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Lifestyle: How good are you at naming your feelings?

27 Sep 2018

Men have a reputation of not being good at talking about their feelings and this might be part of the problem we face with our mental health and in our relationships with women.

Doug Avery says that many of the wives of depressed farming men who come to his talks tell him that their husbands “don’t talk.” There will be a number of reasons men don’t talk about their feelings, but where do you start if you can’t find words to describe how you feel?

Surely this has got to be a good thing to try if we are to improve mental health amongst men, as well as women. Everyone needs a language to describe their feelings and plenty of stories of when and how to express feelings. This is an area that Doug excels at, as a story-teller.

I remember a wise, old counsellor telling me once that the best thing parents can do for their children is help them develop a language for their feelings. Easily said than done, I found. I did it a couple of times and then forgot to do it.

Helping my child stop and think about how they are feeling and putting a word to it, is one thing. Asking an adult to do the same, is another.

Adults are expected to be better-adjusted than children and over time we learn that some feelings that may have been common-place in childhood are now considered weaknesses by other adults. We start to restrict even acknowledging those feelings in anything but the broadest terms, such as ‘angry’, ‘happy’, ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’.

The common use of emojis or internet slang such as ‘LOL’ is an alternative to naming actual feelings. Sure, it makes texting quicker, but it isn’t helpful in thinking about and acknowledging our feelings.

Feelings are about nuances. ‘Angry’ is not the same as ‘annoyed’ or ‘cross’; ‘bitter’ is not the same as ‘hurt’ or ‘resentful’.

It is only by trying out a wide range of feeling words and practicing using them that we are likely to improve our feeling vocabulary.

It is very hard to rush over to a list of feeling words when we are in the middle of a heated discussion with our spouse but a list of feeling words might be helpful to turn to if we are trying to write down how we felt afterwards. I suspect that writing about our feelings is a good place to start for someone who finds it difficult to verbalise their feelings.

A list of feeling words might also be useful to look through and discuss with your spouse, instead of doing the crossword together, or watching TV? Is that asking too much?

I am going to print out a list of feeling words from A to Z and talk these through with my 10-year old. A scrappy piece of paper is more likely to be referred to than a file on a computer, I suspect (think in ink, as they say).

Here is a list of feeling words, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’: Try here

Looking for a list of feeling words for couples, beginning with ‘amorous’: Look here (really good).

A list of feeling words for farming men might be helpful. I will ask Doug Avery to help me with it.

Keep asking great questions …

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