Recognizing Your Emotions
Emotions are not something the average person spends time considering during the day. We have a feeling arise and we react to it. Little thought is involved. We get mad, we yell. We get sad, we cry or withdraw. We get happy, we laugh or hug someone. Much of the time we react to our emotions without much thought. When we do this, we use a very small part of our brain (amygdala) that is adept at doing things the way we always have done them. But what if the way you have always done them is causing you problems? Often times in counseling, I’ll also ask people why they did something. People struggle to answer this question. When you are operating on autopilot, you don’t worry about the “why” of things. You just react. When we react, we are using some of the same parts of our brain that house our fight or flight responses. While this may be a great way to escape danger, it is a terrible way to navigate relationships. Fight and flight are all about protecting yourself from danger by running away or defending yourself. Relationships necessitate us being vulnerable and that is unsafe. These great, life-saving reactions actually work against our true values when we use them in relationships. So, instead of reacting to an emotional trigger, we must first ask ourselves what emotion we are feeling. That simple question takes us from using a small, relatively unintelligent part of our brain to using the most logical and intelligent part of our brain (prefrontal cortex).