Describing Emotions: A Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others

Do you know how to describe your emotions? Can you put words to the way you feel when you’re angry, sad, or happy? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people find it difficult to articulate their feelings.

In this article, we will explore the different ways that people describe emotions. We will also discuss the benefits of understanding your own emotions and the emotions of others. At the foot of this post are some invaluable links to resources that can further inform all who wish to feel better, and who want to navigate life with greater peace.

How are you today?

When it comes to describing emotions, there are two main camps: those who believe they can express their emotions well, and those who don’t. If you fall into the latter category, you may have trouble putting words to the way you feel. For example, you might know that you’re angry, but you might not be able to say why. Or, you might be able to describe your emotions in a general way (e.g., “I’m feeling stressed”), but you might not be able to pinpoint the exact emotions you’re experiencing.

If like so many, you have trouble describing your emotions, you may want to consider taking an emotional intelligence test. If you’re feeling brave, you may even ask those around you?



Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to perceive, understand, and manage emotions of yourself – and others



EQ also involves being able to express emotions in a way that is helpful, not harmful, to yourself and others. There are many different emotional intelligence tests available online, such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test™ (MSCEIT).

Counsellors can also be a guiding resource!

An alternative to taking assessments online for your EQ is to work with a counsellor or psychological therapist, or a mindset coach/consultant who is well versed in understanding the how’s and whys of our emotions and who can help you find the reasons for your beliefs and behaviours that drive your life.

While emotional intelligence is important for everyone, it is especially crucial for those who have trouble expressing their emotions. This is because understanding your emotions can help you to better manage them, and thereafter, your behaviours.

Are you quick to anger?

For example, if you know that you tend to get angry when you feel overwhelmed, you can take steps to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed in the first place. Or, if you know that you tend to express your anger in a way that is hurtful to others, you can work on meeting your anger with curiosity and compassion so that it leads less often to negative and or regretful behaviours.

Is anxiety the leading cause of your distress?

I see more clients with anxiety as a primary symptom that any other reason. And the cause of the anxiety system and way of thinking is usually found in childhood! Individual may have been environmentally affected by uncertainty around how safe they felt as a child. Running alongside the uncertainty is usually a client who as a child learned that to express themselves was less than helpful!

We are rarely responsible for how we learned, but we can be accountable today.

Why we feel what we do, when, and to what intensity, is very much attributable to several factors, or influences.

It is thought by some that as much as 30% of who we will become is decided at birth. What has occurred in the womb, in previous generations in terms of trauma and neglect, but also what was positive.

Our experience during gestation in the womb can contribute to and influence the foetus during the third trimester – and possibly earlier!

How were we parented?

How did we bond and how well did we become attuned to our primary caregivers? Were there any known ‘ruptures’ in the bonding and developmental attachment periods?

When there are emotional or experiential deficits during the developmental period it is common for these to show up in later life in our deep relationships, and again if we become parents ourselves.

Childhood emotional neglect, which may also mean something less than horrible abuse, is not always apparent in later life to the conscious mind. But when our emotional needs are consistently unmet in childhood, this will show up and impact our ability to regulate emotions, be resilient to the vicissitudes of life, and ergo, behave less respectfully, particularly in all our relationships (work, social, parenting, familial, and intimate).

Is it really hard to say how you really feel?

Another crucial skill that we may be denied in our earliest years, and the one I encounter the most as a therapist, is the lack of ability to express what we are feeling and thinking. For so many of us, this is an alien concept. Thankfully, we can work through these powerful deficits and learn to once again become more expressive, respectfully, yet assertively.


Emotions are by their very nature ways in which we ultimately make decisions based on what we feel – and this determines the paths we take while navigating life.


In short, understanding emotions – both your own and those of others – can help you to live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

If you’d like to learn more about emotions and emotional intelligence, I encourage you to explore the resources below. Or, you may wish to consult with the author who works online, globally – and face-to-face in Suffolk, UK.

What are your thoughts on emotions and emotional intelligence? Do you find it easy or difficult to express your emotions? What behaviours do you like – and dislike in yourself and others? Let me know in the comments.


About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).