Understanding your emotions - Museums Association

Understanding your emotions

Within a professional context, ‘being emotional’ has often had negative connotations. There has been a commonly-held perception that you are either emotional or logical, and that the latter is more appropriate in a work context.

Of course, we know this not to be true. We move between logical thinking and emotional reflection as part of the human condition, and they are not mutually exclusive.

During our working lives we find ourselves in a variety of difficult situations – whether it is not being shortlisted for a job, dealing with an angry customer or a disagreement with a colleague, for example. Our response to these situations may include an emotion.

What are emotions?

An emotion can be defined as a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.

Emotions can be positive (happiness or trust) or negative (sadness or anger).

Within this, it is important to remember that an emotion is information – just another way of communicating. Your emotions communicate that something is important to you.

Just as a blister is a sign that your shoes are too tight, or that you have walked for too long, your emotions communicate that something is wrong or right. Exploring why you are experiencing these emotions is critical to understanding, accepting or addressing your situation.

Moods versus emotions

Moods and emotions are linked but different. The differences relate to the following:

  • Duration – moods tend to be long-lasting whereas an emotion may only last minutes
  • Specificity – moods often have no identifiable object, whereas an emotion is a reaction to something specific, such as a person or situation
  • Intensity – emotions are more intense than moods, for example terror or despair

Within this understanding it is also helpful to reflect on whether your emotional response is linked to an overarching mood – where your inclination to experience a negative emotion might be increased if you are in a bad mood, and vice versa.

Identifying the emotions we experience can help us articulate them to ourselves and to others. It can help us begin to make sense of them and look at the ways and means of addressing them.

It may help to keep a log of your emotions in certain circumstances, for example as you approach coming off furlough, are returning to work, or are placed at risk of redundancy.

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