Emotions are an important part of the human experience. Emotions (or feelings) include, but are not limited to: happiness, sadness, excitement, fear, surprise, anger, love and disappointment.
From the time that we are born, our emotions are developing through our interactions with the world around us. Indeed, before children even have the ability to speak, emotions are communicated and learned by observing behavior and interacting with caregivers. When a baby smiles and the adult smiles at them in return, a baby learns about happiness and joy – without even having words to explain it. When children begin to learn how to speak, adults help to teach them how to label their emotions. For example, if a child cries when they are asked to share a toy, the parent or caregiver might say “You are sad or angry about having to share…” This is one important way that kids learn how to name their feelings, from adults who connect words to their experiences.
As we grow up, our interactions with the people around us continue to teach us about emotions, how they affect us and how they affect other people. We also learn about emotions through the stories we read and the TV shows or movies we watch. Observing fictional characters gives us information about how we might respond in a similar situation and how the people around us might feel. A character in a book might get into a fight with her mother. As readers, we get to see how this situation affects both the mother and the child and what emotions each of them experiences. In our own life, we pull from these learnings to help us deal with similar situations with our own parents/teachers/etc. As we get older, we become better at recognizing and identifying our own emotions and the emotions we see in others. We also get better at understanding how to react to our emotions, how to put our feelings into words and knowing what we are feeling and why. This is known as “emotional awareness.”
Why is being aware of our emotions so important and how does it help us in our lives? Well, most importantly, emotional awareness helps us build relationships. We are better at building and keeping relationships when we can understand our emotional reactions, express our feelings and resolve conflicts with others. Recognizing our emotions also helps us to make decisions. For example, if we recognize that we feel sad, this tells us that something is wrong and we can take steps to change the situation. Some people are naturally good at recognizing, labeling and managing their emotions. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t worry, because this is a skill you can practice. Learn more about how to practice here.