Why Bother to Name that Emotion?

Why Bother to Name that Emotion?

I didn’t want to raise daughters. I was afraid to. I thought they would be too hard to manage because of all of the messy emotions I thought already came packaged inside of little girls. For that reason, I was grateful and somewhat relieved each time I birthed a son. 

Though it is embarrassing for me to mention this, I will say it anyway. I honestly thought boys came with fewer emotions than girls. Thankfully, I learned sooner than later that my sons felt just as many things on their insides as I did. The only difference was that they displayed them in other ways than I did. 

Anger, Jealousy, Fear, Oh My!

Gender does not matter when it comes to our emotions. Everyone feels anger, sadness, disappointment, courage and shame. Coincidentally, even if we did not grow up with the ability to name our feelings, it is never too late to learn. 

Though my mother attempted to help me understand my feelings, she didn’t know how to mentor me through my tumultuous teen years. Instead of helping me to name what I was feeling, she instead stealthily slid magazine and newspaper articles into my room. Like “Thing” from Addams Family, her hand slid through a crack in the doorway, set an article down on my dresser and then withdraw, without a word. Reading the titles,“Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk,” and “Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills,” told me that she was aware of my emotional state. She just didn’t know how to help me. 

Eventually, I grew up and knew I needed to be the one to educate myself about my own feelings. First of all, I discovered that ignoring them does not make them go away, and telling myself I shouldn’t feel a certain way only intensified what was already there. Instead, I taught myself two simple techniques; listen and learn. 

Taking an approach that made sense to me I likened my emotions to the little dots like those in the dot-to-dot pictures I used to like doing as a kid.  The more dots I connected, the more the picture revealed itself. 

Consequently, the more emotions I could identify and name, the better understanding I’d have of what was really going on inside of me. I knew anger was one of my more dominant feelings, but taking a closer look, I saw some of anger’s nuances. There was fear and the knowledge that I was not the blessed controller of very many things. This small amount of awareness led to more and more understanding and the picture of my emotions became clearer. But what do you do once you see the picture? 

Naming our emotions gives us the power to choose how to respond differently, to shift our thinking and to calm ourselves down. But being more aware of how we feel isn’t just about knowing ourselves better, it also makes us more savvy about the feelings of others. When a close friend is angry or disappointed, I won’t be handing them an article about how to control their emotions. Instead, I’ll validate how they feel and maybe even help them connect some of their own dots. 

So why bother naming our emotions? Naming emotions makes us smarter and smarter people make smarter decisions.  


Why Bother To Inquire?

Why Bother To Inquire?

It is easy to assume and harder to inquire. We are better at jumping to conclusions than we are at uncovering facts. We may form hasty judgments about circumstances, and take for granted we understand someone. Yet, we may also be fooling ourselves. If we don’t want to presume we know, we will need to take the time and go one layer deeper.  Only when we ask a question will we know for sure how someone is thinking. Until then, we are only guessing and have settled for assuming. 

The Danger of Assuming 

Assuming, supposing, presuming and speculating lead to wrong conclusions and wrong conclusions lead to big and little misunderstandings. For instance, my husband, who is more of an introvert than an extrovert, is not always an easy person to read. Recently, I discovered an erroneous idea I’ve always thought to be true about him, when in fact it was not. Whenever he was uninterested in holding up his end of a conversation, or when he sat alone in the living room staring out the window, I took it personally. “He is mad at me,” was my inevitable conclusion. One day, I bravely broached the topic of what I perceived to be a “bad” mood. If I was at fault about something, I wanted to know about it. But, I was not the problem. He had been suffering from pain incurred from work. Now I know; when he is in pain, he draws inward. Asking him a question or two opened the door to understanding him better. Simple, but not always easy.

Another instance of assuming occurred between myself and a coworker. The week before students return to school, teachers are always busy in the building. We unpack our classrooms and put things back on the shelves. Then we prepare for the night of the open house where teachers and parents meet and greet. The night of the open house, my coworker whose classroom is next to mine, scurried about attempting to put all the books that lined our shared hallway back into her room. When I offered to help, she gave me a firm, “no.” Going into my classroom to work, I heard two other people offer to help her. She accepted their help. I wondered what was wrong with me that she did not want my help? Unable to let it slide, I went out into the hall and privately asked her, “Why don’t you want my help?” 

“I know you are busy,” she replied. I assured her that I would not have offered it if I had not meant it. 

Assuming not only leads to misunderstandings, it also leads us to think that others think like us. My coworker may have been too busy, but I was not. Perhaps, in the future, she will accept my genuine offer. 

Finally, the best case of assumption came from a new student in my class. At the end of the day as she was walking out the door she stopped and said, “I’d heard you were a mean teacher. But you’re not mean at all. You are nice and kinda funny.”

Why bother to inquire? It is worth inquiring for yourself about someone, then you will know the real story and the real person.