Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Layered Heart of Emotions: Naming and Claiming Our Feelings

by Joyce Wycoff and Lynne Snead

"Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. 
There can be no transforming of darkness into light 
and of apathy into movement 
without emotion." 
— Carl Jung

Elementary science class told us there are 206 bones in our bodies, 26 of which are in our feet. That information was generally accompanied by a basic overview of the various body parts, organs, and systems. However, little was said about emotions, and it wasn’t until 2017 that researchers identified 27 different emotions and clumped them into six basic types: 

Hundreds, if not thousands, of charts and wheels have been created in an attempt to clarify an apparently endless number of more nuanced descriptions of emotions. 

One might ask “Why?”

The work of Candace Pert, the scientist who discovered the opioid receptor and the idea that the molecules of emotions are our subconscious body, was a wake-up call to the importance of emotions and understanding their effect on our well-being. Since then, a lot of research has confirmed the power of naming our emotions. The ability to name our feelings makes us more aware of them, reduces their intensity, and gives us more power to handle them and the behaviors they stimulate.

Michael Miller states, 
“Naming emotions seems to bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings. 
The step from “I am this…” to “I am feeling this…”, or even, 
“Michael is feeling this…” means that we are not that emotion exclusively.”

As we approached the section of Gratitude Mojo journal devoted to emotions, we were looking for simple ways to “name and claim” our emotions. Joyce repurposed a bracelet to help her learn more about her emotional territory, however, it didn’t make sense to include a bracelet with every journal, especially since it seems like this territory varies for everyone. Plus the bracelet didn’t offer a way to reflect intensity of feelings nor our ability to express them and choose appropriate behaviors.

The longer we looked at the complicated wheels and charts related to feelings, the more we wanted something different, more useful, more engaging. One day as Joyce was writing in her journal, she gazed out the window at the cold, blustery and rainy day. Against that wintery backdrop, a stained glass heart stood out, bright and beautiful. 

As she was pulled deeper and deeper into its layers, a metaphor emerged, each bright layer representing variations of comfort and vulnerability. Clearly, expression of some emotions is easier than others; some are closer to the surface, others much deeper in our core, seldom revealed and sometimes hidden even from ourselves. Exploring those layers of expression, could bring us greater understanding of those lesser understood layers of ourselves.

Most of us are comfortable expressing happiness but less willing to express feelings of insecurity. We may easily express irritation while withholding the hurt feelings that come when we feel unseen or unheard. Expressing some fears, such as the fear of spiders or heights, is common and often a source of amusement, others such as the fear of abandonment or the fear of intimacy are generally much more difficult to explore and express.

The stained glass Layered Heart offers a simple metaphoric guide to exploring your own emotional territory, a never-ending journey revealing some of the infinite and wondrous layers of your own being. An overview of the layers with a few suggestions are offered below and in the Gratitude Mojo journal there is an accompanying section to further help you develop your feelings and a gratitude for all they do to make us who we are. 

Also included below is a feelings chart to help you find names for some of your feelings.

Outer layer: The aqua and purple triangles are what you easily show to the world. A combination of light and dark, you could look at these as the feelings that are close to the surface, both positive and negative. Typically this layer includes, happiness, surprise, satisfaction… irritation, worry, moodiness.
What emotions would you associate with this layer?

Outer layer 2nd: The red dots and yellow-green oblongs layer is another dual layer that reminds us that emotions are both positive and negative. Typical emotions in this slightly reserved layer might include: joy, gratitude, contentment … disappointed, blue, anxious.
What emotions would you associate with this layer?

Outer layer 3rd: The mottled, crystal layer is buried a bit deeper but still contains a mix of positive and negative, although positive emotions are easier to express since they are more socially acceptable. Typical feelings here might include: pride, tenderness, satisfied … mad, frightened, regretful.
What emotions would you associate with this layer?

Inner layer 2nd: The turquoise layer deeper in your core is where negative emotions are being held down and there is fear of expressing positive emotions except to trusted others. Typical feelings here might include: love, excitement, elation … anger, grief, shock.
What emotions would you associate with this layer?

Inner core: The red core of your heart is vulnerable. It holds the emotions only revealed when you feel safe. Typical emotions here are shame, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, hopelessness, fear of being visible.
What emotions would you associate with this layer?

Emotions chart from Happier Human 

We hope this process helps you explore the deeper emotions of your self and would love to hear your feedback in the comments section.

For more about how to get the Gratitude Mojo journal, email

Special thanks to Rodney Meador who created the stained glass heart and welcomed me on my first day at the Morro Bay Gallery and asked if I would trade art with him. I did so gladly and it became one of my treasures that made the cut in every downsizing that followed. Little did I know it would become a key that unlocked a mystery many years later. Thank you, Rodney!

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