Our experiences as women of colour lead to a myriad of feelings—some apparent, some underneath the surface; some familiar, some not. And sometimes, we’re just plain tired of feeling in general. But there’s power in our emotions, and there’s strength in feeling them and recognizing them.
That’s the core of what emotionally focused therapy is. Useful for couples and individuals alike, emotionally focused therapy helps to uncover what’s happening at the foundation of our emotions so we can be better informed about our behaviours and needs, and how we can more effectively communicate with others about our emotions.
Natasha Reynolds, a Toronto-based psychotherapist specializing in emotionally focused therapy, spoke with us for a Villij Talk on emotional wellness and shared five of her guiding principles in knowing and communicating our emotions.
Give yourself a moment to pause.
When we’re at the height of feeling our feelings, being able to explain them doesn’t always come easy--and that’s okay. We’re not expected to know exactly what’s going on all the time. So slow it down, take a moment. Realizing we may not know exactly what we’re feeling when we’re feeling it and taking a step away to tune in and better understand is a sign of strength.
Acknowledge and label the emotion.
After taking those deep breaths and giving ourselves some time, we have more capacity to examine ourselves and our emotions. What’s really happening? Perhaps there was an immediate flare of anger, but now, after taking a moment, perhaps there’s some fear involved. Naming what we feel will help us understand and move forward.
Validate the emotion.
There’s no shame in our emotions. Our past experiences, our behaviours and habits—every way in which we live our lives informs our emotions. So even if some feelings are particularly unexpected or confusing, telling ourselves that it’s okay to feel what we are feeling is important. Seeing ourselves and responding to ourselves is an act of kindness.
Explore what these emotions are informing you of.
Our emotions are indicators of our needs. They’re never for nothing—there’s always meaning to be found behind them. If we’re feeling overwhelmed, perhaps we need a moment to recoup or to set some boundaries. If we’re feeling insecure, perhaps we need more clarity in how others communicate with us. Our emotions are a tool for finding the answers we need.
Determine how you want to respond to the emotion.
Knowing ourselves and understanding our emotions is impactful and powerful. After sitting with our emotions, feeling them, and exploring them, we have the space and clarity to ask, “What’s next?” When we know what we need, we know what to ask for from our family, partners, friends, and also, ourselves. From here we can move forward in seeking and building our wellness.
Emotions are often tied to vulnerability and weakness, but they’re far from it. They’re our own internal tools for determining who we are and what we need—they’re both the first step, and our companions, in healing. So take your moment. Breathe, step back, feel, and heal.
Here’s a list of resources to guide you on your emotional wellness journey
A short, digestible video on how to process our emotions
A guide to having more meaningful and emotionally informed conversations by the founding psychologist of emotionally focused therapy
Work through your emotions with expressive writing
How to find the right therapist for you