Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Benefit of Labeling Your Experiences

When we take the time to describe what we are thinking and feeling, it helps us contain and manage our inner experience. This is a skill we can all use. 

"I am all alone, there is no one I can count on," is an example of a belief. 

Labeling the situation to include  "I am having the thought that I am all alone, and there is no one I can count on," inserts a slight interruption, a space which can be used to evaluate thoughts and one's situation more carefully.

Using "I am having the thought that...," is a great way to pause, reflect, and decide if the belief we describe to ourselves is true or not.  Distressing feelings may exist regardless of if thoughts are true or not.  Fusing with untrue thoughts can amplify these distressing emotions, adding more pain to the current situation, without offering any benefit of learning or healing.

Naming emotions is another aspect of labeling. Continuing with the example above, if we believe we are all alone with no one to count on, it is likely we will experience unpleasant emotions such as fear, loneliness, sadness, anger, etc. Developing an emotional vocabulary can help with identifying, perspective taking, and containing emotions.   

Labeling our experiences helps us take the looming unformed sense in our bodies, and give it shape and definition, which allows us to think more critically about our interpretations and our current situation. Real change happens as our awareness grows, especially if we learn to allow difficult emotions to be as they are without detailing us from what matters most.