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.

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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.

How healthy is your pie of life?

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

Life pie

Healthy Pie of Life.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

A healthy, balanced life is made up of many “slices” they all need to be healthy.

Recovery programs, whether they are mental health or substance use programs, frequently have clients fill out a form sometimes called a “pie of life” or a “grapefruit diagram.”

Your life is made up of many separate components. Each of these portions needs to be in balance for you to have a healthy emotional life. Periodically, it is useful to look at each of these life domains and see which require improvement.

Social Relationships support good mental health.

One of the four criteria for diagnosing a problem as a mental illness is when it interferes with your ability to have healthy relationships. These relationships can be primary sexual relationships, or they might be family or friends. The problems involved in getting together and breaking up bring a lot of people to counseling so do conflicts with relatives. Today, in America, more than fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, and there are lots of families who are not speaking to each other.

One reason for the high divorce rate is a failure to develop and maintain a good couple’s relationship. In the early stages of a couple’s relationship, loneliness and sexual urges drive people together. Failure to develop deep friendship dooms many couple’s relationships.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, humans need support from other people. Failure to develop social skills can impair your mental health. People in early recovery are encouraged to work on their friend making skills and to develop a support system of at least five friends, where possible family members may meet that need.

Another part of social relationships is your relationship to society in general. Dealing with legal issues, staying inside the law, is a part of recovery. Ask yourself how healthy is your relationship to society in general.

Work and meaning impact your emotional health.

Work provides more than just economic advantages. People who enjoy what they do each day are more mentally healthy. Work Burnout is a major source of emotional distress. People who feel that what they do for a living makes a difference are more emotionally stable.

Beyond simply working for the money, finding meaning and purpose in life will positively affect your mental health.

Your physical world impacts your emotional health.

Part of having a happy, healthy, and successful life is getting your body and physical environment into the best shape possible. Many people face serious physical and environmental challenges. Making the best of the situation you’re in can help to bring your life into emotional balance.

Manage your physical health to maximize your emotional health and your recovery. Good physical health starts with getting adequate sleep. You don’t have to become a healthy diet fanatic to eat a healthier diet. Make small changes and maintain them. Eat more healthy items and reduce the amount of the unhealthy foods you consume.

Get some physical activity each day. Exercise is an important part of keeping your body healthy, and a healthy body has a positive effect on your emotional health. Even people with significant physical disabilities can still find ways to improve physical activity. People who are bedridden can be given physical exercises which they can do in bed. Talk with your medical doctor about ways you can increase your physical activity. Stand if you can, walk more each day when possible. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Each day, strive to take the best care of your body possible and your physical health will help care for your mental health.

Safety and security are also parts of caring for your physical health. If you’re in a dangerous situation, work on making it safer. Whatever you can do to make the place you stay feel comfortable and safe will improve your emotional health.

Intellectual growth encourages emotional growth.

A day where you don’t learn something new is a wasted day. Pursue hobbies, read books and take classes whenever possible. If your mental illness or substance use disorder interfered with your education get back on track. Part of recovery is learning new things. Continue to challenge yourself.

Spiritual and religious practices support recovery.

Part of the process of growing up is deciding what you believe. If you have a religious or spiritual tradition, be sure you are following it. People with strong beliefs and a commitment to follow those beliefs find their faith will support their mental health. Be careful about falling into the need to make everyone else follow your religion. If you’re comfortable in your own faith, you are less likely to need to force others to agree with you.

Emotional and Psychological health, thinking, feeling, behaving.

Make friends with your feelings; they are valuable sources of information. Learn to regulate your emotions rather than letting them control you. If you have recurring thoughts or feelings that are causing your life to stay out of balance get professional help. If your behavior frequently brings you into conflict with others study anger management.

Financial health supports emotional health.

How much money you make, or how much you have, does not determine your financial health. When you are trying to get by on a very small income, it can be a struggle. But having lots of money does not guarantee emotional health. It’s possible to have a happy life despite having a very small income. Some very miserable people live in mansions.

The secret to financial health is to spend less than your income. What makes people unhappy is the gap between what they have and what they want. A large part of the world now owes more than they own. The fastest way to become financially unhealthy is to spend beyond your income and finance that gap on short-term credit card debt.

Part of your recovery may well be getting your financial life in order. Look for ways to increase your income. Invest in yourself by getting more education or job training. Look for ways to reduce your spending. Start a beginners savings account and then begin paying off your debts.

The downturn in 2008 resulted in a lot of people having to do some drastic belt-tightening. One lesson many learned was that when forced to do so they could live on a lot less income than they previously thought possible. For maximum financial health get your finances in order as soon as possible and don’t wait for a crisis to begin paying off bills and saving for a rainy day.

Some of these categories could be split or combined, but they are a starting point for taking an inventory of your life and deciding what most needs improvement. Getting your life in balance is an important part of recovery from whatever you may call your challenges.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

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.

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

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

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. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.