As the title implies, this site will continually update changes and trends in anger management services, research,referrals and provider training. In addition, books,CDs,videos and DVDs used in anger management programs will be introduced.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Power of Emotional Literacy

Imagine that appliances and tools that we buy from time to time came with no instructions. In fact, let me broaden this idea. Imagine that a tool shows up at your front door with a tag saying, “use me”. Imagine the confusion you may feel. You have no idea what it is or how to appropriately use this tool. Chances are that you would find a way to get rid of this tool.

What is my point? The point is context. We need instructions and some directions on how to use the tools that have been given to us. Emotions are tools given to us to help us make sense of the world around us. Imagine that you are placed in a situation that threatens your life. The appropriate emotional response would be fear. In addition to the physical responses, like a rush of adrenaline, the emotions are signals that tell us we are in danger and that we should take appropriate action to preserve our life.

On a daily basis, we encounter less severe situations that require our awareness of how we feel, and the impact that the situation will have on our lives. Ironically, many of us are taught, when asked about how we feel, to simply say, “I feel good/bad”. Despite the fact that it serves a functional purpose to be brief, I wonder if somehow this oversimplification of our emotions has taught us to render them null and void. Therefore, when the time comes to express ourselves, we stumble and falter as we try to describe complex feelings like feeling weary, cornered, or misused.

There is a reason why we all need a broad based emotional vocabulary. The more words we have to describe how we feel, the more we are able to meet the need in a more precise manner. Let me illustrate the importance of this idea. If I went to the doctor and said I felt bad, it is likely that she would ask me a series of questions to properly define where I hurt, how long I have been hurting and the nature of the pain, all in an attempt to properly diagnose and treat the condition. The same is true when we can only say we feel bad/good. It is important to be much more specific about how we feel. To say, for example, that you feel cheated is broad based. One can then ask by whom have you been cheated, and take appropriate action to resolve the emotional turmoil. This is the power of emotional literacy. One becomes their own diagnostician and is better able to Perceive, Identify and Name (PIN) your emotions. This is a prerequisite to good anger management. In future articles, I will expand on this idea. Visit my blog at for more on emotional literacy.

Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF
President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers
Carlos Todd is the owner of Todd’s Anger Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC


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