Do you tend to label your feelings?


Do you tend to say to yourself things like:

  • I’m feeling stressedfeelings-300x220
  • I feel awful
  • I felt great until ******* happened
  • I felt like **** until ******* happened
  • etc.

I do.  I think many of us do.  

The thing is often we use a limited vocabulary for these feelings: good, stressed, great, awful, angry, brilliant, sad, and perhaps a few more.  And I find that a label such as this doesn’t really help me.  The term ‘stressed’ can cover a large number of ways that I feel – both good and bad.

I find that two things can help here.

The first is to try to be more specific about the word we use to label the feeling.  Rather than stressed, can we be more clear.  Am I feeling worried?  Overwhelmed?  Tired?  Harassed?  …  And does that word really explain the feeling, or is there a better word or phrase?

Then it’s helpful to feel the feeling fully, and to sense where in our body we feel this.

Giving the feeling a label helps to define it more clearly for ourselves, and then going deeper into the feeling can help us discover why it feels the way it feels.

May I offer an example.

A friend and I ‘meet’ once a week on Skype for a Focusing session.  There are occasions when other commitments come along and we have to re-arrange; however, I try to make this a firm commitment each week and like to organise other things in my life around it if possible.

Last week I found I needed to rearrange our Focusing session.  My friend was accommodating, and we made another date.  Then a few days later she needed to re-arrange the date again because of something happening in her life.

Several things went through my mind:

  • I should have done something to make it possible for us to Skype on the first date.
  • I let her down by changing my own arrangements, which seemed to prioritise these over my Focusing partner.
  • If I hadn’t re-arranged the date, then my Focusing partner might have been more prepared for the thing that caused her to postpone.
  • I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be Focusing that week.

and there were other feelings too.

It was useful to identify the ‘labels’, but then that was it.  Everything sounded logical, but there was still an uneasiness wafting around my feelings about the re-arrangements: an uneasiness that I couldn’t exactly label.

Then I Focused on all of this.  And feelings about incidents in the past of letting people down and being let down all came up.  I was, in just a few minutes, able to make sense of this, and why I was feeling the uneasiness about this particular incident.

Now I know why this has been on my mind for the past few days.  It was not really about changing the date of our session, it was linked to something else, something that had never made sense until now.  And I could understand it now, which meant I could let go of this, and could accept that this was just a re-arrangement of dates, and nothing else. 

Has this happened to you?  Has something happened, which may be huge, or even quite trivial, where your feelings seem out of proportion to the event?  Then labeling the feelings carefully, the Focusing on them might help explain a bit more about it all.

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