In The Language of Emotions, I talk about stress as a “weasel* word,” or a word that people use to hide emotional awareness from themselves. In one of the final chapters in my book, Stress and Resistance: Understanding Emotional Physics, we look at stress after we’ve learned about each of the emotions in depth — and we identify stress very clearly as an emotional reaction.
However, since we’ve all be trained to talk about stress as if it is a thing that happens to us (and over which we have no control), we tend to lose our skills and our focus when stressful situations arise. “Help! Stress is happening! It’s an overwhelming force over which I have no control! I’m powerless!!” We’ve learned to weasel away from the truth of what’s happening, and in so doing, we’ve lost our emotional awareness in the area of stress.
But if you look carefully at stress, you’ll see that it’s clearly an emotional reaction to external events or internal states. The sense of tension, the rise in cortisol and adrenaline, the tightening of the body, the rise in heart rate … these are all activations that occur in fear and anxiety (and often anger) responses.
Luckily, you have skills in each of these emotional areas; therefore, you can work with your stress responses in the exact same ways that you work with any other emotions: You figure out why you’ve become activated, you listen to each of the emotions you feel, and you perform the actions those emotions require and use your emotional mindfulness skills to return yourself to equilibrium. Bing!
When you’ve got emotional skills, you don’t need to use weasel words. They can reduce your emotional vocabulary and your emotional awareness. For instance, if you say that you’re fine, okay, or good, you can mean just about anything. Another wonderfully weaselly word is emotional. “Let’s not be emotional!” “We can’t talk if you’re going to be emotional.” “I’m sorry I was emotional yesterday.” What in the world? Which emotion are we talking about here? What’s going on?
If you don’t know which emotions you’re feeling, it’s hard to do anything useful about them. Weaseling away from emotions seems to be a full-time job for many of us — but it’s not a good-paying job in terms of emotional skills and awareness!
However, we can use weasel words to our advantage! As empaths, we can use weasel words strategically to help people gain a better understanding of their own emotional lives. If precise emotion words are so threatening to people that they use masking language in ingeniously twisted ways, then let’s perform a kind of empathic aikido and utilize those same words in service to emotional awareness!
Cue the video!
Here is the free Emotional Vocabulary List I mention in the video:
Your Emotional Vocabulary List (PDF)
Notice that in each emotion area, the Emotional Vocabulary List offers vocabulary words for “lite” versions of each emotion. You can use these words to gently question people about their emotional states.
For instance, if people are clearly angry but don’t have a good connection to the gifts of anger, you can ask if they feel peeved, annoyed, or displeased — and they may be able to connect more honestly to their anger, which tells them that their voice, standpoint, or sense of self has been devalued.
Or if people are afraid but unconnected to the gifts of fear, you can ask them if they feel cautious, curious, or uneasy — and they may be able to connect to their fear-based instincts and intuition and understand what form of change, novelty, or possible hazard they have just experienced.
You can also pick and choose from our wonderful new list of Weasel Words below. Specifically, enjoy the Wonderweasels: stressed, bad, or unhappy, and the Lesser Weasels: upset and hurt (just be careful with the Lesser Weasels, because both suggest emotional sensitivity — and a lot of people like to pretend that they’re emotionally impervious).
The Fabulous Empaths’ List of Weasel Words!
If people don’t seem able to identify or own up to their emotions, you can use lite vocabulary words or weasel words to gently bring attention to what is actually occurring.
Weasel Warning: Don’t be annoying, naming people’s emotions for them and leading them into the awareness you want. Instead, have fun and know that for some people, even the mention of the real names for emotions can be triggering. But that doesn’t mean that their emotions have nothing to say.
On the contrary, people who don’t yet have a working emotional vocabulary also don’t have access to the amazing, life-changing wisdom inside their emotions. If you can gently bring awareness to the actual emotion that is occurring, you’ll support people in beginning to connect to their own innate wisdom. And you’ll also support truthfulness in your relationships.
In this list, I move from lite emotion words that are less weaselly, into Weasels, and finally to the Wonderweasels and Lesser Weasels if they’re appropriate to each emotion.
Peeved, Annoyed, Frustrated, Displeased, Affronted, Vexed, Tense, Agitated, Disappointed, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt, Whatever.
Detached, Disinterested, Indifferent, Unhappy, Whatever.
Shame & Guilt
Awkward, Flustered, Exposed, Demeaned, Humiliated, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt.
Low, Down, Disappointed, Discouraged, Blue, Bummed, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt, Whatever.
Low, Lost, Down in the Dumps, Blue, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt, Whatever.
Disinterested, Detached, Low, Blue, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt, Whatever.
What Do You Sense?, Cautious, Curious, Uneasy, Jumpy, Unsettled, Off, Stressed, Upset.
Concerned, Tense, Agitated, Unsettled, Off, Bothered, Jumpy, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset.
Sensing Disloyalty, Insecure, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt.
Sensing Unfairness, Insecure, Stressed, Bad, Unhappy, Upset, Hurt.
Satisfied, Pleased, Proud, Happy, Good.
(I’m not including Happiness and Joy, because people are fine saying those names outright).
If you think of other words, add them below!
In Wonderweaselly Service,
*Legal disclaimer: In using the word weasel to denote a sly unwillingness to be forthright, I do not intend to denigrate any actual weasels, living or dead. Weasels themselves are wonderful animals with complex social lives; weasels are upstanding and valuable members of the community (henhouses notwithstanding).