“If we can name it we can tame it,” says Marc Brackett, Research psychologist and Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, in his inspiring book, Permission to Feel.
By giving words to our feelings, we start to possess their power. And yet, while there are over 200 words related to emotions in the English language, we only use about 7 of these on a regular basis to describe our inside selves. This meagre diet of emotional vocabulary is woefully inadequate to express, and therefore process our thoughts, worries and fears.
Labelling our emotions is an essential part of moving them from our emotional brain to our intellectual brain. When they are confined to our emotional brain, our feelings can be intimidating. Scary. Overwhelming. Beyond our reach. We know we feel rubbish but can’t articulate why, to ourselves or to anyone else. This isolates us from support because we don’t have the words to reach out. We may not even have the words to understand we need to reach out.
We have a responsibility, to ourselves and to our children, to label feelings accurately, to develop our emotional language in order to protect ourselves from this emotional bottleneck.
Words are there, and they are ours to use; to be curious, to explore, to investigate, to express exactly how we are feeling. Only then can we release, connect and write our own stories.