How do you feel today?

A while ago, on a bit of a whim, I Kickstarted a little mobile game project called Kinder World. In it, you have a cute little houseplant, and every so often, you need to water it. In order to do so, you may (optionally) perform a little wellness-related task: practicing a little gratitude meditation based on a prompt, for instance.

I’ve been participating in the alpha in this case; not something I normally do, but as I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from myself of late, and it’s…actually pretty helpful to receive a little reminder a couple of times today to take a minute, already.

My favorite of the activities implemented so far has been “emotional naming.” This is exactly what it says on the tin – you take a few minutes to consider and name what you are feeling. Exactly what you are feeling, that is, not just the general feeling-family; you want to try and be as precise as you can.

It sounds very simple, right? I’ve actually been finding it quite challenging on some days, though, especially with the pandemic’s tendency to render all experience into a poorly-differentiated sludge.

Synchronicity being what it is, one of the podcasts I follow has recently started a special mini-season on emotions and the naming and management thereof. Here are the first two episodes for the curious: “How to Identify Your Negative Emotions” and “Emotions are Data…So Listen to Them.”

That first one features Brene Brown, of the famous TED talk(s) on shame and vulnerability. Apparently her most recent book is a discussion of 87 (!) different emotional states, and if the discussion of these in the book is anything like the discussion on the podcast I think I may need to go read it.

For example, the idea that resentment is a function of envy. Perhaps that’s obvious to everyone, I don’t know, but to me the idea is worth taking a pause to consider. Those days when I am tired and strung out and the resentment is high? If I consider resentment as a variety of envy, what does that mean I am envious of? What do I want that someone else has, or seems to have?

The closeness of anxiety and excitement seems to make sense, as does the idea that in at least some cases it might be possible to re-frame the former as the latter (the example given in the show of a job interview is a good one). I’m a bit less sure about how or where I might be able to apply that in my own life, given that when I have anxiety it frequently arrives out of all proportion to…well, anything in reality really. Bit hard to work out how to turn that into excitement about something.

I think I’d like to learn more about this – how feelings work and what cues we might be able to take from them. (Clearly I am not the only one – I went to place a hold on Brene’s new book Atlas of the Heart and am currently 740th in line. Hazards of a big public library system, I suppose.)

The bigger challenge here will be avoiding turning this curiosity into yet another element of work, something for the to do list. Something else my inner critic can use as a weapon to attack me with when it thinks I need to be taken down a peg or six.

I guess we’ll see how that goes.

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