Picture a scenario.
Scenario 1: It’s your first day at work (or school).
Your mind is full of questions. What will other people be like? How long before you feel comfortable and fit in? Will you say something that will make them look at you weirdly?
Scenario 2: You were supposed to go to the mall with your friend.
But she went with someone else. You’re confused and don’t know why she did that.
Scenario 3: You’re back home after spending several years abroad.
You miss the foreign country and the friends you had there. You wonder if you made the right decision. People at home seem different from how you remember them.
We feel a flood of emotions in each of these scenarios. We process so many thoughts that it is hard to articulate anything specific. We feel the emotions intensely, yet there is a cloudiness, a diffuseness, to them. We cannot pinpoint a single overarching emotion. All of us have encountered such situations and the accompanying fuzziness in our thoughts.
Being able to work through and understand our emotions at times like these can be very important. By identifying our feelings we can understand how to cope. We can communicate with those close to us. We can address the source of our feelings. We can take time to heal or reach out for help.
But how to make sense of the jumble of feelings in our head?
I would suggest that the best approach is by writing down the answers to the question of “What am I feeling?”, against the four pairs of basic emotions possessed by all human beings:
- Am I feeling Happy or Sad?
- Am I feeling Fear or Anger?
- Am I feeling Trust or Disgust?
- Am I feeling Surprise or Anticipation?
As we quiz ourselves, the answers may show that only a few emotions are relevant. For example, I may be feeling Fear and Anticipation in the first scenario, Sad and Surprise in the second scenario, and Sad and Fear in the third scenario. Just knowing the mix of feelings may be enough to give us clarity and make us feel better.
An optional next step may be to see how these basic emotions create a blended emotion. Because the basic emotions combine to create a blended emotion, we are unable to pinpoint a single emotion, and feel confused and fuzzy.
- Scenario 1: Fear + Anticipation = Anxiety
- Scenario 2: Sad + Surprise = Disappointment
- Scenario 3: Sad + Fear = Guilt
Through this exercise and with this knowledge we can not only understand ourselves better, but can also figure out what actions to take in order to feel differently.