The Power of Naming Emotions

It can feel so utterly mysterious sometimes, the way feelings creep up.  Reminds me of the comically absurd shock I still feel some months when I finally realize I’m on the hormonal rollercoaster leading up to my period.  As if I haven’t experienced this completely predictable monthly phenomenon for the past 30 years.

What Does it Mean to Name Emotions?

In session with clients I often hear, “I swear it came out of nowhere.  All the sudden my heart was pounding and anxiety hit me like a wall”, or “I was just so damn angry, that’s it, nothing else.”  Again, the mystery that can surround our feeling states and cloud our ability to manage them.  If we could retire altogether the notion that there’s any mystery whatsoever to our feelings and begin to recognize their patterns and triggers, then naming them gets easier and more fluent.  And by naming our emotions, we begin to manage them.  To understand them.  To offer them a bit of grace and room to maneuver.  It seems such a basic act to figure out and name what we’re feeling, but the power in this is, slowly but surely, life-changing.  

Why is it Important to Name Emotions?

It’s never just anger.  It’s never just anxiety.  There’s always an undulating reason or trigger, even if our conscious brains haven’t yet connected the dots.  I often ask clients to reach for their magnifying glass and closely examine the prior 24 hours leading up to an “episode”.  Nearly every time I’ve engaged in this exercise over the past 17 years, my clients have been able to gradually figure out what began the trigger.  Often it’s subtle and brushed off in the moment, or wasn’t addressed properly when it happened, but once these subtleties are identified, a greater sense of agency or choice begins to emerge.  The choice, when you feel your heart pounding in that particular way, to take deep breaths and stop to consider what just happened and how it made you feel.  The choice, when your thoughts start roiling a million miles an hour and you want to scream at someone, to find your pause button and figure out what's really going on.  This begins to break the cycle of being held hostage by your reactions.  

How does it feel for you to name your emotions? If you have any questions or would like to learn more about my course, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you!




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