There is a book about our emotional world called “Permission to Feel,” it uses RULER (Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate) to teach people how to cope with emotions in a healthy way. Long before I read that I was looking for a way to increase my EQ, which I was pretty detached from in a repressive, PTSD-ish kind of way.
Recognizing my feelings was almost impossible for me, even still after a few years of practice it takes me the longest to express how I feel in my family. I encourage my daughter to look for her feelings and save a “captain’s log” Google Keep note with how she felt that day, sometimes my sister or husband join in. I seem to always need the longest, but it’s gotten easier over time. I started in a place where weeks would go by and I couldn’t notice anything expect apathy, my emotions would surface in my dreams and I would analyze my dreams to know how I felt rather than to learn what they were guiding me towards.
It was at first hard to know how I felt in the moment, than after a long time I knew in a given moment, but to decide what the dominant feeling of the day seemed impossible. It was hard to see the forest for the trees… but over time that got easier. It helped knowing it was okay if I made a mistake, no one was grading me, no one really cared (in a good way though). It felt silly and it was hard to justify to myself why I was taking the little time I had after work, cleaning ext to capture a little slice of each day.
But it gave me a sense that I owned at least a small sliver of my day, every day, even on work days.
I noticed I was getting better and that made me feel good about myself, a tiny bit, but sometimes a tiny bit helps a lot.
Sometimes I went a long time without making time for it, or I lost my phone or my computer broke ext.
I use Bitmoji, it’s a free app, you sent it up on a cell phone with the Google Play App, then it’s able to be used on a computer with Google Chrome as an extension.
This is the first year I haven’t missed a day so far… which is kind of cool, a small amount of consistency.
When I pick my meta feeling for the day that’s Recognizing how I feel and Expressing it, somewhere along the line I also validate myself that it was fine to feel however I felt, but I haven’t been Labeling or Understanding on an average day, a few days ago I decided to try to work on that also.
So working labeling for this week, starting with the basic 4 from Yale’s Mood Meter App:
Sad, Calm, Happy, Mad…
Sun: Calm 💚 Mon: Calm 💚 Tue: Sad 💙 Wed: Mad ❤️ Thr: Happy 💛 Fri: Happy 💛 Sat: Happy 💛
Expressing the feelings with finer detail is supposed to increase a skill called “granularity” that is supposed to help improve self awareness and also EQ. So looking deeper…
Sun: Thoughtful Mon: Tranquil Tue: Uneasy* Wed: Frustrated Thr: Balanced* Fri: Inspired Sat: Hopeful
I had thought I was sad Tuesday, but the scale says mad, which makes sense since I was pretty high energy. I had thought I was happy Thursday, but the scale says calm, which seems like it could be right.
I haven’t often used this scale, but it’s the one my daughter uses so I feel like it’s good to know some of the same vocabulary to help us be on the same page.
I kind of know how I feel, but on most of these days if I had to say how I felt in 3 seconds, I wouldn’t be able to say correctly… my labeling skills haven’t caught up with my recognition yet. I’m surprised at how much the lag between them is.
I think only on Monday would I have been able to say Tranquil, the rain was really soothing that day and I felt really deeply tranquil, which was nice after many stressful days lately.
My quote of 2021 is:
“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”– Seneca
That was happening to me Tuesday, it’s also called “metanoia” in Greek, a journey of the mind, soul and heart turning away from darkness. In a game I didn’t play, but my daughter did, Paper Mario (the Origami version) the princess has become an origami, she asks “Will you crease yourself and be reborn, like me?” Despite what you answer she puts you in prison, it’s a bit scary for a Mario game.
The stoic quote of this week was:
“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”– Seneca
So immediately I thought of meditation (which I don’t really enjoy), but I read a great article, by Neriman K from Reading Under the Olive Tree about creative introspection specifically from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give up all that.
You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.
There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all-ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.– A letter from Rainer Maria Rilke to a friend.
Meditation can be so many things, sometimes I use ACT meditation or mindfulness meditation, but it seems to take the time and energy I would have much much rather used to have a tea, or play cello, or look out at the rain without in a casual way. Often I find it more draining or frustrating to do meditation than to do something else that is more joyful or more of a flow activity for me. I also don’t like yoga… but I can sit with myself with writing or doodling or music or questioning my mind in a way that I have never equated with meditation… Meditation is at the moment muddy puddle for me with a lot of different kinds of things going on, why I have always preferred something quite clear and simple.
For me questioning, is not meditation, questioning is a very energetic and active process and meditation is more subtle and calm.
I think we all want to live with balance, and I’m already usually fairly calm, but almost too much, almost stagnant, such that questioning brings me in touch with myself and lets me sort out my cognitive dissonance with a certain vigor and excitement that brings me towards a lively normal that I’m usually out of sync with…
Meditation may be what some people need to slow down, but sometimes I need questioning to speed up.
