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Why I Map My Emotions

I'm an emotional guy. I may hide it most of the time, but I feel deeply. I care deeply. I am a sucker for the charity emotional appeal, and romantic comedies. So I should understand my emotions pretty well. I do not. They are confusing and spinning around in my mind.

This is a source of stress for me.

It is difficult to express feelings. We ask , "How are you doing?" and are shocked and embarrassed if someone really answers. Even when expressing ourselves to a close friend and telling them how mad, or happy, or surprised we are. We rarely truly understand our full range of emotions, or why they are so varied and confusing.

Crazy emotions can come from almost any event:

  • An insult from a teacher in 6th grade that I can't seem let go of. Mrs. Bangs, you were very mean.

  • A snub at the coffee shop that pisses me off even though it seems so innocent.

  • Being praised for a job well done that makes me feel bad.

I have tried to work through events that stressed me, and were very emotional, trying to come to terms with the the confusing and conflicting feelings. I rarely was successful. I would inevitably just blame something else and push the emotions to the back of the dark closet in my mind. But they always pop back up... usually at night.

I began mapping my emotions around events in my life. It was kind of by accident, but I am an engineer, as well as an artist. I create art depicting emotions and I was looking for a way to not be so random. I decided to choose events in my life and create art around the emotions from that. I've iterated a lot on this and the maps can become very complex. But when they are done they give a path and explanation on the complex and varied emotions. It's weird but it really works.

The abbreviated process is:

  1. Put your mind back in the event. Live there for a bit.

  2. Jot down all emotions that come to mind. Do this quickly.

  3. Connect emotions that seem related or lead to each other.

  4. Combine emotions that are the same. Refine until you can accurately traverse the map and experience the emotions from the event. Expect to do a lot of erasing and redrawing but do it quickly and don't worry about it being perfect.

Events in my life that were confusing become obvious and I can understand my reactions much better. For example when taking a job for a huge salary increase I could not figure out why I was super happy and sad at the same time.

I have mapped this new job event and it has a range of emotions from pride and feeling loved to fear and disbelief. That is starting to explain my feelings. I can move from Giddy to Loved to Important to Fraud to confused to disbelief. I see that there is a "dark self" in me as well as a "grounded self" and a "ethereal self". And it makes sense! It is now easy to understand my conflicting feelings. And I'm working on my dark self... It can be very dark and destructive.

I now can sleep at night and not be haunted by these past emotions. I have more empathy for others and understanding of myself. I have even forgiven Mrs. Bangs.

If you try this please let me know what you think. I would love to talk about if this works for anyone else.

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