Emotions Log: Getting to the Root of the Problem

I’ve been having some trouble getting myself to complete my emotions log. This doesn’t really surprise me. I’m not a fan of recognizing my emotions, much less recording them for a rather abstract purpose. I also have trouble remembering to write my emotions down when I actually take notice of them. I’ve been putting them in my day planner, but that thing doesn’t ever seem to stay in one place.

Through this thought process, I identified three main issues that are keeping me from logging my emotions:

  1. I don’t like noticing my emotions because I don’t feel very adept at it.
  2. I lack motivation to record my emotions because the purpose behind doing so isn’t clear to me (even though I made up the resolution).
  3. I can’t keep track of my day planner, in which I’ve planned to record my emotions.

I decided to tackle the middle issue first in the hopes that a clearer purpose would help bring me closer to tackling the other issues. As luck would have it, the person to whom I apparently loaned Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg brought it back just the other day. This was lucky not only because this book has proven incredibly useful in this current endeavor, but because I couldn’t remember who I’d loaned it to or, indeed, if I’d actually loaned it (I thought perhaps I’d never owned it in the first place and just thought I had).

A brief glance through the book reminded me of the wealth of information included in this short text. Further reading helped me realize that my three resolutions for August actually fit together remarkably well.

Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication (NVC) is intended to connect individuals on a human-to-human level by helping us to recognize our feelings and the needs behind them and to communicate with others based upon this empathic connection. In order to empathize with others, we must recognize their feelings and needs. In order to recognize others’ feelings and needs, we must first give ourselves empathy by recognizing our own feelings and needs. Turns out, the emotions log hits the very first step on the path to empathic communication.

In addition, Rosenberg identifies three main types of communication that block compassion, one of which is “moralistic judgments.” There’s my second mindfulness resolution, be aware of my judgmental thoughts. So now, with two resolutions, I’ve got one that takes me the first step towards compassionate communication, and another that helps remove a barrier to compassionate communication. The third resolution, breathe, is imperative to having the clarity necessary to do either of these things. I love it when I accidentally put things together in a logical fashion.

With the purpose portion squared away, I chose to tackle the feeling of ineptitude I have around identifying emotions. Rosenberg recognizes that many of us have become cut off from what we’re actually feeling. We tend to avoid taking personal responsibility for our emotions at all, using phrases like, “X makes me feel…” We also mistake thoughts for feelings. Rosenberg explains that a feeling is expressed with the formula, “I feel X.” Any time we say, “I feel like X,” it’s an indication that we’re expressing a thought rather than an emotion. With this means of communicating and understanding our emotions so ingrained in our culture, it’s no wonder most of us are pretty rusty at recognizing what we actually feel. The solution is to practice. The book includes a list of basic emotions we all have so when we’re stumped as to what we’re feeling, we can look down the list trying on different emotions until we find one that fits.

In addition, Rosenberg contends that every emotion is the result of a met or unmet need. Once we identify an emotion, we then identify the need that is behind that emotion, which will then help us to identify the changes we might make to meet our needs in the future. Again, this can be a challenge, and practice is the ticket to improving our skills at recognizing our needs. Rosenberg includes a helpful list of basic universal needs for our reference, too.

With this reminder, I decided that I could make my emotions log more relevant by not only identifying the situation and the feelings, but also the need that is met or unmet in that moment. This would give me potentially valuable insight into what situations lead to what feelings, as well as give me practice in recognizing my feelings and giving myself empathy several times a day. I could be wrong, but this seems like it could be a great way to feel happier.

So, that just leaves the problem of my wandering day planner. For the purposes of recording my feelings and needs, I would like something small, easy to use, and that I carry or would carry with me everywhere. Looking about, I discovered a voice memo function on my phone. I set up a quick link to that function and tested it out to make sure I knew how to use it. I only have 72 seconds of memory, but I think that should be enough if I make a practice of transcribing the voice memos to my day planner at the end of each day. I think I may also keep a small memo pad in my diaper bag, which I take nearly everywhere, so that if I’m in a situation where I want to record something but don’t want to speak out loud, I have that option, too.

And there you have it: the thought process that led me to use my phone as a voice recorder. Next time: addressing the problem of forgetting to charge my phone.


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