Can You “Nuance” Your Emotions?

Do you have the capacity to distinguish between love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude?

I have had a lot of people tell me that they believe the 5 feelings of the Emotional Gym are basically the same.

I tell them that is not the case, that they are different, and that there are clear differences.

An MRI of the brain shows these emotions showing up in different ways.

However, I also tell them that the sameness in this emotional experiencing is an out-picturing of “enmeshment.”

“Enmeshment” refers to unhealthy relationships where boundaries are blurred and self/other differentiation is poor.

No one likes that answer, but it’s the case.

The inability to differentiate between the emotions of the Emotional Gym, or any other emotions for that matter, is a function of appropriateness and boundaries.

If you consider the difficulty we have in just getting people to feel their feelings, is it any wonder that we would have difficulty with differentiation?

Consider the image of our “UpSpiral,” with varied levels of height and depth. The DownSpiral narrows almost to a point, the experience of the narrowing effects in the brain of negativity, often expressed as overwhelm.

The UpSpiral has a broader, wider, more open at the top look and feel to it. And so it’s not a stretch to say that, for example, there are multiple shades of gratitude, a variety of ways in which we can feel love, hope, peace, or joy.

The UpSpiral is the brain on “broaden and build,” building the capacity to nuance our feelings as well as out thoughts and beliefs.

And so, with less enmeshment comes greater distinction between and among the 5 positive emotions of the Emotional Gym.

How?

As you pulse more over time, you move away from “emotional sloppiness” into an experience of greater clarity, not only in what you can feel, but in what you want for your life.

Clarity of desire also begins to move you in relationships from a “sloppy unity” which is usually forced, or even phony, to what we call “embodiment,” the felt experience of real connection.

That is why it is often difficult for very bright people to behave in ways that fit what they know and believe, but fail to do so because they have not developed the emotional integration to carry it off.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Kalah Vaughan

    I have always enjoyed going to the gym and working on stability and growth for my body. The thought of using an emotional gym to pulse emotions for the purpose of growing emotional muscles is genius.

    When I first tried this exercise, gratitude seemed to be the easiest emotion to conjure up. As I moved forward I can feel the joy emotion growing stronger. Almost as if I am adding a sprinkle of joy to the recipe of life every time I focus. It helps to remember a time when I felt Joyful and emerge myself in that reality. For me, it is easy to remanence on the recent Disney World trip, or really thinking of anything Disney will do the trick.

    The feelings of pulsing emotions can feel the same at first. I can relate to enmeshment other than pure clarity. It is interesting though, I can tell a difference ever so slightly in the emotions by the parts of my body that the emotion wakes up in.

    I am not a perfect human being but that’s what makes each one of us so special. Our perfections and imperfections lead us to remarkable revelations either by choice or by accident. With using the emotional gym it allows us to build on our mindset.

    So when the imperfections occur and negativity peaks its head, I can choose to emerge myself in a different emotion. This will change the course of my thoughts and will help me see my surroundings in a positive manner to allow my strengths to shine through.

    Start with one emotion and build on the rest. It is okay if it is hard at first to know a difference. It was also hard to do my first sit up but that doesn’t mean it was my last sit up ever to do. Stay strong and enjoy your journey. And don’t forget you have this little “weight” in your back pocket to grow stronger and stronger each day.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I must admit that in the beginning of pulsing the emotions (gratitude, love, joy, peace and hope) there was not much distinction. Over time, I am beginning to have more definition and nuance of difference. Interesting to note that love is statically the most difficult emotion to distinguish.

    I’ve often thought that people who have evolved into their authentic selves have definition. They are distinctive, yet hold many commonalities with us all. My granddaughter is an avid athlete and has much definition in her shapely figure. So it is with our emotions. Some people are quick to anger; others go easily into sad, or defensive, etc. We can be fairly one-dimensional. With enlightenment comes a clearer sense of nuances. We seem to have depth and breadth and many shades of opinions,
    beliefs and emotions.

    I equate it to having a sensitive pallet. The Golden Delicious apple is much sweeter than the Granny Smith. And hopefully love and joy are sweeter than anger and angst. Noticing these nuances is the first step. Then we can focus on the different emotions, savor and intensify them, and begin to experience a more distinctive delineation.

