be happy or so I told myself. I had convinced myself that I had to stay happy to enjoy life better. I found things which excited me and did more of them. Essentially, I consciously became happy and enjoyed the feedback I got from others as a result. I didn’t have to suppress being happy. I just let it flow.

 The older I got, the more I realised how my mind processed emotions and how my body translated them. My body would shake whenever I was nervous. I would feel physical pain in my chest when I was furious. I would shudder when I was afraid. I would lose concentration when I was overwhelmed. I became very vocal about anger, screaming with rage and finding a way to apologise for my tone, with zero remorse for the words I uttered.

 Subsequently, I found better ways of dealing with my emotions, practising them often enough to make room for unsuccessful attempts.

In psychology, The Cognitive Model defines how our perception and biases affect our thoughts of the situations we find ourselves in which in turn influences our emotional, behavioural and physiological reactions.


Emotion As A Habit

Emotions are fleeting and do not define us until they become deep-seated habits. You can live in anger, anxiety or any other emotion of your choice. When practised over and over again, emotions become our way of life. I realised people who are constantly happy say, they choose to be happy. I doubt this means other emotions don’t run through their veins. It only means despite all others, they have decided to have a happy countenance to life. In the same vein, you can live in anger, agitated by insignificant things and finding a cause to be angry no matter the situation. You can live in fear, always afraid of an outcome.

Affect Labelling

Call a spade a spade, not a gardening tool.

You need to accurately diagnose your emotion, call it by name, express the intensity of the emotion and respond appropriately. This means you need to probe further to break down your emotions.

 For example,

 “I am afraid to start the business because  …. fear of failure? rejection? don’t want to be seen starting from the bottom?”

“I am anxious about relocating because … loneliness? sceptical? worried?”

“I got angry when he called me names because … i felt disrespected? betrayed?”

Another reason why labelling emotions can be tough is that we don’t know the right words to use. Enrich your emotional vocabulary.

How happy are you?
Pleased, content, relaxed, thankful, elated, comfortable?

How angry are you?
Furious, frustrated, cranky, indifferent, disrespected, bored, cold, livid, irritated?

How sad are you?
Disappointed, depressed, regretful, heartbroken, discouraged, grieving, morose?

How anxious are you?
Afraid, stressed, confused, nervous, doubtful, perturbed, horrified?

How jealous are you?
Insecure, threatened, protective, green with envy, suspicious?

Let The Emotions Sit

Do you do anything to suppress excitement? Nope. Why do you want to suppress fear or disappointment or insecurity or intimidation?
Feel the emotion. Let it fulfil its tenure in your life and gently pass. Don’t dismiss or discard it.

Tapping Your Inner Power

I understand how we try to justify reactions for emotions. We are liable to feel all sorts of emotions. It is what we do with them that matters. You are in control of your mind, hence, your reaction. Pay attention to the bigger picture. Determine to act in a befitting way.

Labelling emotions isn’t a pleasant thing to do. Most people avoid labelling at all cost. But if we’re going to be up against something, it’s only fair we know what we are up against and fight it head-on. It gets better with practice.



Also published on Medium.