The Challenge of Identifying Emotions

Lately I’ve realized that many times I struggle to identify my own feelings, and even break them down.  If I could figure out a) what my feelings are, b) why I have them, and c) how to deal with a problem, I’d feel more in control of the things that happen in social situations.

Unfortunately, feelings happen very quickly, often before I understand why I’m having them.  Sometimes I catch on to other people’s feelings before I identify my own (a finding in contrast to much of the ASD literature).  I have an easier time picking up on other people’s feelings (though I’m not always right–far from it) because I see it as a more pressing requirement of social interaction (v. my feelings are always there whether I’m alone or in a group, and I tend to put identifying them on hold in favor of all else that’s going on; it’s totally a damage control thing).

In both instances (self or group), however, NLD skews and rearranges my perceptions (i.e., I tend to get less than 40% on the facial recognition tests).  It’s very frustrating, and explains why I like alone time best.  Here are some things that might help:

-“I feel” statements–every day in the home

-Ask child how he/she feels about a situation, and teach him/her names of major feelings

-Teach that there are degrees of feelings, and that they often occur with other feelings

-Teach that it’s OK to have feelings, but that we must deal with them in acceptable ways

A quick list of emotions, compiled by two emotional theorists, appears in this Wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions.

I’m going to look at it and write more later.  I hope to find some interventions that help adults as well.

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3 Responses to “The Challenge of Identifying Emotions”

  1. Hello reg emotions Says:

    My daughter came home crying 2 days ago. This is the reason that I started researching NLD again after having put it down since the summer. There are other issues (most to help her) that consume my time. Anyway, I’ve learned to recognize when something needs attention pronto. Her social life is one of those things. She talks to me at these times otherwise she’s happy she ignores me and spends time corresponding with friends online. So getting back to her recent need for finding a safe place where she can receive encouragement, she came home crying and stated the difficulties that you mention here regarding not knowing her own feelings, being preoccupied in making sure they are appropriate and still not being sure of hers or other peoples. I reassured her by telling her that I had done a lot of research while home sick from work this week and that I was looking for professional help and that I was getting close. This seemed to have made her feel better and she went off to do homework.

  2. Alexa Says:

    Thanks for your blog,

    it is informative, I am a young adult recently diagnosed with NLD and what you are saying about emotions is true with my experience as well. My therapist recently gave me a task to go away and identify my entire feelings over a week, I only was able to identify two of them in the whole week!

    What you say about picking up on others feelings is also interesting, there are times when I am completely inept at even thinking what another person may be feeling but other times and more often than not I seem to hone in on others feelings and will pick up on ‘atmospheres’ usually I end up reading them incorrectly and will associate it with something I have done. I can also get extremely overwhelmed by others feelings, it is like I subconsciously start taking them on board myself and will feel sad, or agitated when it is the other persons feelings.

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