I’ve talked about how out of touch with my emotions I was here many times. One of the things that helped me changes this tremendously was a very simple exercise: I simply started to name my emotions. In this episode, I share how I’ve benefitted from naming my feelings.
[00:00:00] Right around the time when I started the emotions diary, right where I started writing down my feelings where for the first two or three weeks, I.
Did not know what my feelings were most of the time. I think around that time I had read in a psychology book that being able to name your feelings can drastically reduce the impact of net negative feelings.
So I remember reading that and it did make an impression on me. I thought, Ooh, I wonder if I can try this.
And see if it works. But then first I had to jumped through the hoops of trying to even understand what I’m feeling, right. To name it. You have to be able to feel it. And for a long time last year, I was just looking dumbfounded into the abyss and going, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m feeling right now.
Not exactly sure. but this like tagging or naming. Exercise I think is it’s the simple things in life that can be incredibly powerful. And I think [00:01:00] this is insanely powerful, right? I want to bring up two situations where this, has helped with change things in why I thought about this again today one, my youngest son, Leo is the, kind of the more sensitive of my two children.
And he has an incredibly big heart and he’s very empathetic and he’s very considerate and he’s just feeling what everybody’s feeling and paying attention to the mood in the room and is affected by and concerned about everybody else’s wellbeing and kind of emotional state. And one thing that, that Leo does.
That is challenging at times, is that when he feels hurt, right. When he feels some negative emotion, you can tell that is that it is incredibly overwhelming for him. And as a response, he shuts down completely. Right? So oftentimes he can’t [00:02:00] hold it back here. It hasn’t become. Trained enough because he’s not an adult to suppress it in a way where he just goes cold and you wouldn’t really notice.
He cries, like his eyes tear up and his face is visibly upset, but he doesn’t speak anymore. And then when you try to approach him and when we used to try to approach him and go, Leo, what is going on? Why are you upset? Tell us what do you have? He would just shake his little head, his. As you know, you mangas eyes.
Right. And so think about like a little cute face, these ginormous eyes full of tears. And he’s just shaking his head. Like he’s just like, I, I can’t everything. So I’m breaking your heart through my side. But I, I, there’s nothing you could do because I am not here anymore. Like I’m not capable of talking.
And I think at first, when the, when this first, when this pattern first [00:03:00] started showing itself, I think his mom and I did what most parents do when they encounter a new problem. We just, you know, acted in some way. Type of desperation, right? So you’re just like pleading. You are just, giving a fucking speeches, right?
It’s like Leo, you have to talk to pardon to talk, say it. Come on, please. And then you’re begging, please leave. Please. Just sit, just open up. And then you get angry. Leo dah, dah, dah. Yeah. And that you have to learn that other and whatever the fuck, all the kind of stages of unsuccessful parenting. Like I think we went through all of them pull a little while, and then I think I, instead of responding to my fear and I saw this even stronger with my ex-wife with his mom, she’s very similar to him when it comes to.
You know, some of our personality traits, I think for her even more than for me, her fear that her son [00:04:00] would grow up with some of the challenges of how to deal with overwhelming hurt would trigger an anger in her. Right? Like I can’t let this happen. He has to basically he can’t have this weakness or this burden the same way that I have.
Right. I need to like, make sure this doesn’t happen for me. It was a bit more removed. So I was able to look at it. And at some point I think more clearly consider that he’s just so tiny and these feelings are just so humongous. That is so overwhelmed that it’s not reasonable to try to tell him that he just has to like open his mouth and explain to us exactly what’s going on.
Right. So, and now he also has the edit challenge of contrast because his older brother is very communicative and, you [00:05:00] know, he learned. Through us and with us to be emotionally a lot more aware than somebody typically at his age. So he knows exactly how to express what upsets him and how the feeling exactly feels and why and everything.
Right. So there’s also that kind of big contrast between the two brothers. But I could just tell that there’s no sense in giving him a lecture or pressuring him. Hmm. None of this will make any difference. So it was wondering and pondering how to help him, right. How to do some baby steps in helping him get out of that bunker that he’s in, when things get just too threatening and too overwhelming in a way that’s safe for him.
And then this happened. So a number of times when I would. You know, be upset with my boys. Like I have a loud voice as most people know who know me [00:06:00] and when I get passionate, I get him louder. and so with my boys, sometimes when we get upset late at night dinner, they’re doing something, you know, that that was upsetting or something.
I would scold them. I would tell him, Hey, stop doing this dah, dah, dah something. And it would get louder. And it happened like once or twice. Where Leo got very upset at the end, started crying. And then I was like, oh my God. You know, in one moment he’s doing this wrong thing. And not just because I got a lot of his, I was sitting there and crying, talking to me like, ah, this is so frustrating.
and then, At one point the next morning at breakfast, I sat down with both my boys and I was like, all right, are we feeling good? They’re like, yeah, we’re feeling good. I’m like, cool. I have a problem. And I need your help to find a solution for that problem. They’re like what? You have a problem. Okay.