I re-evaluated my values for the year using Russ Harris worksheets, but I decided to work on all 83 pages instead of just the 2 pages of values I usually work with (23 and 24). One thing I found interesting that I had never noticed is that both Chinese and Japanese values are not there in a list of 58 values. How different Western and Eastern values are for the Eastern values to not even rank 58th… also the Latin value of Family is not there as a value, but as a section of life.
I still find it is a good system to work with, but the traditional African values that match well with Hawaiian values as well as Asian or Latin values have to be added by the individual as needed.
My top 7 for this year are:
Harmony Self Awareness Gratitude Humor Persistence Sincerity Joy
I was very proud of my daughter, she struggles with some things, but one thing she doesn’t struggle with is knowing her own mind and opinion, she ranked what was not important, quite important, very important and of the top importance very quickly and accurately and when something had changed she told me why and it made sense to me.
Her values for this year are:
Creativity Honesty Love Respect Fun Patience Assertiveness
Two were the same as last year, fun and assertiveness, but many are different. One interesting thing is that she had been lied to and now she values honesty, so that in bad experiences, wisdom develops… I had always been honest with her and she lied to me and didn’t think it mattered, but when she was hurt by dishonesty, honesty became important to her for the first time.
Perhaps values are like college classes, you can only study a few at a time and really learn well.
I can understand some of what drives her choices, being loved and loving is a major focus behind the scenes until a certain security forms and it takes a back seat without being absent. She is just beginning to have a lot of control over her hands (she is 5) with a brush and a computer so creativity is ever more interesting, because it’s less frustrating, honesty and respect and patience are good values that for her grew from bad experiences in 2020. Assertiveness is interesting because she both values it and also struggles with it, she told me so, and I also see it… she yells for something rather than say please, doesn’t get it and then is frustrated by the whole situation.
It’s harder for me to see myself from the outside in, but a lot of this year is based on the feeling of struggling too hard last year, the gratitude, humor, persistence and joy help me make it through tough moments of parenting through parental burn out, self awareness is hopefully going to let me take enough breaks to climb out of burn out and harmony is both what I need now, but also feels like a deep value that I want to learn more about anyways.
Sun: I was thoughtful because I was able to resume my “stoic meditation” (which doesn’t feel like meditation, it feels like a quandary) of reviewing the quote of the week.
Mon: I was tranquil because I was deeply at one with the rain and nature in a way that pluviophiles would understand.
Tue: I was uneasy because I recognized that I kept participating in little habits that made my life horrible for me that I was in charge of and yet repeating and I wanted to somehow make a new life.
Wed: I was frustrated because even though I wanted to make good habits my brain was quite fuzzy and it wasn’t working well.
Thr: I felt really good and balanced not because I fixed my problems, but because I accepted that I couldn’t make life not how it was in the moment nor could I have what I wanted that I didn’t have.
Fri: I felt inspired because I did 30 pages of self work from Russ Harris’ worksheets, something I didn’t think I would have been able to do and many of the ideas about trying new solutions and expansion rather than avoiding negative feelings seemed like it could change some of the issues that led to my burnout as a parent.
Sat: I feel hopeful (it’s today) because I am writing my first article about this years values, something that almost always feels good. I guess it’s not the most sexy, but I really find values enjoyable. They do get stale when they aren’t the ones that resonate with me in the moment, but when they match me where I am in life, they energize me and what I’m doing with them, writing or drawing ext, becomes a passion project.
I’ve been going through a lot of negativity lately, not sure if it comes through or not in writing, but at least every other day I’ve been going through hating the kids when they yell, or feeling guilty about something or angry about something that usually wouldn’t get me angry. But I think it’s because I feel better, that some of the things I was afraid to feel before, when I was already overwhelmed are venting.
It’s supposed to be my lucky year this year coming up (Feb 12th), sometimes I mark people based on their Chinese Zodiac animal, Marcus Aurelius was a rooster, Seneca a snake, Epictetus a dog and I am a cow. I know people are all different, but I always found the animal zodiac fun, and even had my two kids based on their zodiacs, I had a sheep and a pig to try to promote harmony between them (and they do get along amazingly).
So, I’ll conclude the first of the “Self Awareness Saturdays” Series, but what I will say is that it’s a decent mental exercise to go through the day and at least once try to know how you feel (whether it’s bitter or frustrated or tired or happy ext) because it’s not only going to help you live a more balanced life, but it’s something that helps you notice when your loved ones are repressing their emotions or when they could really use a helping hand, or you could teach someone who doesn’t know where to start (by example), mindsight and EQ start with you, but they don’t end there, it’s a small way towards a better world.