In many cultures – and certainly in the British culture – we love to talk about the weather. It comes up naturally and is often a fall back for conversation when passing a neighbour in the street.
We are great at observing the weather. We dress differently according to how we perceive the weather to be. We freely discuss it.
We are sometimes not so great at observing our emotions. We may seek to hide how we are feeling from others. We fail to share.
We can be intentional about observing our emotions, taking time to identify our dominant emotion i.e. how are we feeling? Happy? Sad? Annoyed? Angry? Calm? Peaceful? Disappointed? Hopeful?
Sometimes it is helpful to express our dominant emotion. When our dominant emotion is very strong we can hardly not express it! When we are really happy – or really angry – it bursts out! Even strangers will probably enjoy sharing in our happiness but our anger might be less welcome. Whether it’s a welcome or difficult emotion, going through the process of observing it and labelling it helps us to be appropriate in our next steps.
Identifying our emotion is key to understanding it. If I identify I feel annoyed, I can then reflect on why I am annoyed. As I do this, I may be tempted to blame someone else for my emotion. But the way I feel is actually determined by how I think about the situation, not necessarily someone else’s action.
Here’s an example:
Activating event: someone pushes into a queue I am in.
Belief: I believe joining the end of the queue is the right thing to do.
Consequence: I feel annoyed.
So I identify my annoyance. I recognise it is because someone ‘pushed’ into the queue (it’s a strong emotion – someone pushed in!).
Armed with this information, I can question my belief, perhaps crediting the person with a reason for their urgency that I might not be aware of. Or I can challenge the person, pointing out politely where to join the queue. Or I can smile at my belief, recognising that others may not share that belief and – after all – the difference in time to me at that moment is inconsequential. There is no ‘right’ in this situation – all of these choices are open to me and all of them reduce my annoyance. Identifying my emotion gives me choices on the outworking of that emotion.
Life throws up far more complex situations and emotions than a queue jumper and the resulting annoyance. Let’s observe them. Let’s label them. Let’s be open to sharing them. Let’s understand our own beliefs in the situation. Let’s open ourselves up to having choices.
And if it makes you more comfortable, you can even use metaphors relating to the weather to identify your emotions. It’s a cultural thing I know!
This is Mindful Monday on 10 August 2020.