Episode #31: Mini-Podcast Emotional Landscapes Within Ourselves and Our Homes
Creating an Emotional Landscape at Home
Hello and welcome to the Synergy Autism Podcast where I bring listeners the inside view of our autism community and how passionately we all work for the same mission - to better understand autism together.
This is one of my Miniature Podcasts where I take just one topic that I commonly discuss with clients and share it with you in a short and hopefully clear manner so that you can contemplate and consider how it relates to your personal situation.
Today, I am going to talk about the importance of creating an emotionally rich (and clear) landscape in your home, what that means, and a few simple steps to do it.
Now, you ask… what is an emotional landscape? Well, it’s created by both the said and unsaid emotions within you and each person around you. You have an internal emotional landscape as well as an external emotional landscape. We all experience emotions, autism or not. And in autism, many adult autistics would say that they feel emotions as colors, hues, or simply as overwhelming. So imagine for a moment, assigning a color to each emotion you experience.
Seriously. Take a moment, if you will, right now as you listen to this podcast.
Are you feeling a little sad about something in your life or the state of the world? Well, let’s obviously call this emotion blue.
Are you also a little excited about something happening later today? Let’s call that emotion green.
Are you feeling anxious about something that happened or situation that you wish you knew how to remedy? Let’s call this emotion red.
And at the same time, are you feeling warm and satisfied with something in your life right now? Let’s call that purple.
And let’s throw in just a little orange curiosity to go with it, since you must be curious what the heck I am talking about now.
Okay, so we have blue, green, red, purple, AND orange all swirling around within you right now. That alone, can feel like a lot. I know that some people, if they are very concrete thinkers, are new to the even the idea that we can have more than one emotion at one time. So if you thought that way while also experiencing that rainbow I just described, you’d be a bit perplexed at best and overwhelmed or confused at worst.
So now we have to move on to the fact that each person has this rainbow explosion going on within themselves while they are also exuding these emotions (aka colors) through their body language, facial expressions, actions and more. In other words, we can’t help it but our emotions show. And again, autistic adults tell me that while they feel emotions intensely, it is the organization and knowing what to do with them that gets overwhelming and unmanageable.
Alright, so where am I going with all of this? Well, I am someone who is almost always in favor of clarity over avoidance. Now what I mean here is that if we avoid talking about emotions, yet we feel them intensely swirling around us, they stay confusing. They stay overwhelming for someone who may not be able to organize them or prioritize them easily. However, if we learn to name them, consider them, organize them, respond versus react to them, we are empowered. We feel more in control of our own selves.
So how do you create a rich emotional landscape in your home? Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to start asking unbearable questions about how everybody is feeling all the time. Nor am I going to ask you to start being something you are not. I get it. Not everyone is super in touch with their emotional responses to things. So if you are a parent or individual on spectrum, consider taking the time first to simply think about your own emotions you experience. Write them down or print out a list from the internet, there are tons of great lists of emotions you can download. I had one client once, start doing this and it was such a beautifully eye opening exercise for both of us. She did it for one week - writing down every emotion she was feeling. I was impressed with her diligence and commitment to the assignment. But what we found was that in that period of time was that she didn’t just experience the standard emotions of happy, sad, disappointed, hopeful, or even anxious. She had ones in between those like bliss, free, rejuvenated and annoyed, livid and impatient.
I know for myself that I may be feeling an emotional state and it will nag at me. I may be feeling low or have low energy. It isn’t until I sit with that feeling for a moment and identify it that I can then work through it. Some of pay counselors and therapists who support us in identifying the emotions we are feeling so that we can then work through them.
Alright, so back to what you can do at home. 1st and foremost, identify your own emotions. If you need one of the lists for reference, print one out and consider looking at it at the end of your day.
Once you have done the inner work, you can bring to your family. You can make it formal, if you wish, by using that same list printed from the internet or a list you have created - and sharing moments each of you felt different emotions listed. Its actually a great conversation starter. I used scissors to cut my list up into individual emotions and placed them into a cup. Then a person can draw a random emotion and either ask what it means or share a time they felt that way. This isn’t a time to fix, dive into the scenarios, or get defensive. It’s simply sharing the experiences we all have with emotions and naming them. You might have another idea as to how to bring these words into your home more readily. I do want to give you a word of caution, do not try to bring these in as teaching tools during an event that someone is experiencing anger, aggression, or similar. As some of you know from my other word, you cannot teach anything in the middle of a storm. Allow the storm to pass, then you can name the emotions when you and everyone is regulated.
With that, I’m going to sign off. Thank you for listening to another episode of my Miniature Podcast series! See you next time!