Recognising Emotions: Are you Acting or Reacting?
For many of us, emotional awareness falls into a grey area. We are somewhat aware that its important, but unsure how to get there. Or we feel emotionally vigilant, till some feelings come and blindside us completely. Maybe there is a particularly vulnerable place that we tend to avoid. Or an impulsive habit that takes over whenever we are under a stressful situation. Without emotional awareness, we either avoid these feelings or get too drawn into them. The result is inevitably a feeling of imbalance – feeling out of your element, or on shaky ground, or utterly overwhelmed.
So, let us bring emotions out of this grey and add a pop of colour into them. If you visualise your feelings as colours, you will begin to see how varied they are. In my workshops, with both adults and children, I ask participants to name their emotions. And more often than not, there are three feelings that come up – anger, sadness, happiness. These are the three most prominent and easily recognizable emotions in us all. And they are also the reason we tend to misunderstand our other emotions. We are so used to recognising ourselves as being angry, sad or happy (a habit inculcated in us as kids), that we tend to overshadow subtler emotions in the process.
Going beyond Angry, Sad, Happy
In theatre, we believe there are nine key emotions in us all – anger, sadness, love, disgust, peace, shock, fear, courage and happiness. We call these the “navras” and they form the essence of all other emotional states. Understanding these nine states is in itself a powerful step towards emotional awareness. We can have hundreds of emotions, each one distinct from the other. But without emotional awareness, we tend to mix these up and hence, not fully recognise what we are going through. With the “navras”, one begins to notice the subtleties of feelings and how they change. This can help you:
• Build better relationships by responding to others with more equanimity and empathy
• Avoid default judgments by recognising our own biases
• Avoid unnecessary friction by taking a pause before acting
• Build emotional resilience so that other people and situations affect us less
• Build better health by handling negative emotions that otherwise show up as physical distress
Emotional Awareness at Work
At work, this emotional awareness can come very handy. Let’s say, you are working with a colleague on a project. But every time you meet the said person, you come out feeling angry and frustrated. When a situation brings up a negative emotion, we often tend to find something outside to blame. So you begin to blame your colleague. Your brain, for lack of awareness of its own state, finds reasons to criticise the other person. Their habits begin to annoy you; their personality brings out the worst in you. In the process, you are the one overwhelmed with negativity, while the other person comes and goes, unscathed.
The only difference between the two of you in this situation is your colleague’s ability to stay unaffected by your moods and behaviour. Often this attitude comes out of ignorance, but if inculcated the right way, it grows out of awareness and emotional resilience. If you were able to recognise at some point how your colleague affects your emotional state, you could step away from the situation and assess what’s going on. Maybe they stir insecurity within you. Maybe something they do reminds you of someone else who treated you badly. Maybe you just find a habit annoying and prefer not to deal with it.
It’s helpful in these situations to recognise your negative emotions, and not bury them. Feelings – both good and bad are a natural process. But in a highly competitive work environment, they are constantly judged, ridiculed and avoided! Conscious leaders are those who are not afraid to confront their own feelings and respond to them in a way that aligns with their values and beliefs.
The subtler shades of emotions and why we are feeling them can help us identify our emotional worries and habits. So instead of getting drawn into the anger or frustration, you begin to see the core cause of it and work on tackling it. You change the situation or your equation or your perception. You talk to the person, or focus on something different or simply decide to let go. There is no one solution. But with emotional awareness, the right comes to you. And YOU become in charge of the situation, not your wayward feelings.
By- Anshu Daga, Founder, The Inner Startup