Here’s a an example emotional episode:
Max snapped at his partner. He was angry. He then escalated the situation by saying something derogatory and being critical of his partner. Then max noticed he was feeling angry. An hour later he realized he was tired. He wasn’t angry, he was frustrated because he had expectations and was surprised and while being tired he felt angry and snapped. And now he felt guilty for how he acted. He imagined his partner being angry for how he treated them. Imagining the near future he was nervous to see his partner – because of how they might treat him for treating them. Now he couldn’t let this story in his mind go. This created an anxious feeling.
There is a lot happening here and things can get confusing fast. It is easy to tie ourselves in a knot and even lie to ourselves by seeing things from a confused and judgmental perspective.
As we begin to better understand our emotions it’s important to upgrade our mental concept of the language we use to describe what is happening in our mind while we unpack the various emotional episodes of our life.
Emotions are not feelings.
Emotions are processes, in which we sense that something important to our welfare is occurring, and a set of physiological changes and behaviors begin to deal with the situation.
In personal terms I like to imagine emotions as physical body reactions or mind reactions that need to be labeled by me.
Feelings are our current labels of emotion.
Feelings are our best description or label for an emotion. It is entirely possible to feel an emotion and to mislabel what we are feeling. This could happen because of learned display rules or because we simply don’t have the feeling vocabulary to describe what we are experiencing or because our society or culture has told us we are not allowed to feel this way. *** This does not mean the emotion is not present.
*** Although this is an area of disagreement between researchers.
Thinking is cognition
Thinking is not feeling. Thinking is planning, strategizing and understanding. Metacognition is thinking about thinking. Imagining this concept helps me imagine the difference between thinking and feeling. Daniel Goleman says “In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” Our thinking about our feelings leads to our moods. You can think in positive and negative ways. But emotions and feelings are never positive or negative. Emotions and feelings can only be responded to in constructive or destructive ways.
Emotions + Feelings + Thoughts + Energy = Moods (How We Are Being Now)
Moods are how we are feeling, thinking and what energy level we are in now. The mood we are in is a combination our emotional state, our feelings, our thoughts and the amount of energy we have. This is why it’s important to recognize automatic negative thinking or rumination because it can lead to moods that become unrecognizable and cloud your judgment.
Judgements are conscious and unconcious
We are consciously and unconsciously making judgments about our experience of life and thoughts. These judgments become the building blocks of the stories that we create to understand our experience of life. We must be careful about making judgments and remind ourselves that the judgments we choose become the base of the stories we tell.
Stories help us understand
Judgments lead to stories that then affect our feelings, thoughts and moods. Stories are powerful tools or prisons depending on our perspective. It’s important to be curious about stories and to question them any time they become dogmatic, repetitive or scripted and no longer server the story teller in a positive way.
And finally we have: attitudes.
Attitude is all of this over time.
As we go about life feeling, thinking, being, judging, and telling stories and gathering feedback we begin to create an attitude about our life and reality. I like to imagine an attitude being shaped after multiple or a hundred early life emotional states. This becomes how we approach life and new emotional states and experiences. I often wonder if attitude is the connection to identity that can be a destructive and repetitive energy trap vs the constructive path of a calm mind and curiosity about ones emotional state.
In closing or beginning.
Simply recognizing emotions, feelings, thoughts, moods, judgements, stories and attitudes can be a powerful force-multiplier in your mesearch journey.
The next time you inspect an emotional episode or your emotional state try to approach with curiosity from one of these perspectives.