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Understand Your Feelings

Emotions are defined as being natural and instinctive states of mind derived from someone’s environment, relationships or mood. We’re quick to label our or someone else’s emotions and quickly move on. In reality, we often don’t get emotional labels right. So, how can you get in better touch with and understand your own feelings? We have some suggestions.

Drill Down

It’s very easy to just say “I’m mad.” But if you keep asking yourself why you’re mad, you might really understand what’s causing that feeling. Let’s use the example of someone cutting you off in traffic. Someone pulls out in front of you, and you say, “I’m mad.”


Because I could have hit them.

But you didn’t. So?

Because they didn’t wait their turn.


I had to wait my turn.


It makes me feel disrespected.


So, I’m tired of being taken advantage of and disrespected.

Ah, that’s very different than being mad. You may realise the things that upset you aren’t the real root cause of your emotions at all. Drilling down is only part of getting to the bottom of your feelings, but it is a very important one. There’s a chance we're afraid to find out what we’re really feeling because what if we have to face it?

You’re facing it every day just in ways that will never make it better. Facing it is the first step to fixing it. And on the other side of fixing it? Happiness, contentment, accomplishment and self-acceptance, just to name a few.

Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary

When we’re young, we’re given a limited set of emotions from which to choose to understand our feelings: happy, sad, mad and scared. That was it. Now we’re very much grown up but may not have worked on naming how we feel much more than those original labels. The more you narrow down your feelings, the more you get to know yourself, your motivations and the core of who you are.

The next time you want to identify how you feel, try to point a finer point on it, and consider one of these:

  • Frustrated

  • Offended

  • Disappointed

  • Tearful

  • Vulnerable

  • Cautious

  • Betrayed

  • Shocked

  • Lonely

  • Confused

  • Content

  • Relieved

Being able to know what shade of emotion you are can also help you categorise the amount of attention needed to the emotion. Being annoyed by a mosquito takes a backseat to feeling offended by a spouse.

Just remember, whatever you’re feeling is OK. Putting in the work to understand those feelings and what they mean to you can greatly improve your quality of life.

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