Understanding Meta-Emotions

People have a way that they feel about the feelings they are experiencing which is called meta-emotion that happens in normal human development. Throughout your life, you have emotional experiences that lead you to respond to situations and people in a certain way to have your needs met and manage your emotions.

There are many ways that understanding your emotions and meta-emotions can be helpful to you. An example may be that you learned to express your hurt by crying to your mother so she learned to nurture you and help you feel better. Or differently, you may have learned that showing your ability to be rational and intellectualize a situation made you successful at work by conveying your point across without emotions. Understanding your patterns of responding to different emotions can help you to utilize the ways it can benefit you to help you be more effective in communicating across different situations.

Sometimes, people do not feel safe enough to allow their emotions to be felt in an authentic way so they develop ways to cope with them that are not very helpful. These coping strategies tend to be useful in the beginning with a particular problem so people learn to reuse them in different problems they face. However, not all coping strategies are created equal. Their effectiveness varies with the situation you are faces with, the phase of life you are in, symptoms you experience, or current relationships you are in. An example may be the person who learned to cry to mom has trouble holding in feeling hurt while receiving criticism at work. Or the intellectual who struggles to relate intimately with other more emotionally expressive people making connection difficult.

People have different ways of labeling their emotions.

  • positive or negative,
  • acceptable or not,
  • happy or sad

Sifting through the labels of your emotional experience as a raw emotion or a meta-emotion can help you to manage it in more effective ways and allow you to be a more authentic version of yourself. Can you spend a few minutes talking about if you understand your label of your meta emotion? Then you have the ability to choose to change it. Some people are gifted with the self awareness of their emotional experience so that they are able to manage their reactions to these feelings in healthy, helpful ways. Others struggle to see alternate ways to react and respond to emotions. If you cannot do this on your own, a therapist can help you expand your set of emotions and meta-emotions to help you succeed in different types of situations or relationships. If you still struggle to manage your emotions and need a therapist to coach you through it, contact the Center for Growth or consult others tips on meta-emotion and depression.