Monday Notes: Emotion Words

There’s a scene from Four Christmases, where the main character’s nephew unexpectedly learns there’s no Santa Claus. Once he finds out this heartbreaking information, the little boy takes off his clothes, jumps out the window, and runs away.

“When he gets to hurtin’ inside and can’t use his emotion words, he takes to streakin’,” his mother says, as the little boy leaves his underwear behind.  

We’ve all been there, I think, running away from the thing that hurt us, our drawers limp on the windowsill. We’ve all had a moment where we’ve felt an emotion but didn’t know how to express it in a healthy way; however, since this movie released in 2008, I’ve noticed not knowing how to use your emotion words can present differently in each of our lives.

A personal example I have is my grandmother. Her sister is in a nursing home, and because my grandmother is in her nineties, there’s really nothing she can do about it. One time after visiting my great aunt, my grandmother told me about how she broke out into hives. Eventually, she realized it was because she was worried about her sister.

Books like The Body Keeps Score and people like, Louise Hay have written about how the energy of our emotions can be stored in the body, resulting in specific pain or illness. So, when my grandmother retold this story, it seemed obvious to me what had happened. Instead of being able to say something like, “I feel helpless because my only living sister is living with dementia in a nursing home” or even being able to sit and cry about it (remember, my grandmother lives by if you’re sad, you better scratch your butt and get glad), she seemed to have held on to her real emotions, and the result was hives.

A more global rendition of not knowing how to use your emotion words is when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Although this event was unfortunate for multiple reasons, it was a great example of what can happen when you don’t know how to take time to process emotions in a healthy way. Not only can you hurt yourself, but you can also hurt others and jeopardize your career. I don’t think it’s ever okay to put your hands on another person; however, this moment was an opportunity to show us that no matter how happy you may appear on the outside, and no matter how much money you may have, anyone can have unresolved issues that may result in not knowing how to use emotion words.

Finally, I’ve had several moments where I’ve learned to bury emotions so deep that when they resurfaced, I didn’t know how to deal with them, much less communicate how I felt in an effective way. I’ve written about that here and here. But luckily, I’ve taken time to learn how to use my emotion words so that I no longer injure myself or others. Here’s how:

  • Learn to feel emotions when they appear. For example, if something makes you sad, then take time to notice the sadness in your body: where is it?  How does it make you feel? You may even want to announce to yourself, “I am sad.”
  • Consider journaling about why you’re having the emotion. In the Will Smith scenario, I’d bet money he wasn’t really upset about Rock’s joke; something else was going on. We’re no different than a celebrity. Sometimes, what’s angered us is an unaddressed trigger. That’s worth exploring.
  • Find ways to release the emotion. One thing that helps me is exercising. Last year, I was so negatively affected by someone’s actions that the space around my heart physically hurt. The only thing that helped was a thirty-minute run/walk on the treadmill. Once I was done, I felt lighter and less bothered.
  • If another person is involved in your painful emotions, then maybe you need to have a conversation with that person…when you’re no longer angry, of course. Write out what you will say in a loving way, and then give them a call, so you can engage in positive dialogue about the issue.

Welp. That’s all I’ve got today. Feel free to add any advice in the comments. I’m all about helping one another as a community.

If you want to hear about the three levels of emotional fitness, then watch Mastinkipp’s explanation:


73 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Emotion Words

  1. I love those ideas. I also love the idea of using streaking or skinnydiping as a method of reducing stress. I’m not suggesting you strip down where you neighbors can see you but once upon a time when my husband was in Afghanistan… My girlfriends and I went skinny dipping at their private lake and I never felt more free 🥰. It didn’t solve all my problems but it did give me a moment of relief from them 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent advice and something makes seem to have more difficulty with. Loved the line “our drawers limp on the windowsill”. At the risk of repeating myself could I also add tapping aka EFT (emotional freedom technique) is a very useful tool as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just started reading “The Body Keeps the Score” on the suggestion of my therapist. It is pithy so I’ve not made it all the way through but she also recommended another, much quicker read that I recently devoured, “Laziness Does Not Exist.” Highly recommend!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. what about becoming slow, kinda finding yourself ‘in hibernating state of mind’… i often feel (or am) this way. does it goes together: sadness and hibernated state? Does it come first or afterward? Hm, I don’t know. Anyway, somehow this post made me think about it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ally! It’s super easy to overlook, because I don’t think it’s something we’re taught to do. A few generations of human beings seemed to have been taught the opposite, in fact…don’t name it, and in fact, suppress it lol (not funny), but lol

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love The Body Keeps the Score! I honestly think everyone should read it. And your tips are spot on, especially the part where we have to learn to process and release our emotions somehow because if we don’t, they will come out out of our control.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! It happens every time, even to those of us who feel as if we have “complete control” of our emotions. None of us really do, unless we learn ways to honor and release (in my opinion).

