There Are More Options for Emotions Than Anger or Happiness

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This is a continuation of August 4, 2020 post titled So much Fear, So Little Time (to process).

We have already established that anger is often covering fear, sadness, frustration. And overwhelm is a flood of emotions we don’t have the tools yet to organize and “handle”, or express in a given moment. Anger is a more socially acceptable emotion than fear. And there is a causal relationship among the two emotions (fear and anger), physiologically (Thagard, 2018). So we can easily confuse one with the other, and end up substituting them for each other. Have you ever gotten angry with a manager who threatens your job? Or angry with a child for getting lost?

Taking on fear is huge. It is primal. We evolved with it. It saved our skin 10,000 years ago when we lived in caves and had to ward off saber-tooth tigers. Fear was our friend back then. And fear was our friend when we were small and needed to take care of ourselves in dangerous situations (playgrounds, dysfunctional families, strangers…). But fear may not be such a great friend now. We may want her to visit a little less often. She/Fear has spaghetti velcro hair that pulls in a lot of unnecessary extra emotions and energy that don’t help me live with joy and ease.

“Learning to take care of yourself when you are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders is an important technique to master. Life is always going to have difficult moments. The sooner you learn to get through them, the longer you will have to enjoy the journey — pitfalls and all” (Barton Goldsmith, PhD). Learning to recognize and care for the fear (anger, sadness, anxiety, etc.) is important!

Have you noticed a bouncing back and forth between extremes? In our most primal, most reactive state, we forget that we live on a continuum of emotions, a variety of feelings does exist. And when we recognize and call out the variety, it helps us to name where we are. When we name where we are, we can identify what to do to take care of ourselves.

For example: I am feeling lonely. I miss my daughter who used to live and talk with me daily. I am adjusting to that transition and need to find alternate ways to connect with her and to connect to others. Or, I am feeling nervous because I am looking for a new job and being vulnerable out there is mentally taxing so I need to be sure to sleep enough and exercise more to let out the nervous energy. (Without naming them and looking at them, they both just come out as “grangry”- grumpy/angry and I don’t know what to do about them). The loneliness is cyan blue today. The nervousness could be called pineapple yellow.

We have more colors in the crayon box of emotions to use than angry or happy: muddy forest green of jealousy, turquoise compassion, fuschia passion, cerulean blue of peacefulness, orange nervousness, or even maroon dishonesty. There are specialists who assign chakra colors to specific emotional meanings (, but for now just practice assigning any color that speaks to an emotion you are experiencing, then assign a word other than angry, sad or happy. We are coloring our lives and conversations with more options; that helps with the pendulum swing.

This is just a way to connect in a different way with our emotions, and makes it easier to get perspective and decide how to care for ourselves.

*Joy and ease is my goal for a life to love. But it can feel far far away these days. “I handle my own life with joy and ease.” ~ Louise Hay