Being able to put our feelings into words is a key way to ‘affect regulate’ or manage our emotions. The problem for many of us as trauma survivors, though, is being able to name our feelings in the first place. We often simply don’t have the language and have never had any help in developing it.
This helpful poster is a good starting place and alongside the full-colour and low-ink versions, there is also a blank template for you to develop your own version.
This is a free downloadable PDF.
Page 1 is a full-colour poster.
Page 2 is a low-ink, print-friendly version.
Page 3 is a blank template.
Dan Siegel says we have to ‘name it to tame it’ – meaning that a principal way of managing our emotions and even our distress is to put words to it. He explains that this is because we experience distress mainly in the right hemisphere of our brain, and to calm and soothe it we need to engage the left hemisphere, which is where words are generated. So being able to put our feelings into words is a key way to ‘affect regulate’.
The problem, though, for many of us as trauma survivors is being able to name our feelings in the first place. At the extreme end of our experience is ‘alexithymia’ – a stark inability to put feelings into words. But for everyone, it can be useful to have a few prompts.
I’ve been helped enormously by going back to basics and stopping and thinking about what it is that I’m feeling, and having a menu of words to choose from to describe it. So that’s why I developed this poster (also found in our ‘Trauma Survivors’ Resource Guide’) which provides an ‘Alphabet of Emotions’.
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