- On June 20, 2016
Here’s looking at you, Kid!
You remember that line…the famous Humphrey Bogart send-off from the movie, Casablanca?
What if we could each have a Bogey, giving us a ‘here’s looking at you’ heads up that something is about to bubble up for us?
When a bad feeling does bubbles up—stress, anxiety, fear, anger, denial—and we don’t see it coming, we often react on auto-pilot, sometimes with disastrous results.
And if we don’t name the emotion specifically—if we just categorize that unpleasant feeling into a generality of “I feel bad today”– it places us in a passive victim role instead of being able to with constructive action. Naming the specific feeling is called emotional granularity.
To increase your proficiency in emotional granularity you can practice by examining and naming the emotion you are feeling. A good place to start is with Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions.
For ease, here is a vocabulary of emotions you can refer to. One way to practice is to set a timer for every hour, look at the chart, and name the emotional state you are in right then.
To see how this works, what did you feel when you heard about the tragic mass shooting in at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on June 12th?
Without emotional granularity, you may just characterize it as” feeling bad.” That “bad” could be:
… Sorrow for the victims and their families.
… Fear that something like that could happen where you live.
… Dismay that another senseless tragedy occurred.
… Anger that there is not enough support to pass laws banning assault weapons.
Not much you can do with “feeling bad” except let the Cortisol generated by the reaction course through your body.
[Cortisol is generated when there is a perceived threat—“feeling bad” in response to news like this is perceived by your brain as a threat to your self-preservation. Cortisol is designed to help us respond quickly to danger; it pushes energy to our extremities so we can take immediate action. However, it is also highly toxic to us if it just stays around as a result of “feeling bad.”]
But…if you looked at yourself as an observer—as a Bogey on your shoulder– and named the emotion…well then you’d have something specific to take action on. You could do something constructive about it and bring yourself some relief.
If it’s sorrow, you could pray.
If it’s fear, you could refresh yourself on skills for situational awareness and response.
If it’s dismay, you could join a memorial service.
If it’s anger, you can write to your Congress rep.
How would you show up differently if you had a Bogey on your shoulder?
Photo Credit: © Mikhail Zahranichny | Dreamstime.com 38646069