Emotional Intelligence: Identifying and expressing feelings
Inside Out is a popular Disney/Pixar movie exploring the emotions experienced by an 11-year-old girl, Riley, who moves across the country to San Francisco with her parents. Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness live in headquarters (in Riley’s head). In Riley’s early years, Joy rules headquarters most of the time (and thus how Riley feels), but as Riley grows, other emotions exert more influence on the buttons, knobs, and levers that control Riley’s feelings, eventually leading to growth in Riley’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
As the movie follows Riley, her EQ and personality grow in complexity, with emotions coloring memories and mixing to nuance emotional expression. In 1980, Plutchik introduced his wheel of emotions that explored the notion of relations among and mixtures of emotions (see an adaptation of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions below). Some EQ experts posit that four emotions (i.e., Joy, Sadness, Fear/Surprise, and Anger/Disgust) are the basic building blocks of complex emotional expression.
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Although a cartoon certainly can’t do justice to the depth and breadth of EQ research, it highlights the variety of emotions we experience, and the need for adequate vocabulary to communicate feelings effectively. If your child usually says they’re happy or mad in simplistic terms, expanding your child’s vocabulary might help them express themself more effectively. There are many feelings charts out on the Internet. Jim Borgman’s popular How are you feeling today? posters are available from CTherapy.com. Emoji feelings are shown below, and they’re downloadable as a coloring page on the right. If your child is having substantial problems with emotional expression, treatment from a mental health professional is recommended, and working on emotion identification with a feelings chart could possibly be a component of that treatment.