I hope you have been well. Thank you for your patience and understanding while I was taking a break from blogging to focus on personal matters. This is going to be a simple and easy post about how you can help yourself and your child understand complex (difficult to understand) feelings.
If you re-visit my last post on different emotions you may notice that although there are only about five emotions groups, there are many different feelings under each group. You may also notice how each of these feelings can evolve in intensity, frequency, and can even change from one feeling to another in the same or different group. You may notice that it is possible to experience several different feelings from several different groups at the same time depending on the situation that triggers them. For example, if you are experiencing a re-adjustment to in-person work or class, you might experience happiness, worry, frustration, relief, and concern all at once!
The following are just some creative ways that we can help ourselves and our kids be able to physically experience, by using the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing, how complex emotions exist and how we can learn to pick out and connect with individual emotions from out of the mess. Please note that these suggestions involve multiple senses and are not organized by any specific sense.
There are many, many different ways to experience complex emotions in a fun and nurturing way. These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. Most important....have some fun!
Lego Mess (or Block Mess): Gather legos or blocks of different shapes, colors, and sizes. Assign an emotion to each group based on size and/or color (for example red legos are for happiness). Once all have been assigned, mix them all up! You can then discuss an experience where you might have had mixed feelings and pull out individual colored legos/blocks and explore the feeling. Hint: different sizes of the same color can represent intensity or different feelings within the group.
Make a Smoothie: Straightforward. Gather ingredients to represent different feelings about an specific experience, or not, and make a smoothie. Notice how everything is all mixed up and see if you can identify a specific flavor, which will represent one of the "feeling" ingredients e.g. tasting banana represents identifying frustration. You can also use this activity to explore unknown emotions. Unknown emotions are those which cannot be described and often don't fit the definition of the feelings we are aware of.
Soda Disgusting: If you dare...this is a great one for exploring negative emotions. Assign different negative feelings to different sodas and mix them together. This is supposed to taste bad. The intensity of the mixed flavors may be really nasty, yet this is an excellent way of processing how you can have multiple negative feelings at the same time and how letting more and more build up can be worse than dealing with them when they occur.
Music Time: Assign different feelings to different musical instruments. Practice just listening to the music without picking out an individual instrument and experience what its like hearing all that "emotional noise". Then try focusing on a single instrument and just listening to that. This can be a great exercise for practicing ignoring anxiety or negative head noise. You can also try using music with a singer and having that singer represent you with all that background noise going on as if you are trying to hear yourself deal with the situation.
Recycling: Same concept and process as lego mess but you are assigning emotions to different recyclable products.
The Gray Zone: Great painting activity that can be made into a tactile experience by using finger paints. Using different colors, mix them all together until you have a big gray/black blob. This activity is very similar to smoothies or soda disgusting and is meant to help expose you to unknown feelings. See if you can see little pieces of the original color (if you see some blue for happiness sticking out of the gray/black blob) and notice how even when you feel emotionally lost, it is still possible to find one to cling to, to begin the emotion exploring process
Cleaning Things: It's only a chore if you let it be one. Cleaning dirty objects can be a metaphor for negative surface emotions, the ones we are aware of that often get triggered immediately during/after a negative event. Think of a negative experience and assign a negative feeling such as "disgust" to the filth. Then clean the object and notice what happens to the filth. Often we will find that the object looks clean and different, as if there was something hidden underneath. This symbolizes other deeper feelings we may have covered up such as fear, shame, or anything else. Notice how easy it is to focus on the filth and not whats underneath.
Organizing Things: Another way to experience different emotional intensities. You can take anything that has a uniform color and assign it an emotion e.g. yellow for calm. Make sure you have multiple objects of the same color and different size and organize them to visualize how the feeling can change in intensity based on its growing or shrinking size.
Blowing Bubbles: The rainbows of colors in the bubble soap represent mixed emotions, which you can assign different ones to. Blow bubbles of different sizes and quantities to visualize intensity. Also notice that the bubbles pop, representing the fact that not matter how complex and challenging they may be, they don't last forever.