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Demystifying Emotions

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Demystifying Emotions

Regret, guilt, compassion, thankfulness, joy, anger, indignation, fear, anxiety, courage… the realm of human emotion is vast and all over the place! Sometimes, we feel our emotions as a small stirring, other times, they seem to have taken over our entire being. Sometimes we see them coming from a mile away, others they leap upon us seemingly out of nowhere.

I remember the warmth in my heart that I felt when I was just friends with my boyfriend and how that expanded little by little and imperceptibly into the love I now feel. It took a while before I was able to identify my emotion as love.

Emotions have the most power over us when we are unsure how to observe or look at them… they are sometimes like a wild caged creature that we want to pretend is not there, that we don’t want to let loose for fear we cannot tame it.

In ontological coaching, we use a tool that helps us become better observers of our emotions.

Why is this important?

Because whether we wish to shift or grow an emotion, we must first be able to look at it.

This tool is called linguistic reconstruction and was developed by Julio Olalla. Like most terms in philosophy, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. Let me explain…

Let’s say you work for CSI Miami. You get to a crime scene and see the victim, the weapon, and the evidence. You don’t know what happened but you put together the clues in order to reconstruct what has taken place. I sometimes think of emotions in the same way—they are suddenly in my being and I am not always sure how they got there, so it takes some piecing together to figure them out.

The other important piece about this tool is that it serves to translate what is non-verbal (emotions) into what is verbal (language). This is important because often times we confuse facts (assertions) with opinions (assessments). For example, if I say, I am 5’3,” that is an assertion. If I say, I am short, that is an assessment. The assessments we make about ourselves and the world are big contributors to our emotions. When we can get clear on what is fact and what is opinion, we can get clear on our emotions.

Here is an example of linguistic reconstruction of Guilt:

  • I assert that I did (or did not do) X. (Here X can be, for example, I stole something, I did not do what my partner asked me, etc.)
  • I assess that I should (or should not) have done that.
  • I assess that I have violated my own standards and values.
  • I assess myself as a lesser human being.
  • I declare that I cannot forgive myself.
  • I declare that I deserve to be punished.

Declarations are also part of certain emotions. When we declare something to be true, we are creating our reality. With declarations, we commit to doing something in the future, and in that way, they lead us to action.

Here is an example of Courage:

  • I assert that X is happening. (Here X can be, for example, something out of my comfort zone, a natural disaster, etc.)
  • I assert that I am afraid.
  • I am assessing my fear and it is no reason not to act.
  • I declare my intention to act in spite of my fear.

Now it’s your turn to try some deconstruction!

Once you’re done you can post it in the comments section below to get feedback!

  • Pick an emotion that has been showing up for you.
  • Think about how you would explain the emotion to a friend - usually, you have a story about the what, how, or who of the emotion.
  • Separate this story into assertions (facts) and assessments (opinions).
    • A triggering event is a fact, so that would be an assertion.
    • What you think about that event are your assessments.
  • Now write down what these assessments lead you to do (what action they predispose you to). For example, in anger, I am inclined to punish, in compassion, I am inclined to help, and in fear, I’m inclined to run away.

Here is a skeleton of what your deconstruction would look like:

  • I assert that “X” did or did not happen.
  • I assess “X” as “Y.”
  • I declare that I will (or will not) do “Z.”

What happened after you deconstructed your emotion? Do you see or feel it differently? What was revealed to you? Share your insights along with your reconstruction in the comments below!


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Author: Kelly Matsudaira

Comments ( 2 )

  • Ariel Snapp

    I love the simple examples you give to explain emotions and how they can “take over” without our awareness if we are not able to observe them and pick them apart. An example for me from my day today is around anger.

    I assert that my children need to be dropped off at school at a certain time each morning. I assess that when I start to feel there is too much to accomplish with myself and my children in the morning, I start to feel frustrated. If I do not pause to address this feeling in context, it can sometimes lead to the experience of anger. I may lose my temper if we are running late and raise my voice with my children. I assess that this would not happen if I was able to find creative ways of everyone getting their needs met on time in the morning.

  • Erik

    Emotion: Resentment
    I ASSERT that I have been treated unfairly in the past. I assess that this is the emotion of resentment and I assert that I have chosen to allow this emotion to become a mood. I declare that I accept that these things happened to me. I declare that though I do not accept them, that I choose to move forward and live in gratitude instead of resentment. I declare that the past frustrations will not color or influence my possibilities for my future.

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