Emotion Regulation 1.2: Describe


We continue a series on how to effectively manage emotions, so that we can engage more thoughtfully in relationship. All of the skills we discuss are designed to support the ultimate goal of wisdom (see post titled, “Emotion Regulation 1.0”).

Today’s skill is describe, and it follows closely on the heals of yesterday’s skill: observe. It’s extremely difficult to just observe, but the point is to simply become aware of what you weren’t noticing or paying attention to before.

Describing what you observe is easier. When you describe something you put words on experiences. The harder part is using words that are just factual. Only describe what you know.

Try Your Hand Again

Let’s use the example of looking at your hand again. When you observe your hand, you simply notice that it has fingers, knuckles, veins, freckles. When you describe it, you put factual words to your observation: The hand is 5 inches wide at the palm; it has callouses on the base of the fingers on the palm side; it has dryer skin than it did in the summer.

Describing does not include judgement, concerns, compliments, etc. It does not say, the fingers are long, for example. Longer than what? The factual information: The index finger is 3″ long. The nails are of uneven lengths. The veins give a bluish hue to the skin.

You get the idea. We’re just trying to be mindful of what we hadn’t noticed before, which is an important skill where emotion regulation is concerned. We have to become aware of something before we can get control over it.

Remember: Just the Facts

Staying factual is critical. Take a minute or two throughout your day today to bring your attention to what’s around you. Observe it. Describe it. Then try to do the same thing with your emotions. Notice them, put words to them and see if the mere awareness of them gives you a different experience of them.



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