February is Feelings Month! And, I officially give each and every one of you full permission to feel….or rather Dr. Marc Brackett does, in his very well done book, Permission to Feel: The Power of Emotional Intelligence to Achieve Well-Being and Success. Dr. Brackett has learned from his own personal trauma and 25 years of professional experience that feeling is what makes us essentially human. He states, “To stop feeling would be like to stop breathing. Or breathing. Impossible.” Yet, we TRY! We try not to feel! Many of us try mightily to rid our lives of painful feelings on a regular basis through avoidance, by drinking or consuming substances, with silence and much more.
When it comes to the yummy, good feelings in life like love, joy, and excitement, we say “Bring it on.” We open up and want to feel more (usually…unless something has disrupted that process). Yet, when we have painful feelings, we tend to shut down, close up, and strive to feel less. These reactions are natural in a way. When we are burned on the hand, we pull our arm away from the danger to tend to it and to protect it from further harm. When we feel the sun on our bodies, we stretch our faces or arms up to the sky to feel the goodness and the warmth.
So what are humans to do with feelings–are we meant to feel or not to feel? And to make it even harder, Brene Brown describes 87 different emotions in her new book, Atlas of the Heart.: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of the Human Experience. 8-7, baby! In this gloriously illustrated book, she summarizes her research and writes about the theory of connection; she also provides us with both simple and nuanced definitions of each of these 87 feelings. I think Brene would say that we MUST FEEL to grow. Dr. Brackett purports that feeling is as important as breathing. And thankfully, he offers us some guidelines for how we can feel our feelings more fully and little by little.
Dr. Brackett even gives us a method for feeling each of our feelings. He names it RULER!
R is for Recognizing the occurrence of an emotion.
U is for Understanding (the cause and influence) of an emotion.
L is for Labeling (the emotion and connecting it to an experience).
E is for Expressing (an emotion well within context–who, what, when, where, how).
R is for Regulating (the emotion well to reach our intended goals).
This method is basic emotion coaching, which many other scientists support wholeheartedly. Sounds simple, right? Yet, it is surprisingly steady and challenging work. It’s basically like doing therapy on yourself 24-7 and not getting paid for it.
So why do it? Well, Dr Brackett asserts that emotions provide key information in our world and are pivotal in helping us get through life. Expressed emotions flag others of our need for connection and understanding. Well processed emotions enhance our attention, memory and learning skills. Emotions that are understood well, aid good decision making. Emotions that flow amplify creativity, innovation, and result in better health. There you go!
So go ahead, become an “Emotion Scientist,” as Dr. Brackett suggests. Study your emotions as they emerge to improve your life~