We all know that emotions are not always easy to pin down. Somehow they seem a little slippery and, darn them, always changing. It is a big enough challenge sometimes just to name the emotion we are feeling exactly. To make things even more interesting we not only have emotions but we also have emotions about those emotions.
We may feel embarrassed of our passion or irritated with our anger, we may like that we are in love or hate that we are sad. While there are maybe 250 or 300 emotions proper having emotions about those means that there are thousands and thousands of possible combinations. You could say that makes the area of emotions complex or you might say it makes it rich. Your choice would depend on the emotion it provokes. For me it is fascinating and reminds me of nesting dolls…one inside another, inside another.
The fact that emotions work this way could just be seen as mildly amusing but it is an essential concept to understand when coaching in the area of emotions. If a coachee is ashamed of their anger they will do what we do whenever we are ashamed of something, he or she will hide the fact that they are angry or avoid talking about it. It takes some keen observation of the things their body is communicating – slight hesitations, looking down and away, exhaling deeply – to understand that they are feeling shame and that the shame is about their anger. And we may not be sure at first what they are hiding but it can make us curious and give us a path to follow.
This phenomenon doesn’t just happen with challenging emotions such as fear, shame and anger but also with those emotions we consider positive. We can love that we are in love and that has the possibility of leading us astray. So, problems can emerge from any emotions and getting to the core emotions needs to be the goal of our coaching.
As you sit and reflect on this idea begin to notice your own experience. Recall an emotion that was triggered yesterday and think about whether you allowed yourself to be with the emotion or did another emotion kick in and take you away from the first? When we cannot experience the emotion that is triggered by an event we cannot reflect on it, learn from it or resolve it. Peeling this back allows us to see the emotions we are comfortable with and those we tend to avoid. So, enjoy your curiosity and celebrate your insights. You are building awareness and building your emotional literacy.
If you’d like more practice with emotions and to deepen your understanding of them, please join one of the workshops coming in April. Registrations are now open for the Emotions and Coaching workshops in New Mexico (April 3 to 8) and France (April 19 to 22).