Emotions , we all have them, we don’t always tend to understand them and most of us let our subconscious do the hard work of whether to laugh, cry or get angry but what if we could become very aware of our emotions and how we respond? What if we had a chart that mapped out all our emotions. I mean, what if we could choose to REALLY laugh at something that would usually make us angry, wouldn’t that be marvellous!?Going from a feeling of total rage to feelings of happiness and joy.
Well it is possible to train your brain to be this way with some conscious effort. This blog post explores the profound affect of being consciously aware of our emotional bodies to improve our mental and emotional health but also change our perception of our lives as a whole.
Understanding levels of emotion
You may not realise it but the majority of us respond to EVERYTHING in an emotional way. We taste our favourite food it gives us a sensuous stimulation to our mind, we are told we are beautiful or interesting and we tend to feel proud, respected or lead to feelings of confidence or we are told of people making fun of others who are helpless we feel angry, hostile and hateful towards that situation but it doesn’t have to be like this.
Becoming aware of the power of emotion
The emotion wheel shows that all emotion can be traced back to 6 fundamental emotional labels. This can then help us realise we are acting a certain way, able to analyse our responses and develop a new way to think about a particular situation.
My example of emotional responses to life situations
Optimistic at 21 (green and yellow)
When I was 21 I decided to undertake a degree in Architecture. This was an incredible feeling as I thought I would never get onto such a difficult degree and after I completed the Art Foundation I saw Architectures as the ultimate of all art forms to create. At this point in time I was hugely optimistic, fascinated, proud, creative, excited and hopeful for a great life ahead
Sad and disappointed at 25 (purple and orange)
It didn’t work out and it wasn’t due to not working hard or not graduating. I remember, from my graduation as an Architect in 2008 that I had worked very hard and even decided to take on an extra qualifications in 3dsmax (3d drawing program) to improve my skills but there were no jobs in the Northwest of the UK… at this point I had feelings of tiredness, confusion, regret, skepticism, and helplessness. I responded to the worst world economic recession since the 1930s as a sign that I would never become an architect and at the time I was engaged to a woman who was a practising teacher so couldn’t look anywhere outside of that locality to start my architect career.
I look back now and see I responded emotionally in a bad way to this initial experience but I did still have some optimism and awareness that as a second career option of teaching could be a good career choice for those who want to help others so decided it might be a possible alternative profession until….
Optimism destroyed at 26 (orange and red)
I met two female mentors that manipulated my situation, told me to lie and shout at the children, wouldn’t help with questions I had, made me do three units of work when my fellow student teachers were doing one and lied to my university mentors. This left me feeling even more despondent, insignificant, inferior, hurt and starting to become hateful of the government and the banking system and I wanted out of teaching fast. I wanted no connection to a system that I felt had totally failed me and a country that teaches you that if you go to university your career will be more fulfilling.
I had starting to change from a place of positive optimistic emotions from when I was 21 to being completely engulfed by the negative emotions of the last seven years until, (combined with other negative experiences outside of studying) I had my first breakdown.
Keep fighting back ( very orange )
I kept fighting back against these feelings and never gave up on the teaching degree even after my breakdown. I was still in the ‘joy’ section (just about) feeling daring to go back into the school environment but that experience put me firmly in the ‘scared’ section of the emotion wheel with feelings of inadequacy, discouragement, bewilderment, insecure and anxious. My naturally stubborn personality pushed me back into the school environment to stand up against people who cause others problems until I graduated from teaching and then completely collapsed.
Now I was in a place where I all optimism for my future had gone. I felt none of the positive emotions anymore…this WAS depression and it really felt heavy, very overwhelming, painful, helpless and very critical of myself for feeling like I had made lots of mistakes in education and in my personal life. My doctor identified me at high risk of suicide and put me on citalopram and I was also put on ‘disability benefit’, a man who had worked so hard for a higher education to better himself and the world around him.
Turning from depression to enragement at 26 (Big Red)
I became privately ‘angry‘ and ‘hateful‘ towards the world and its systems, I would study the stock markets and watch world politics but at the same time I was also exhausted, mostly sleeping . 6 months after being on disability benefit I was reassessed to see ‘whether I could work or not’ and although completely numb of emotion now I’d been taken citalopram for so long I was deemed fit to work. To say I was ‘angry’ would be an understatement I was MAD! I felt I utterly, totally and completely let down by the system I had been brought up in and I had done nothing wrong (or so I thought).
I felt a fire in my heart burn strongly, now was time to either stay in the situation I had been given or fight back so I chose to fight back against the odds I had been given!
Returning to the joy ( using red for yellow ) 27
I used the emotion of anger towards my expereinces to make my life better. I started thinking what did I need to leave the country so I began to learn Spanish, (the second most common language spoke in the world), I started creating paintings again, meditating, I started exercising to improve my physique and decided to continue studying coding and graphics until I was prepared to go anywhere in the world. My madding emotion was the fuel that rocketed me from depression and into action. I ended up securing work and moving to the south of the UK , 200 miles away from all I had known. I had just hit the emotions of power and joy, my depression had turned back into optimism and appreciation.
Returning to the wheel of emotion
We can quite clearly see that my emotions at 21 where in the positive half of the circle until gradually my emotional experiences and responses became more and more on the other negative side of the wheel of emotion. Could I have responded differently to each difficult disappointment? Even though challenging, it was maybe…possible.
But what can we learn from the experience and the wheel of emotion? By visually seeing how each emotion we have in life relates to one larger segment of our emotional brain we can become conscious of our emotional rational and change the way we are thinking rather than using our subconscious mind’s natural response. It is possible that although something may be difficult if we react emotionally in a positive way to a situation then we can, with practice, change our emotional perception of ABSOLUTELY ANY given situation.
A short video about the emotional brain
We need the bad emotions to feel the good one
Also, you may have noticed from the section of my story when I had BIG RED emotions I used it as fuel to push myself to get back to the joy and powerful sectors of emotion.
Sometimes we need to have negative emotions so that not only can we appreciate good emotions when they happen but also to help us change things in our lives that bring on the negative emotions. So things like feeling unappreciated or disrespected at work, relationships that are unfulfilling, or building friendships with like minds and avoiding the others who anger you.
Understanding our emotions
With understanding our emotions we can live more fulfilling lives by becoming more aware of how we respond emotionally to things and try to change it into a positive rather than a negative response. Why get angry if it does no good and you can’t physically change it for instance? Instead, let it go, let the emotion go as it will only disturb your emotional peace.
This blog does touch on some elements of mindfulness and CBT so if you have found this interesting and want to become more consciously aware of your thinking and emotional responses Id recommend looking for a mindfulness or CBT therapist in your region (or that works online) as this will grow your knowledge further.
What are your thoughts on emotion? Do you identify that the way you are emotionally responding to things is affecting your life negatively or positively? Please comment below.