      Thanks for reading and commenting ❤


  6. I’m soooooo aligned with this post and so deeply believe the body reflects our repressed emotions. I’d like to think I’m pretty in touch with my emotions, but I do know that in the past, I was unable to process certain losses right away and my body was affected. I’ve mentioned on my blog the story of my first breakup with my college boyfriend. And driving away in the moving truck my hands were itchy. By the time I got home my body was covered in hives, and it was all from the trauma of that loss. It was so unbelievable I just couldn’t even deal with the fact that it was happening. As I get older, I know what things are mostly killing me inside even if I don’t feel the feelings. Which is when I turn to art making, knowing that’s helping to process some of the unconscious gunk that’s poisoning me inside. Wow such a great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Libby, I thought for sure I’d replied to this. Life has been uber busy for me, so I hope you’ll understand that I replied in my mind lol

      You’re right about unaddressed emotions poisoning us inside. Maybe if we phrased it this way, people would pay more attention and take it seriously. For so long, US society has acted is if emotions don’t matter. It’s time to change.

      Also, thank goodness for art and artistry. Ever since I returned to writing, I’ve felt an overall release, which is what I imagine you feel when you create ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Omg no worries, I’m barely keeping up with my blog. And thank you for replying in your mind, that totally counts! 🌺 Yes to all this, thank you. Me learning more about the purpose of my art also helps me to feel better about the fact that I never made it as a famous artist. I don’t think that’s why god gave me this gift, it just wasn’t my path. But instead it’s like, “here, you’re gonna have some tough times, but use this tool and you’ll get through things much smoother.” And that’s ok with me I guess!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. You have the knack to interweave the observations of your close relatives into your storyline, how to relate the particular to the general. I guess we all have to find our individual recipes for how to deal with inner turmoil and old age is not saving us from such inflictions. We must not forget, emotions are a sign of life unless we prefer to retreat into a hermitage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, MC! I appreciate you noticing that. It’s something I practice purposely here in different ways for a specific reason 😉

      With that said, I agree. We all have our thing that needs attention, only if we want to grow or shift in mindset, which I’m not always sure is everyone’s desire.

      And YES! Why are we alive if we’re not going to feeeeel???

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As someone who breaks out in hives or a rash when she gets stressed, I can attest to the fact that our bodies do react to our emotions. Personally, it helps me to write down what I’m feeling, and/or exercise. Sometimes, even cleaning my house helps, which sounds odd, but all I know is that I feel calmer as I go along.
    And your post is particularly pertinent to me because I’ve been talking to my four-year old grandson about managing his emotions (it’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to hit someone because you’re angry), and that made me realize how managing our emotions is something we have to learn how to do…and that sometimes it takes a lifetime before we figure it out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this comment, Ann! I think cleaning the house is akin to dancing, which is why it probably works. I find the same feeling occurs when I clean the closet. I almost feel lighter.

      I love hearing about your grandson! It give me hope that the latest generation may actually get this part of life 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a great subject, Katherin! I’m impressed that you work out when you feel emotional pain – whereas, I tend to overeat. In fact, numbness seems so much worse that feeling the pain. I lived like an emotional zombie for years because I stuffed down my feelings. When I allowed my feelings to emerge, it brought beautiful song lyrics with it. In the present, I am still struggling. I think the past 3 years have led me to stuffing feelings again with food and I am trying to figure out how to free myself again.
    There you go. A side effect that sucks is that the pain manifests physically with annoying gastro issues, which I also know you understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Judy! It’s hard, but ever since I determined not to ignore emotions, I’ve felt better in some ways, and not in others. I mean…feeling negative emotions is hard, but it’s better than suppressing them.

      I totally understand the numbing aspect. Sometimes, I throw in the towel and revert to numbing through drinking, in particular, but not as much as in the past.

