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On Developing Emotional Literacy (Lesson 34)

You’re about to read Chapter 34. Want to start this story from the beginning? Go here.

I’ll be honest. I straight up don’t feel like writing about feelings right now.

I read Lesson 34, and I did the homework. And for today, that just might have to be enough.

[Editor’s Note: Naturally, I then go on to write a great deal about feelings.]

The term “emotional literacy” feels condescending to me

I don’t know why the title of Lesson 34 bothers me so much. Maybe because the concept of illiteracy has such a negative connotation?

Regardless, I feel vaguely insulted by the implication that I need to develop literacy of any sort.

Yet as I worked through this lesson, I had to acknowledge its significance.

Honoring our feelings is everything

When it comes to emotional intelligence (which is what Katherine seems to mean by literacy), we don’t actually need to understand every nuance of what we’re feeling.

“Both analysis and assessment are secondary when it comes to being emotionally literate,” she says. What’s most important is that “we are able to identify how we feel in the moment that we are feeling it and be able to share that with another person in a constructive way.”

Unfortunately, since discussing feelings can be challenging and uncomfortable, all too often many of us “shame ourselves for feeling the way we do,” or we ”deny that our feelings exist,” or we “try to talk ourselves out of our feelings.”

Well, yeah.

Even as I valiantly try to be as honest as possible with this blog, I can slide toward waxing positive rather than expressing too much upset.

After all, Paul didn’t mean to hurt me; we are both doing our best; I am learning so much during this time; everything is working out just fine.

There’s no point in dwelling; things could be worse; all is well; the best is yet to come.

Acceptance and forgiveness are the wisest ways forward.

Okaaaaay. Fine and fair enough.




Oh, and ALSO?

I’m grateful and compassionate and trusting and free. Sometimes I’m even satisfied.

Some feelings

See why I didn’t want to write about feelings?

They do need to be honored, but they’re also complex.

It can be hard to properly identify what I’m feeling. Or honestly, what even IS a feeling. (For example—“judged”? Not a feeling.)

So to help me out, I took the liberty of transcribing a list of feelings Katherine includes in Lesson 34. She cites Lucia Capacchione’s book Living with Feeling as the source of nine “families of feeling.”

Happy, sad, angry, afraid, playful, loving, confused, depressed, peaceful…all the basics are there, and I am finding the reference, however rudimentary, to be helpful.

But wait, there’s more

Making myself a cheat sheet was a good idea; I could tell I might need it for the homework. (Which I did.)

And in the process of doing so, I thought of the training I took last year in Nonviolent Communication, or NVC.

The principles of NVC are basically, be aware of both feelings and needs, and then it’s possible to communicate with compassion. Next up: world peace!

It was a helpful training and I’m glad I took it. Particularly because it included a reference sheet of a VERY long list of feelings.

Like, more than 250 of them.

I’d forgotten all about that sheet, but now that I’ve rediscovered it, I will mine it more often.

There’s something satisfying about being able to precisely name an internal experience. And the next time I have an intimate partnership, I look forward to making use of such precision.

Because when I’m honest, I realize that near the end with Paul, I wasn’t doing a whole lot of exploring when it came to my feelings. Ironically enough, I think I was too afraid.

In any case, I’m willing to look now, and forward is the only way to go.

Lesson 34 in practice

We had our fourth meditation assignment in a row with this homework, although technically it also involved a little bit of journaling.

The assignment was to sit still and release tension until it was possible to gain awareness of what emotions were present in the body.

As I was warned might be the case, I observed several emotions at once, which, thanks to my cheat sheet, I was able to easily name: anxiety, irritation, and frustration.


The next part was to simply be with these feelings for a while, without resisting or judging them.

(This, of course, made me think of Rumi’s “The Guest House.” Which of course now I have to include.)

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

And after the welcoming, came the inquiry.

What might these feelings be attempting to communicate?

For me this morning, my messages were these:

-I am on guard to protect against repeating past mistakes.

-Nothing is ever guaranteed, but also, scarcity is an illusion. I have everything I need.

-I can breathe deep to feel clear.

And maybe I could have received these messages without tuning into my feelings first.

(I mean, probably, yes, since receiving spiritual messages is essentially my specialty-slash-profession.)

But connecting with the feelings first was helpful, because it connected me with a deeper honesty.

In observing my anxiety, irritation, and frustration, I also noticed my preference not to notice the “dark stuff.” I have an almost irresistible desire to shift toward the positive as soon as possible.

But the “dark stuff” is important too, and I am grateful I can be with it all. Including my frustratingly persistent desire to be with Paul.

Love > fear,


Want to know what happens next? Proceed to Chapter 35.

Missed what happened before? Go back to Chapter 33, or start from the beginning.

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Love > fear