Do you Know how you Feel? 2

Okay, so in Part One we discussed how research suggests we often don’t know how we feel. And this emotional ‘illiteracy’ makes it more difficult to resolve our emotions and deal with our sometimes destructive behaviour.

If we can make ourselves less likely to over-eat, drink excessively, or be aggressive then that sounds great. But what do we have to do?

It’s called Emotional Differentiation; we do it by separating and identifying our feelings.

Emotional Differentiation isn’t always easy. Often we confuse one emotion with another, at times a feeling has taken over and we didn’t see it coming, and when we have more than one emotion at a time we struggle to disentangle them.

You can change all this, though. You can start to be more aware of your feelings and able to know what they are.

Here’s how

When you relax or you’re getting off to sleep, just let your mind go back to any time when you felt an emotion.

DO NOT START WITH BIG ONES, THOUGH! You can work on those in some weeks’ or months’ time when you’ve had some practise with this.

So think of things such as how annoyed you were today with your boss, or when you were on holiday last year and found the hotel hadn’t been finished.


• Once you’ve got something, begin by imagining it as though you are an observer – so just imagine stepping back from yourself and seeing yourself in that situation. Take about a minute doing this and notice whatever comes into your awareness.


• Now step back inside yourself and see the event through your own eyes. Now notice how you feel now about what’s happening in that experience. If no feelings come then recall as best you can how you felt at the time.


• Then explore the feelings that you had or are having. Just stay with them and wait to see what happens. DON’T DEMANDS ANSWERS! Just relax and idly wonder.


• After a short while, try to saying to yourself what you think the feelings are. There may, of course, be just one, but do look for others.


Describe the feelings as you wish – you might use colours, shapes, or substances to say what the feeling is like. When you find a way of representing each feeling accurately you’ll get a sense of ‘rightness’.


And that’s it. Most issues will fade if you do this once or twice with them. If they don’t then you’ll find other techniques on this site that will help you.

But the main thing is that you're improving your ability to differentiate between emotions and recognise each one. And if you also do this with problems when they appear you’ll find you’ll be able to handle these feelings so much better.


So you may not end up like those who speak Sanskrit - having 96 words for love. Nor will you end up like the Inuit Indians with a few dozen words to describe types of snow...

But you can, with practice, handle your feelings better, eating when you are hungry - not when bored, etc. And no longer look at your watch when someone asks if you're hungry!

Good luck!