Connecting with Emotions: Feelings List
Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
To experience the moment we become increasingly comfortable with feelings and emotions. In many cultures, people deny their feelings. At home and at work, people are taught to consider feelings a sign of weakness or neurosis. As a result, many people keep their emotions under control and even claim, “I’m not feeling anything,” but the only time people aren’t feeling something is when they are dead. Even if all they can feel is numb, frozen or still, they always feel something. Helping people connect to their feelings, just sitting with how they feel, without trying to change it, leads them to a radically different awareness of their internal state. As we give them the space to understand their feelings, they shift, which leads to deeper understanding and awareness.
In culturally inexpressive cultures, taboos place many feelings off limits and consequently, many people have no idea what they are feeling. Early in the coaching relationship, some people appreciate having a list of feelings handy to reconnect with what is really going on internally.
In culturally expressive cultures, people who don’t express their emotions are considered flat or inauthentic.
When people judge their emotions as good, bad or terrible, they color their experience, which changes it. If we remove the ball and chain and sit patiently, allowing them to have their internal reactions, we find at the core of every emotion a pure wave of energy that is free of moralistic judgment. By trusting that emotions know what they need to heal, we honor their inner wisdom.
Opening to the delicate mystery of emotions generates a sweet acceptance both within and outside the self.
Even when we have a thorough understanding of the beauty of each emotion, we can find ourselves struggling to accept a particular emotion. For instance, a low threshold for anger or boredom could prevent us from recognizing a gift—a profound message for the soul. Instead of steering away from anger or admonishing boredom we can support people to embrace the fullest expression of themselves. When they shun a part of themselves, those emotions continue to torment them. Reclaiming lost parts is the crux of self-healing and emotions are the entry point. Instead of seeing emotions as an Achilles heel, we can open to their life force and honor their profound importance.
When we help people face and embrace their emotions, the vice-like grip loosens and they can experience life more fully and freely.
Sometimes people avoid emotions by telling stories. Or they may talk about the feelings without experiencing the feelings in the now. We can bring them back to the moment by asking, “What happens when you embrace the energy of that feeling?” When we support people to fully trust their life force energy, just as it is, their emotions are no longer stuck because the energy of self-love frees them up to move.
The six core emotions that are evident across cultures are happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, anger and fear, according to researchers Ekman and Friesen.4 A more extensive list allows clients to identify the nuances of their feelings.
1 Ekman, P. & Friesen, W. V. (1975). Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions From Facial Clues. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
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