The importance of emotions: Part 2 

Welcome to part two! In part one, we answered three questions; 1) what are emotions? 2) Why are they so important? & 3) What are primary vs. Secondary emotions? In this part two, we will address how to identify emotions and needs. I want to give a little reminder that this is something that can be practiced, learned, and developed! It is completely okay not to know how to do this instinctively.  

How to identify your emotions and needs?  

You will probably hear a lot of people say that you need to cope with your emotions. I prefer saying that we need to be with our emotions. Being with our emotions, making a conscious effort to feel them and sit with them, will then allow you to identify them. If doing that is difficult, I suggest that you try using a tool to help, such as the wheel of emotions: 

There are two ways to use the wheel :  

1- Start at the centre, pick what you are feeling (ex: anger) and take a look at the different types of anger that we can tend to feel (go towards the extremity of the wheel).  

2 – Start at the extremity (ex: you feel empty) and work your way to the middle of the wheel to see what emotion is tied to it (ex: sad).  

I also suggest that you look at other emotions (ex: if you feel angry, go take a look at fear, sadness, etc.) to identify primary vs. secondary emotions.  

Lastly, keep in mind that this tool brings you into a more cognitive type of processing, so it is important to go back to sitting with your feelings once you have identified what they are (see how they feel in your body).  

Additionally, it is important to identify your needs at the root of the emotions and feelings you have. For example, we have identified that your primary emotion is abandonment. You can then ask yourself : “what do I need (from myself or from the other) to not feel abandoned?”. Once you have identified your need, you can then communicate that to the other person involved. Identifying this is important as it optimizes healthy well-being and optimizes healthy relationship with others.  

Dr. Mélodie Brown, D.Psy., C.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of CFIR (St. Catharines). She offers psychotherapy for adult individuals and couples & psychodiagnostics assessments for adult individuals, in French and English. She also provides clinical supervision for students who are completing their masters or doctorate degrees in counselling/clinical psychology.