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Emotional Vocabulary

A pathway to greater control of your emotional state

· Self Development,Psychology

There is a lot of discussion within the corporate world about Emotional Intelligence (EQ). A skill that encompasses, self-awareness, self-management, relationship awareness, and relationship management. To further explain, the idea encompasses the need for an awareness of the emotions that arise within one's self (self-awareness), such that we can regulate, or transfer the energy from one emotion to another based on our behaviour or interaction with the world (self-management). Then often through the development of self-awareness, being able to understand or perceive the emotions that are occurring within another (relationship awareness), whether based on your interaction, or observation of their interactions with the environment or others. This then allows for a holistic interaction with other people (relationship management), taking their feelings into consideration when engaging or maintaining a particular relationship. Relationship management, combines self-awareness and self-management, along with relationship awareness into a conversation or interaction that caters for the nuance necessary for that particular relationship. How you interact with your grand-mother, parent, friends, children, boss or CEO, should have nuance based on what the circumstance requires, and how that particular person is feeling at a given moment.

Emotional Intelligence is a difficult skill to master. However unlike Fluid Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) with practice can be improved. We don't all exhibit high levels of emotional intelligence. So where would you begin if you wanted to improve self-regulation of emotions, and thus develop the capabilities and awareness needed for relationship management?

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I believe an important part of the journey starts with Emotional Knowledge or your Emotional Vocabulary. Simply put, the knowledge of your emotions. On the spectrum of Anger for example, how large is your emotional vocabulary? Are words such as Irritation, Displeasure, Frustration, Annoyance, Anger, Outrage, Fury, Rage, or Wrath associated with particular situations and there emotional responses? Or, as I have observed, that the emotional response of Anger can often be focused through two words, Wrath and Anger. That regardless of the situation the same emotion arises. If someone says something you don't agree with (a mild frustration), it sparks the same emotional response as if someone had tortured your loved ones.

When someone cuts you off as you're driving, the situation often only calls for an emotion closer to frustration for having been inconvenienced, but by using the word Road Rage, we often assign that feeling of inconvenience with the emotion of Fury. As if the person in the other car, was intentionally trying to harm you and your family. More often than not, the emotion arises as an injustice that they have committed towards you. However, when we commit the same action ourselves, and cut someone off, or merge when it is inconvenient for another, note whether you feel a sense of greed, or a deep desire to be in front of that particular person, or whether you're simply trying to get somewhere as soon as possible. Recognising the emotion tied to our own behaviour, allows us to empathise with the potential emotions that arise within others given the same action or circumstance.

We teach children how to lable emotions, but often forget that it is a practiced skill.

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The reason emotional knowledge is important, is that we spend our entire day existing in one emotion or another. We bounce between them depending on the situation. We might feel lazy, and do nothing for an hour or two, then begin to feel guilt, which creates an awareness of the tasks we were meant to do. If we decide to continue down that path, our laziness might turn into Sloth, and the guilt might develop into Shame. This shame being a feeling we want to avoid, might turn into gluttony, where we begin to overindulge in food or wine, as a form of escapism. Then when someone tells us we're being lazy, the shame they arise within us turns into rage, and the guilt the other has made us feel, we want to reciprocate onto them, so we use the mixture of rage and guilt to bring up actions the other person should be shameful of, which continues the cycle of negative emotions.

Where life is not simply existing within these negative emotions, although depression and anxiety tend to exacerbate the length of time each day one spends in these negative emotions. We do have the ability to bounce between positive emotions as well. You may see someone creating something, or working on themselves, which inspires an ambition to create something of your own. When you begin the process of creating something it begins with an intense focus which, which may develop into a state of flow. After an hour or more in that state you look back at what you've done and feel pride in your work, this pride turns into confidence, the confidence of knowing you've created something brings a feeling of elation, of happiness. Knowing you've put in hard work into creating something, you feel an inner sense of calm, you can relax, without the sense of guilt. As with the previous example, if someone tells you you're being lazy, the knowledge of the work you've put in, and the feeling of calm or well-deserved rest, doesn't invoke the same mixture of rage and guilt, and allows you to just smile, without justification, nor revenge.

Emotional knowledge is important, not just because we want to understand the extremes that our emotional range can vary across the day. But we also want to know what emotional state we would rather be in. The emotions that would be considered, Positive, such as Love, Equanimous, Purpose, Ecstasy, Flow, Wonder, Joy, Hope. I believe arise when we're in a space that we elicit greater control over our lives, where we are more selfless with our time and energy, where we are less attached to our belongings and images, a space where we take greater responsibility for ourselves and for others.


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When we display the opposite actions, when we have less control over our actions or our lives, when we display selfish desires, or are more attached to our image or belongings, or avoid responsibility. It is these actions or states that begin the cycle of negative emotion. If you hold a strong attachment to your car, if someone dints the car, it will elicit a strong negative emotion, which begins a cycle. If you take no responsibility for your actions, it is easier to slip into the darkest of the emotions. If you take no responsibility for your consumption, you may fall deeper into a state of gluttony. If you take no responsibility for your sexual desire, you may fall into a Lustful state, if you take no responsibility for your day to day duties, you may be overcome by Sloth, if you take no responsibility or display no control in your actions, instead focus on other people's stories it will elicit feelings of Envy.

Emotional Knowledge helps with self-awareness, and relationship awareness, it helps to give a greater understanding of the feelings and the spectrum within each feeling you're able to identify. Being aware of the drivers behind your actions is what allows you greater control over the type of emotions you spend you day in. Whether you:

  1. Identify having less control, or greater control over a situation
  2. Choose to act selflessly, or selfishly
  3. Reflect on the reason for attachment to certain things, and people, and understand that our   attachment is often a hierarchy, some things mean more to us than others. Or,
  4. Take more responsibility for your actions, words and behaviours.

Choosing to change the above, is where Self-Management and Relationship Management emerge.

Perhaps an exercise for those who have gotten this far, if you could choose which emotions you were going to exist in for one whole day, what would the breakdown of the emotional day be?

How could you then create the perfect day? Eliciting greater responsibility, more control, being more selfless and less attached.

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