And we can help. I’m like you, [00:07:00] you’re the only ones that can help listen last night with dinner, you guys, you know, threw some spaghetti around. I got mad. Leah, you started crying. I felt really bad. You felt really bad. It took us forever to start talking again. That really upset me. I don’t wanna make you feel the subset.
So this morning let’s brainstorm how to do this better. I’m like what upset you? Was it? What I said? He’s like, no, like, was it how I said it? He’s like, yeah. I’m like, what was it about how I said it? He’s like you were too loud. And this is actually, this is a, a thing that I lived with his mother, right. That I like his mother and I, when we would argue.
We’d always get to a point where I felt super attacked by her. And then I would get a little louder in my defense and she would shut down or start crying and be like, why are you screaming at me? And then it would you feel even more in grim? Like I’m not even screaming, [00:08:00] you know? And how am I not the perpetrator?
Like, how am I, not the bad guy you started? Like. Attacking me. I got loud in my defense and now you’re crying. Like this seems like I get super frustrated. I’m like deja VU, right? This being loud. There’s a problem here. Right. I’m creating an issue. and I need a better solution. so I told him, okay, so when I get louder, that upsets you, do you, can you tell why?
And he was like, no, I’m like, okay. It doesn’t matter. Why something about it? Is upsetting. Maybe it’s because it’s threatening. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t want you to feel this way, but I also need help. There is a loud mouth. I like to scream. I like to be loud when I get angry or upset, I get louder.
So I’m not even aware that I’m. You know that I’m speaking too loud for you. We need a safe word. Like, can we come up with some kind of word where you could just say that word? And then I would know that I’m getting too loud and I can readjust that way. At least you’ve given me a [00:09:00] chance to improve. So I don’t upset you that much.
And during that time, my kids were crazy about cars and they would like to take pictures of Porsche’s and Ferrari’s and one of the cars they. Thought was really interesting at the time was Teslas. So Leo consider like one or two car names and then his brother was like, how about Tesla, Leo? Why don’t you just say Tesla?
That’s a simple word. It’s like easy to say. And Leo was like, yeah, that’s cool. I’m going to say Tesla. And then, we had a couple of situations afterwards where, you know, I was getting louder. You know, we had like four different situations. One time I got louder and Leo actually said Tesla before he got upset.
And I was like super impressed. And we all high five and I adjusted my voice and it was like, great success. Right. That was kind of the picture perfect application. We have one time where I got louder and at some point Leo goes.
[00:10:00] And then his brother, you know, we both his brother and I stop at first shock and they look at him and that his brother looks at him, it starts laughing, Tesla and laughing. Then I started laughing, you know, both, you know, both humored by the timing. It was just a little bit delayed, you know, he said it, but he said it already in the crime.
and then there were one or two at times where a one-time for sure. Where I got a little louder and then his brother looked at Leo and said, Leo Tesla. And Leah was like, no, I’m good. And he’s like, okay, continue that. Like, you know, what is this? Okay. Well, I’m glad we, I’m glad you guys checked in on each other really quickly.
Hey, should we say Tesla? I don’t think so. It’s not that bad. Okay. Keep going, keep scolding them about something. and then, you know, th th th this happened kind of over a period of maybe three or four months. [00:11:00] And so we haven’t had that case in the last six months or something. Right. I’m sure it might happen again, but it was just a nice little transformation.
It was a nice, also first step, hopefully that is at least my hope for Leo too. Learn to speak in moments where it’s so difficult for him to also help the people around him understanding better or prevent them to upset him, or at least be able to like say something which brings him out of this like dark cave that he’s burning himself into.
And we all have been there. We’ve all, I think in one way or another. There’ve been times where we’ve been so upset, I’ve been so upset where I’m just burying myself in such emotion that I just can’t interact with the world anymore at that moment. Right. but it was just good to find like one consistent example for something that [00:12:00] would upset him and then find a word.
That he could share instead of having him explain himself in detail. Right. And it wasn’t even funny to see kind of those interactions of, you know, seeing it a bit too late while the crying and then laughing about it or, you know, having his brother bring it up and go, should we say the word? And he’s like, no, it’s cool.
And I had the, well, the situation was not, Tesla was not the word and. It was not about me being too loud, but there was a situation with a friend of mine that also that, uh, told me that, he is sometimes just not able to communicate his emotions. And then, a while later we had a difficult conversation.
I had some critical things that I shared. And he got very quiet and I was like, Hey, what’s going on? Your mood has changed. Can you talk to me? And he wasn’t [00:13:00] talking. And I had told him the whole story with the, if you can name the feeling with the word, you know, psychologically, it helps. And then I said, okay, if you can’t tell me, can you just give me a word?
