How to identify emotions with clarity and purpose

Submitted by Jo M from Talk ED

You bump into a friend on the high street. The conversation starts something like this…

Friend: ‘Oh hi, haven’t seen you in ages, how are you?’
You: ‘Hi! I’m fine thanks, you?’
Friend: ‘Yeah, not bad thanks’

‘Fine’ and ‘not bad thanks’ seem to be the stock answers we give in these situations, but how accurately do they reflect how we really are?

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly how we are feeling at any given point in time – there are around 34,000 different human emotions and that’s a lot of feels going on. But whilst we may not want to reveal our deepest emotions in a brief chat during a chance encounter on the street, it is helpful to be able to define and express real emotions to ourselves.

Enter the emotion wheel.

There are many versions, and you can find different examples online, but in essence, the emotions (or feelings) wheel is designed to help us pinpoint a much wider range of emotions and feelings.

For example, we may think we are feeling insecure, but can’t define why. If we look at the range of associated emotions on the wheel, perhaps that is connected to a sense of overwhelm or of feeling insignificant.

And it’s not just difficult or challenging emotions that we can pinpoint more accurately. Understanding positive emotions and associations such as gratitude, hopefulness and confidence can also help us cultivate greater acceptance and kindness.

Why does this help?

Well, psychologists would explain that just by identifying and acknowledging the true depth and nature of our emotions, we have taken the first important step towards supporting ourselves to move forward. Because understanding what we are truly feeling and experiencing is helpful in processing those emotions more positively and can help provide a structure for us to feel more in control. It also helps us to be more compassionate with ourselves when times are tough and to celebrate the positive stuff too.

We recently used a version of the emotions wheel in a session of our peer support groups. It helped participants to be more self-aware and acted as a real conversation opener. If you have ever had counselling or other psychological therapy, you might have already come across it too and found it helped break the ice so to speak.

Most of all, unacknowledged emotions can, over time, become very problematic and only serves to intensify them. Using the wheel and then perhaps writing your thoughts and feelings down, or if you are more of a pictures than words type person, maybe creating a mood board or collage can be incredibly helpful in representing how you feel. You may be surprised at how therapeutic it can be just to express yourself fully and openly.

And if you’d like to give it a go for yourself, CALM have a free downloadable feelings wheel including one that you can colour in yourself. Pick one that feels right for you and remember there are no right or wrong answers, so go for it!

If you are experiencing negative feelings and emotions, talk to us.  We are here to listen to any worries that you may have about eating disorders or disordered eating and to provide practical support and guidance towards recovery.

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