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Feeling our Feelings

Recently, I was reminded to name my feelings. Initially, I didn’t take the suggestion well. I struggle to know the difference between mad and sad, especially if I am in the middle of the feeling. And being asked to name my feeling felt like a combination of distress and annoyance. [I had to look up “torture” in the thesaurus to get those words. And I know enough to know that I am not being tortured and therefore, torture is inaccurate. Ugh.]

Also, I am in the middle of a vacation read. A book by Kristen Hannah, called Magic Hour. It’s about a girl who appears from the woods at the age of 5 with no verbal skills and comes to live with a child psychiatrist who constantly teaches her the words for her feelings. “You are scared and that’s okay” must be on every darn page of the book. I must be feeling sensitive to this feeling-thing, if this is annoying me. Otherwise, the book is a great vacation read. 

Naming feelings is hard. 

I have a chart I would like to share. I was lucky enough to work with a friend who asked me to identify my feelings on this chart before school many days post-pandemic as a check in. I was better at naming my feelings then. The chart comes from Marc Brackett’s Permission to Feel

The chart color codes four categories of feelings, showing a range of “pleasantness” and “energy”. If you are really angry, you have low pleasantness and high energy. You can look at it the opposite way as well. If you can identify that you are sad, then you are probably presenting low pleasantness and low energy. 

Having awareness of our feelings helps us build relationships with ourselves and others. When we feel our feelings but can’t identify them, it is as though we are lost without a map, much like the little girl in my book. She is working on getting through being in the red zone; she moves in and out of panic. I, on the other hand, am working through the nuances of yellow and green boxes looking at the differences between happy, hopeful, and at ease.

The little girl is coached by the psychiatrist to name her feeling and is followed by “and that’s okay.” This second step is an interesting exercise to try - on yourself and your teenager.

Are you okay with your feeling? How do you show it?

Are you mean to yourself? Do you give yourself space to feel your feelings?  

Then consider the impact the answers to these questions on your teenager. 

Are you okay with their feelings? How to do you show it? 

Teenagers have some self-regulation skills but they are not always able to access regulation in the heat of a feeling. 

Naming feelings is a great first step to help teens with regulation. The second step we can all work on - accepting our feelings and giving ourselves and others the space to feel them.

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From our All-School Assembly, February 28, 2024 Written by Nell Dailey “On this rainy day in February, I want to share a story with you. So sit back, put your phones away, and give me your attention.


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