      Whenever I discuss this, I’m reminded how similar our paths are. For you, it’s visual art and music, and for me, writing 🙂

      I honestly think what I said in last week’s Notes about living through trauma that past few years is the reason we’ve all fallen back on some unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s much easier than slowing down and doing what we’ve learned is better.

      Sending you and everyone else a bit of grace, light, and love ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I can see it! I’d like to give a whole wheelbarrow full to my parents and relatives of their generation. My teenager teases me about using the word “upset” rather than mad or sad, but upset was the full range allowed then! Working on it.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Working out and listening to music are two of my ‘go to’ ways of getting my emotions out both positive and negative! We have a lot of dance parties at my house which is fun and good for my health.
    You mentioned Will Smith’s anger and I think he was ashamed at being caught laughing at the joke and then he overreacted to prove to his wife he was on her side. It must be hard to be under the microscope all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Music and dancing are actual ways “experts” suggest to relieve anxiety! It keeps everything light.

      le sigh on Smith. My answer is so much longer than this box. Did you say you read his book? I think it’s what you said and so much more.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely, try to keep things light and it helps.
        Yes, at your suggestion I listened to the audiobook. I agree it’s more than my analysis but I pared it down for typing on a device. Definitely a lot to unpack with his behavior and it goes back to guilt from his childhood but in the moment, I think it was related to knowing he shouldn’t have laughed.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Very good advice.

    I encourage everyone to do the difficult inner work to heal, to practice speaking kindly to ourselves, and to suspend judgment of ourselves while going through difficult situations that are emotionally triggering.

    If using exercise, I advise using caution in the quantity of exercise one does, because it can quickly spiral into other issues. I’ve written about it here: confessions-of-a-former-anorexic and here: do-we-need-to-floor-our-gas-pedal-all-the-time-consciously-uncoupling-from-the-grind-culture These are cautionary posts of what can happen when emotions aren’t properly dealt with, and when overwork or too much exercise is used as a method of dealing with or avoiding life problems.

    Learning new tools is very challenging because the old ways have such a powerful grip on our minds that it is difficult to uncouple from them. It is doable, with conscious effort!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Tamara! Yes, I see what you’re saying about exercise. I remember a podcast I listened to basically said that you can turn anything into a coping mechanism and over-do it. Just because it’s exercise, doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.” So, thank you for adding this part. You’re absolutely right.

      I also agree about the old tools. Those are easy and readily available. I’ve gone back to them before, because it’s just easier and seamless. Healing is truly a journey.


  12. When I’m in emotional pain, I write a list of feelings in my journal. Sometimes it is a long list! Can include emotion names like sad, angry, etc but also descriptions like weighed down, twisted, under a cloud. To me, that’s still “labeling the feeling,” in a helpful way, though it’s been suggested to me that that’s not as illuminating as using the emotion names.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Fran! Journaling is helpful for me, too. Yours sounds like poetry ❤ Mine, not so much lol

      I think however we can get the words up and out of our bodies is helpful, though.


  13. Love all the deep wisdom in this post, Kathy. Last night my three-year-old told me he was dip-a-pointed (disappointed) that he couldn’t watch more shows. It made me realize how little coaching I got in expressing my emotions when I was young and how different this generation is. May it serve us all well!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Riiiight! Sometimes, I still say, “fine” when someone asks me how I’m doing, when really, I should use much more descriptive words, cause I’m not fine.

      Generational growth is what we’re experiencing 😉 I would’ve never used the word disappointed when I was three!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. So much of our emotional reactions are driven by our subconscious memory of how we reacted the first time to an event. And yes, I believe the body keeps score.

    I have much content in note-form on this topic to delve into one day when time is more available (and I can’t wait for that to happen). I find it a fascinating topic. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s fascinating, too! It shows how our body is interconnected, even though we’ve been taught otherwise. I recently learned that the parasympathetic nervous system is connected to your gut, like my mind was blown and my whole life began to make sense. If you can’t calm yourself down, you literally are affecting your digestion system.

      I want to read whatever you write on this, because it seems like the key to a lot of our ailments.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great advice. I also have playlists that help me to tap into my emotions. I like my hate and rage playlist a lot. It keeps me sane at work. But I also have ones for when I’m melancholy and can’t necessarily name why I’m feeling that way.

    Liked by 1 person

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