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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Clay


At the beginning of our experience with life, our connection with emotion is non-existent. The moment we exit the womb, we display what others would characterize as emotions; however, we ourselves have no knowledge or understanding of emotions. Think about the questions we ask as children when we see someone with tears in their eyes, violence on TV, someone acting with extreme excitement, etc. What do we do? We ask an adult a question about the person we see. Dad, why is that person crying? Mom, why is that person yelling? From these questions, we get an explanation of what others are experiencing and then begin the construction of each emotion and how we would express it. The same happens in our personal experience. As we start to display emotions, we are told what emotion(s) we are characterizing. The more we interact with these types of conversations, the richer and healthier our emotional vocabulary and regulation tend to be, and visa versa.

The emotions we feel, as fundamentally real as they appear to be, are not born with us. What we are born with is the ability to construct emotions with our minds. We are all taught emotions at some point. What they are, and how they present themselves. Then, we begin to act emotions out as we constructed them to be. Have you ever seen a kid get hurt and only start crying the moment they see the worry on another person's face? I'm sure if you've spent any time around small children you have. This happens because the child thinks they are supposed to be sad when they see certain reactions. This also works the other way. If the child is met with a calm embrace, there is a higher likelihood that they will be ok. A big part of how we learn to express our emotions comes from our surroundings and how we see these emotions expressed. We are just mimicking what we see and how we see it.

Backpfeifengesicht is a German word that means someone who is in need of a punch in the face. koseleg is a Dutch word that means 'sense of coziness' and 'human warmth in an agreeable environment'. These are two emotions that Americans do not experience in the way they are by those native to the words because we don't have the concept of these specific emotions built within our minds. Something else to think about is that the number of emotions we experience today is much larger than thousands or even hundreds of years ago due to the growth of our emotional vocabulary. FOMO (for example) means the fear of missing out and was not around 100 years ago. Today, FOMO can be a common emotion experienced by today's population.  


Now that you have a deeper understanding of how emotions come to be, you may be asking yourself how this information serves you. For one, it is essential to be aware of the fact that our emotions are not who we are. Our emotions are energy, and all of energy is in a constant state of movement. Emotions are there to be felt, experienced, and expressed. To hold onto emotions is to be attached to an energy that is meant to be passing. Holding on to emotions creates emotional baggage. Now, you may be asking how to do that, and I'm going to share with you how I worked with a client (who has been suffering from severe anxiety most of their life) in deconstructing an emotional concept.

Nearly 20% of adult Americans suffer from anxiety, which is a growing mental health issue. One of the biggest challenges in relieving anxiety is the word itself: what the heck is it? That's about how the conversation started with my client. I asked my client to explain to me what they were experiencing, assuming I had no clue of what anxiety means. What they came back with was simple (as it always will be): a racing mind and a heavy chest. When you deconstruct a concept like anxiety to a granular understanding of what is actually happening, we give our brain the ability to do something about it. The brain (and myself as a coach ) can not do anything with the concept of anxiety because anxiety is not happening. 


You may be asking yourself how this client is doing with "their anxiety." They are doing fantastic, and their racing mind and heavy chest symptoms have decreased significantly. Anxiety and any other emotion can be deconstructed and relieved in moments instead of the years-to-never many people experience. Another power step is to give up identifying with it. It is NOT "your anxiety" (or, as people say, "my anxiety"). It IS a feeling of or experience of anxiety. That shift makes more of a difference than you may realize.

The greatest value of these articles comes from practice. If we are just reading the words, we prevent ourselves from the power of understanding. This article is a tool to use for yourself, and this tool, along with all the others, works best when razor-sharp. Without practice, it's like showing up to run a marathon without any preparation. Life is that marathon, and many of us are running through it without the proper amount of stretching and training, forcing our way through a race with fatigue, cramps, and exhaustion. That's a very unpleasant way to go through life and is not how life has to be. The responsibility is ours to be at our best and no one else's <3. I hope this article has helped :)

Emotions and understanding them
Emotions and Understanding them

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