Not identifying feelings makes you depressed.


Man with feelings

Managing feelings.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Feelings illiteracy results in misidentifying your feelings.

In childhood, most of us learn a great many things. One thing a lot of people don’t learn about is feelings. Mostly we are taught to think logically. When you do feel unpleasant emotions, people are often told to ignore them. The result of all this lack of learning about feelings is a condition called emotional illiteracy.

What is feelings illiteracy?

While it’s not an official diagnosis inability to understand feelings as a factor in a great many mental health issues, it begins with not being able to recognize what it is you are feeling. Feelings illiteracy also means that you can’t identify what other people are feeling. People who lack feelings illiteracy can be extremely sensitive and perceive things others do and say as about them. Feelings illiteracy can lead to a lack of emotional intimacy when you can’t leave feelings, your efforts to be assertive to become aggressive, hostile, and bullying. Feelings illiteracy can lead to insecurity, anxiety, and being continually on guard in the world that feels frightening and hostile.

It’s challenging to manage emotions when you don’t know what they are.

If you’ve never learned to identify what you feel, you may misidentify them. Many people when asked how they feel will tell me they feel good; they feel bad; they feel angry. That’s the limit of their ability to identify feelings. When they feel insecure or threatened, many people respond by feeling angry rather than identifying what is making them feel anxious.

It’s common for some folks to interpret feeling lonely as a feeling of rejection and as a result, they withdraw from others rather than seek out more friendships or to improve their existing relationships.

Emotionally illiterate people blame their feelings on others.

You don’t know much about feelings and can identify what you’re feeling it’s tempting to believe that other people create those feelings inside you. If you feel bad, someone must’ve done something wrong. If you don’t feel happy, then someone must’ve withheld that happiness from you. As people become more emotionally literate, they come to recognize that they are responsible for how they feel.

Feelings illiteracy matters most when times are hard.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life was always smooth sailing? Well probably not, life without variations in feelings could become very dull. The times when feelings become most important is when we are struggling. How can you overcome a challenge if you don’t know what that challenge is? Recognizing that you’re feeling stressed improves your ability to cope with that stress.

It’s not unusual for adults to have the emotional literacy of a preschool child.

Teens who can’t identify feelings experience stress as depression.

Under stress, it’s common to misidentify emotions. If the only label you have for feelings is bad, you may not be able to tell the difference between the discomfort of stress and the more severe condition of chronic depression. One significant study found that teens who couldn’t identify various types of negative emotions were very prone to interpret their stress as depression.

The response that you use to feelings depends on identifying the feeling.

If you’re feeling irritated, you may want to find out why rather than respond with a default response of anger. The way you should react to guilt should be quite different than the way you respond to failure or rejection. Feeling restless doesn’t have to be in the negative; it can spur you to do something different. But you can’t fashion the correct response unless you can identify the feeling.

It’s easier to identify physical health than emotional health.

A great deal of material on the Internet these days is devoted to staying physically healthy. We can identify when we are overweight, have diabetes, experience high blood pressure, are having headaches, not getting enough sleep, or having some other physical health problems.

When it comes to poor emotional health, most people can identify the symptoms they have early enough to do anything about them. If you’re coughing and cannot go to work, you’ll probably call a doctor. If you too depressed to get out of bed or too anxious to leave the house most people are more likely to accept these problems is just the way they are because they can identify what they’re experiencing as anxiety or sadness.

Feelings illiteracy is an important component of emotional intelligence.

If you can’t recognize your feelings will have a great deal of difficulty empathizing with how other people are feeling. There are many occupations which allow you to work without interacting with other people. Your feelings can give you important information about the nature of those interactions. Being able to tell how the other person is feeling will facilitate and improve the relationship.

How would you know if you were emotionally literate?

The characteristics of feelings literacy or being emotionally literate include the ability to recognize what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it. You need to be able to put a name to that feeling. Identifying the feeling would allow you to decide what you want to do with that feeling. You should be able to manage your emotions. Emotional literacy involves the skills to repair emotional problems. Emotional literacy is a fluid skill in the more emotionally literate you become, the more you’re able to integrate all of these qualities of emotional literacy.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.