Indentifying Multiple Emotions

One essential component of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize multiple feelings taking place inside of yourself at the same time. While most people can identify a single emotion as it occurs, it can be more difficult to identify multiple feelings that are occurring simultaneously with each other.

Why is it important to be able to distinguish multiple emotions? The answer is that it's hard to control something that you don't know exists. Most of us have had the experience of acting in a way that later surprised even ourselves. This is often the result of an emotion influencing us outside of our awareness.

The ability to notice simultaneous emotions is similar to an expert wine taster who can detect complex characteristics of a vintage in a single sip, while a novice may not be able to say much more than whether or not a particular wine seems to taste "good".  Similarly, a talented chef or gourmet can sample a small spoonful of soup and identify every ingredient, while another person may only notice the overall taste. Emotional self-awareness generally takes similar practice to develop. Regular periods of quiet self-reflection, as well as opportunities to talk with someone who can help you in this area, can help you develop your ability to recognize the many levels and layers of emotions that may be occurring within you at the same time.

If knowledge is power, then knowledge of your inner self is the height of personal power. Seek out awareness of the many layers and combinations of emotions occurring within yourself at various moments of your life and you will have the self-awareness to help you live a rich and deep inner life.


Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT is a psychotherapist in Atlanta who works with individuals and couples.  In addition to his general practice he offers specialized assistance in helping people heal from the trauma of chronic sexual betrayal, serial infidelity, and addition to sex or porn. 

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