Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Periodic Table of Emotions

As many of you know, for Don't Rush month I have been trying to embrace mindfulness. To stay mindful, I find it really important to recognise my moods, feelings and emotions. Awareness is a huge part of mindfulness, which is why I reflect on how I feel every day.

Acknowledging our emotions accepts them, and allows us to work towards challenging and improving our feelings. So everyday in my journal, I keep track of my mood and record how positive or negative I felt on average over the day. Focusing on my emotions has reminded me of  the wonderful Disney Pixar film Inside Out. Some days, I really do feel that there is an internal battle between my emotions for dominance. Sadness and Joy are in a constant struggle to try and win out. But there are so many other feelings not covered by the stagnant 5 of Inside Out.
And to fully help me accept my feelings, I find it really important to find just the right words that describe exactly how I feel each day. So inspired by the characters of Inside Out I have developed a Periodic Table of Emotions.

One day I went to write in my recovery journal about how I was feeling, and I was stuck. I just couldn't think of the right word to convey my hurt and pain. So I googled some alternatives that might fit my mood. With depression, it isn't always easy to know how you feel at a particular moment in time. I often use words like 'numb' when I refuse to explore and choose to ignore my feelings. I stay 'numb' because I don't want to process all of the feelings.

And so I was inspired to create a handy table of different emotions I could easily refer to when writing in my recovery journal. I detailed just over 50 emotions that we can all identify with. Based on the five main characters in Inside Out, my table categorises our feelings into the groupings of Sadness, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, and Anger. This allows me to not only understand the over arching theme of my current feelings, but also to select the phrase most suitable to that mood.

A week after I created my first draft of the Periodic Table of Emotions, the Dalai Lama announced his new creation - an Atlas of emotions. Inspired by a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, the atlas builds on Ekman's work in creating the emotion characters of Inside Out. The result is a visual journey through the world of emotions. After conducting an international survey, they found a series of universal emotions that were recognised the world over. The interactive tool groups a number of emotions inside five main categories.
Their Five Continents of Emotion -
  1. Disgust
  2. Anger
  3. Fear
  4. Sadness
  5. Enjoyment
I absolutely loved this tool, and it really came at the perfect time for me. I revised my first draft of the table to incorporate the emotions in the Atlas. The result, is my table below.

Sadness contains dejection, despair, sorrow, helplessness, loneliness, anguish, distraught, hopelessness, disappointment, discouragement ad misery.
Disgust includes dislike, aversion, distaste, repugnance, revulsion, abhorrence and loathing.
Happiness combines joy, ecstasy, fulfillment, confidence, amusement, excitement, hopefulness, compassion, pride, wonder and relief.
Fear relates anxiety, trepidation, dread, nervousness, horror, desperation, insecurity and fright.
Anger includes annoyance, fury, aggression, argumentative, frustration, vengeful, bitterness and exasperation.

Yes, okay so I didn't stick religiously to the colours from Inside Out for my table (my apologies) but I am totally delighted with how it's turned out. As I turn to record my mood at the end of each day in my journal, I relate to my table and locate the most appropriate expression of feeling.

Having an array of emotions at my disposal to choose from has given me a far greater awareness of how I feel. I've become more mindful of my moods, and better able to articulate what I'm currently experiencing.

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