When I was a child my father taught me that leprechauns hide their pots of gold at the end of a rainbow. I don’t know how many leprechauns there are in Australia, but I’m not taking any chances: when I see a rainbow I estimate its coordinates and go looking.
I don’t intend to steal the gold, just borrow it for a little while.
Here’s a thought: a rainbow has two ends, so instead of looking for one pot of gold, I look for two!
It’s the same for emotions. Remember Key 1, where we learnt to label our emotion’? Now, when we feel one emotion, there is usually another one lurking about. It’s crucial to label it, too. For example, we can ask ourselves: ‘As well as feeling angry, am I also fearful or ashamed?’
We often feel a mixture of emotions, some contradictory. Be aware of them all. Develop the habit of looking for more than one emotion, and labelling them all. Each one is a ‘pot of gold’, waiting to be discovered.
Importantly, if you feel only the slightest trace of an emotion – if it’s just one percent of what you are feeling – acknowledge it, out loud or to yourself. For example,
‘Along with my jealousy I’m feeling just a smidgeon of contempt.’
‘I can feel a trace of envy as well. Just a trace.’
‘Yes, I certainly feel pleased for her. But is that a touch of resentment I feel as well?’
It’s important for us to be aware of those one-percenters, because they can reveal the most. They’re the ones that are hiding, so they’re the ones that can lead to greater self-knowledge.
Step 1. What emotion are you feeling right now? Frustration? Impatience? Curiosity?
Remember, find the right word. Be specific. Don’t use the words above unless they truly fit. Find your own words to describe what you feel right now.
Step 2. Search for other emotions. Is there apprehension? Hope? Distrust? Pessimism? Optimism?
Step 3. Congratulate yourself on discovering the enormous range of emotions you can experience by just doing something as simple as reading a book. How complex are the emotions people can feel!
To practise searching for your emotions, do this exercise regularly: mute the television advertisements and search for the various emotions you are feeling. It only takes a minute or two.
After a while, you’ll be adept at identifying what you’re feeling, and feel comfortable feeling those feelings. That’s a big step towards emotional resilience!