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Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett Book Summary

The best part of Permission to Feel, the book by Marc Brackett, is that he really wants us to be comfortable with our emotions in a world that usually doesn’t allow us to be. We see emotions as a hinderance to our well being. I good question to ask in that assertion is why do we have them in the first place. What if I were to tell you that emotions are an essential source of information for a successful life? Brackett certainly believes that emotions, when used properly, can help change our lives for the good.

Brackett dives into his own personal story and then research to persuade us into why this could be the case. As a professor and the founder of the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, Brackett surely has the experience to help us first understand our emotions. We can then use that insight to unlock the potential we hold when understanding why we feel and act the way we do.

Brackett’s 25 years of research has guided him to a framework in understanding our emotions called RULER. The acronym displays five emotional intelligence skills including Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating. The first three of the acronym is helpful in accurately identifying our emotions, while the last two helps us to regulate those emotions.

Recognizing Emotions

It’s not enough to recognize how we feel, think and say. It is also important to realize the things we aren’t always conscious of such as facial expression, body language, and vocal tone. The nonverbal signals are just as important as what we do and say. We recognize emotion once we see a change in our internal energy. The way we speak and interact with others become a symptom of what we’re feeling inside.

Understanding the Causes of Emotion

Once we realize that there is a change in our emotion, we need to direct where that source is coming from. This is really hard in the sense of being aware of the actions that led up to this emotion, but it is also super critical. We need to know the emotions that influence our decisions so that we are more predictable in our decision making and able to make better ones.

Labeling Emotions

Just as it’s difficult to find the cause of emotion, it’s difficult to also label them. It’s not as easy as to say, “I’m sad or mad.” Emotion is more nuanced than that. This means that we need to expand our emotional vocabulary from what we are used to describing our emotions as children. For instance one person can say that they are happy, but someone else can say they are pleased. There’s quite the difference between the two. How about someone who says they are pleased in comparison to someone who’s elated? These people are all happy, but on different spectrums of happiness. It’s important to be able to distinctively describe our emotions to communicate them more effectively and not risk miscommunication.

Expressing Emotions

The beginning of the book was about the internal work. Now we get to display our emotions in a constructive way. The best way of expressing our emotions is to find empathy with our audience; for the good and bad situations. When we are happy, we want people to celebrate with us. When someone is sad, they are displaying this emotion because they can count on you to help them through their tough time. The skill comes in knowing when and how to express the emotion you’re feeling at the time.

Regulating Emotions

The last aspect of this acronym is regulating emotions, so that they don’t control us. It’s really hard to accept emotions when we don’t expect them. A loss in life is one of those emotions that hit us hard. The goal here is to not dismiss the emotion, but learn the ways to deal with such emotion as they come up. Before heading out in the world with the weight on your shoulder, you first must give yourself permission to feel.