Give me just one word right now of how you feel. I’m not on the outside. I know. And he gave me a word. And then instantly, I was like, oh, because it surprised me in my reaction of going, oh, and him being able to just save the word, then made him explain a little further. And then we started talking and then it was all good lady told me how that was an incredibly powerful moment for me.
And he said, you know, I, it seems so dumb. It seems so simple that in a moment where I got upset, I was able to say a word and that led to that good of a conversation where in the past I wouldn’t have, it feels almost, it just feels doesn’t feel, make me feel a little bit like, [00:14:00] like thinking about it made me feel like a child of sorts, right?
It does not that sophisticated, such a simple thing, but it was super powerful and super helpful. and so say had at least these two. Situations where, you know, I started playing with this idea of tagging your feelings and maybe sometimes this is helpful or it can be incredibly helpful with the outside world, but also within yourself with your relationship, which is what brings me to today where this morning, I did have a period where I could not quite tell.
How I was feeling and what I was feeling. And it was a little bit, I felt a bit in a haze and then I sat down and I thought, well, just write a word. Like what describes your emotion right now? And I just couldn’t. And then I said, just write something that’s wrong. And I wrote a bunch of things, you know, start with like confusing, tired, [00:15:00] a bit blue.
And then eventually I got to something. That seemed closer to the truth, but also just that little exercise of writing these things where the hour before I’ve been thinking, why am I in this mood? What is my mood? What is going on? Just the trying to analyze and think through in my own head was perpetuating, was increasing the fog that I was walking in and it was not helpful, but then sitting down and just writing it out.
And doing a little bit of a writing exercise. Like didn’t clear all of the fog, but cleared it up enough that I was that I could sense. Right. Just getting it out of your head and in front of you. So you can look at it more clearly also. Yes. That alone treated relief. And then it reminded me of, wow. It is so powerful to name your feelings or to write them or to say something I’ve done this also once where I thought I’m really, I [00:16:00] think, pissed at something.
Or it myself, but I, in my mind, I can’t quite get myself to articulate it because anytime like I’m thinking I have this tension, it’s probably because I’m pissed. I didn’t do X, Y, and Z today. And then when I thought, anytime I thought, well, what’s making me so upset about it. My mind would instantly go into like a defense mode.
Well, it does. Like, you’re just pissed because you didn’t do it, but there’s many other days you can do it and it’s fine. You know, you’re just a human, it’s not that big. So I instantly was in that mode and that mode was not making me feel better because I still felt that anger in my gut. And so just pretend meaning that I’m accepting my feelings or pretending that I’m, that I, that even just the awareness, I think I’m angry because I didn’t do XYZ that alone didn’t help.
And then eventually I thought, you know what? I’m gonna [00:17:00] hit the record button on my phone. I didn’t know why I felt like I had to record it. Maybe the record, the act of recording makes it seem more permanent. So it’s more meaningful in some weird way for this release, but I just started recording on the audio app on my phone and thought let’s just give myself the business plan.
Let’s go into that anger. Pretend that I’m that anger and just give myself a fucking. Beating, right. Let’s just say everything that pisses me off. Even if I, in my mind, I can really get into it. You know, once I started pretending that I’m screaming at myself, I had lots of things to say, right. And I, he didn’t say anything surprising and hot, even halfway through the exercise, I kind of ran out of steam and was already kind of like.
Yeah, all this is bullshit, but whatever. Yeah. It’s fun. But it worked, you know, the moment I ended [00:18:00] screaming at my phone about this, I was like, you know, I do feel definitely better. I have not learned anything new. It’s nothing that I wasn’t aware of three minutes ago, but the act of letting it out, saying it out loud and recording it.
I don’t know why, but it helps. I feel better. Yeah, I just feel better. I actually actually done the same thing and had the same experience. Yeah. I don’t even know why I thought of recording it. Like maybe, maybe it’s the perpetual content creator that I thought maybe one day this will be helpful to listen to.
Um, or maybe it’s just the permanence of the feeling that. I’m seeing it to something in capturing it. I don’t know, but it did help me. There was also the, the kind of like, ah, I’m just gonna talk free flow and led light things come out of my mouth. Right. And then sometimes there’s like a thought in there that’s like interesting or new.
And, but if I capture it right, I can go back and [00:19:00] relisten and I don’t have to try to remember it so I can stay in the floor Yeah. Yeah. either way. Naming your feelings tagging them super useful can be also powerful, you know, with, uh, friends, with significant others, with colleagues, just learning how to express your feelings, especially in difficult situations.
Um, doing it early, wherever possible. It’s such a small, it seems so small, but it’s proven. Uh, incredibly helpful to me.