The Question that Stumped Freshmen and Freshmen Parents
Tonight at a special interactive meeting of parents, students, and peer counselors we took turns answering a set of predefined questions. This was supposed to mimic what our students’ real sessions with their peer counselors are like. But there was one question no one seemed to be able to answer.
First, I have to say, the peer counselors (all 12th graders) were an amazing group of young men and women. Articulate, confident, poised, and hard workers. I met my son’s peer counselor and would be thrilled if Jordan turned out just like him. All the counselors did an incredible amount of work to entertain and engage both the parents and the students with a very creative version of the old game-show Family Feud.
Later in the evening, we sat in circles. Those in the inner circle answered a series of questions while the outer circle observed them without saying anything, then we switched. The questions were pretty tame things like, “If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?” or “Who is the person that influenced you most?” The answers ranged from the expected (Tuscany, my father) to really creative (inside myself, my step-dad because I turned out just like him).
But there was one question that seemed to have stumped everyone. The worst part is, they didn’t even know it. I’ll give you some of the responses that first the students, and then the parents, answered with. See if you can guess the question based on the answers they provided.
The students answered the question with words like:
The parents answered the question with words like:
Have you figured out the question yet?
If you’re thinking something like “What word best describes you?” You’d be wrong. The actual question was, “What emotion in you is strongest?”
Go ahead, read the list of answers again. I’ll wait.
Done? Did you notice that none of the words on the list were emotions?
Not for a minute do I believe that these parents (who are all very accomplished professionals, lawyers, and doctors) or these students (who all had to pass a serious of intellectual tests to be admitted) can’t tell the difference between an emotion and an adjective, so what’s up with their answers?
After puzzling over this for a few hours I’ve come to the conclusion that people just seem to have a hard time naming their emotions. Think about it. How many blog posts, tweets, and Facebook statuses do you read where people are willing to describe the things that make them angry, or happy, or sad, but how often do they just come out and say what they’re feeling? If you think about it, it’s actually very rare. And when it does happen it seems extraordinary.
In fact, a friend of mine’s wife posts some pretty raw tweets like “I’m sad,” ”I feel like crying,” or “I feel needy.” When I read her tweets my psychology degree goes off like the fire alarm when dinner is done. Is she suffering from depression? Is she suicidal? Should I do something? Tell someone?
Or, . . . could it be that’s she’s just more honest about her emotions than the rest of us are?
If we all feel these things (and we all do) why are we so reluctant to tell people about our emotions? Why is it so hard to say ”I’m angry,” or “I’m fearful” (how we feel) than to say “I’m organized” or “I’m bossy” (what we do)?
So prove me wrong. Leave me a comment and show me that you’re willing to talk about your emotions. Answer the question, “What emotion in you is strongest?”
And then tell me how you felt when you did it.
6 Responses to “The Question that Stumped Freshmen and Freshmen Parents”
Hard question — because we not only have to be honest, we have to know ourselves. I don’t know as if I know myself enough. Looking through Parrot’s list of emotions, I’m not finding a primary or secondary that seems my “strongest.” So I’m going with a combination of tertiary:
contentment with delight with melancholy. And maybe a bit of irritation and pride.
And I feel downright anxious about thinking about myself with any level of honesty, let alone sharing such thoughts publicly. And shame that I failed to correctly answer the question…
Hmm. Good thought Sean.
Perhaps it’s not that it’s hard to talk about our emotions, it’s just that we’re not introspective enough to know what they are.
I can tell you that reading your comment made me happy to hear from you, excited about the new directions you took the thoughts to, and really sad that we don’t hang out more.
Second part first: thinking about this and the process of answering makes me feel awakened but also exposed emotionally. Neither of those are really emotions, but they describe my emotional state.
But to answer your first question, I think that my strongest emotions might be (put positively) include yearning, longing, a kind of strong striving that is very internally motivated. The flip side of that, of course, includes a fair share of disappointment, sadness, and something that just seems hollow. I frequently have to remind myself that the hollow feeling is largely about ways in which the shortcomings of this world leave me longing for heaven, knowing there is something more. But no matter how I think through it, it’s just true that I’m not a guy that “won the emotion lottery.” But my emotional difficulties bring a depth to my internal world in which God (I pray) sometimes has lots of room to move.
Not gonna edit – just clicking the Big Brown Button.
Not sure how I landed on this blog. …Oh, yeah. I was looking for Matthew Paul Turner’s birthday. Still not sure why that landed me here. But oh well, good post!
I admit that I looked up a list of emotions. Not that I didn’t know the answer, but that I wasn’t sure I was picking the right words to describe it.
On the positive side, it’s contentment. I have very little want for anything, really. I don’t keep up with the Joneses. I don’t worry when something breaks or goes wrong. It’s all good.
On the negative side, I think I nonetheless grapple with apprehension more often than I need to. I’m nearly constantly nervous that I’m gonna get caught, even (and especially?) when I’m not even doing anything wrong. Like when I’m doing the speed limit, maintaining proper distance, and constantly checking my mirrors and a cop pulls up next to me. I hate that.
So I guess I’m content and nervous. Now that I’ve articulated it, I can see that’s a volatile and unhealthy mix, because the obvious implication is that I’m content BEING nervous.
And that’s probably true. …Ok, must go back to the character drawing board and re-work myself.
This is such a stimulating question. “What emotion in you is the strongest?” The first word that occurred to me was “restless”. Then the part “I am fearful” leaped off the page and stirred an echo in my stomach. When I sensed the leading in my heart to write up a comment, which is the first time adventure in my entire life, my heartbeat sped up: “What if my comments sound stupid?” “What if…” This is a confirmation that one of the strongest emotions in me is “fearful of rejections of man”. Thank you Jennifer for this emotion-invoking exercise. It helps me understand how I should pray for myself. God bless you!
So last night i finally over the phone admitted to my best friend for 40 years that i am so sad inside and really do not want to live in this world anymore. I have felt this for so long but hadnt verbalized it. Saying it outloud was hard but relieving at the same time. Of course now what to do with this feeling?Do i act on it try to change it or suppress it again?