Emotional awareness is being able to recognise your feelings. Being aware of your feelings enables you to then reflect upon the thoughts or experiences that trigger certain emotional responses and behaviours in you. If you can identify these triggers before you become overwhelmed with emotion, you can change your response to that situation or thought. You want to be who directs your choices not your emotions, so to master them you need to know what emotions you’re experiencing and then consider why they are there.
Triggers (thoughts or experiences that cause certain responses in you) are not what causes unpleasant feelings or reactions, it is usually subconscious beliefs you hold about your self. However to understand these subconscious beliefs you need to first become aware of your emotions. This then allows you to ask deeper questions like ‘why am I feeling like this?’ and questioning assumptions like ‘on what basis did I make that assumption? Is it true?’ Today however we are only considering techniques that help us build an initial emotional awareness, not how to uproot and challenge negative subconscious beliefs.
Activities to help gain self-awareness
These two activities will help you increase your self awareness so you, rather than your emotions, can work towards controlling your responses:
When you experience an unpleasant feeling or reaction, it’s good to write about it. This helps you better and perhaps even recognise patterns in your triggers and responses that you had not noticed before. Journal about:
- what triggered it – an event, situation, thought, mental picture or physical trigger.
- Consider your thoughts and beliefs at the time – what were you thinking or saying to yourself? Which thought it the most distressing and do you believe it to be 100% true? If not, how much do you believe is it true?
- Write words describing how you felt and rate the intensity of that feeling.
- How did you respond in your actions or words?
Body Scans are a meditation technique that helps you to become aware of the various parts of your body as you focus on experiencing how it feels. It aims to help you be present, relax, breathe, acknowledge and release emotions and is an effective way to relax. You can sit or lie down as you begin moving your focus through the different areas of the body without moving. As you do, non-judgmentally note any sensations, emotions or thoughts that arise. The ultimate purpose of the scan is to become familiar with these, so that you can better respond to them. I find a guided one helps me because I am so easily distracted by my thoughts otherwise. I enjoy this one from Smiling Mind (great app too!). Headspace is another app that also offers audible body scans.
What techniques help you become emotionally aware? Did practicing these help you?