    “Love grows” implies that over time an emotion can intensify and mellow and expand – with use. Some people are stingy with their compliments and don’t share them easily. It seems sharing is a way to expand. The more you love, the more love you have to share. “Love one another” and feel it and share it and savor it – and we’ll have a more loving world.

  • Dwayne Paro

    As people experience various forms of trauma across the continuum they begin to dismiss or go to the extreme of refusing to acknowledge what they are actually feeling. On one end of the spectrum you dismiss your feelings as something else with day to day forms of trauma you experience. However when you get to the other end of the trauma continuum where you have experienced extreme trauma in order to not deal with the effects of the trauma people will tend to straight out ignore or not acknowledge they have the feeling at all. This can have lasting negative effects on their future. This is all part of being at some degree of the DownSpiral in negative emotion. The UpSpiral providing the broaden and build capability allows people a way to productively manage the trauma, no matter what end of the continuum they may be on. Much like the scale associated with the UpSpiral and DownSpiral you could infer a similar scale associate with the trauma continuum. Thus having a US of 80% and a ES of 85% (as an example) would certainly make the experience of the day to day trauma easily manageable and that same score for someone who is on the extreme end of trauma would reduce the effects over time to include at a more rapid pace the more they are able to reach, sustain and intensify those positive feelings with the use of the emotional gym.

  • Kathy Lee

    For me, gratitude is the most accessible positive emotion; love seems to flow next in accessibility, then joy, followed by peace. I appreciate the exercise of identifying a cue to trigger a positive emotion. Integration example: This week, I had my hair colored and it was way too dark and I was in a negative funk for about an hour; then I told myself I have a choice to stay in this DownSpiral or choose to pulse gratitude and peace and within minutes, I felt a transition from negative to positive. I also noticed that when I started to tell a friend of my unhappy experience at the hair salon, I stopped myself in the middle of the story and said, “OK, that’s enough of what I don’t want; now, what do I want instead?” I quickly moved into a creative problem-solving mode and got highlights at a Beauty School, very inexpensive, and now I really like the results, both the color of my mood and the color of my hair. My work now is on accessing joy and love more readily so I will have more of each to share with family and friends.

    The whole notion that the “State of Mind Management” is doable, every day, every hour, even moment by moment, is such a great concept and tool. And reversing the cause and effect paradigm from hoping for something outside myself to make me feel better to the opposite – choose to enter and remain in a positive emotion, and then more good things occur – is so empowering. I’m finding the readings in the book and the lectures and other articles are so inspiring. This is already making me a better version of myself – just knowing we have the ability to grow positive emotions and that childhood trauma doesn’t have to define me or limit my choices – is so freeing. I’m so looking forward to more. The other concept I really appreciate is that choosing to remain in negative emotions has moral implications. While I don’t want to start judging folks who are in the DownSpiral, I do want to take responsibility for my own feelings and do my part to contribute to an ever-advancing civilization by bringing more positive emotions to the mix.

  • kit

    Rather than capacity, I would ask ‘do you (I) have the ‘discernment muscle’ to be able to distinguish between the emotions of the Emotional Gym.

    The truism ‘You can’t improve what isn’t measured’ seems to point to the root of why many people don’t distinguish.

    Our culture is rife with paradigms and language about how emotions are some vague and nebulous stuff that ‘happens to us’, as if we are simply leaves buffeted about by emotional currents.

    Why would we measure and track that which we believe is apart from us and uncontrollable?

    The Emotion Gym is fascinating in gleefully rejecting the paradigm of nebulousness, in making emotions measurable. Not precise, but measurable nonetheless. Which makes them quantifiable. Not nebulous!

    I’m pretty fluent in observing my inner mental landscape, detecting my thought patterns, noticing when they are skewed with emotion or opinion, jumping to conclusions, assumptions, etc. I can purposefully adjust my patterns and use my thoughts, as I need, to improve my life. I consider my mental processing, a terrific tool that works really well to deliver certain results I desire.

    To do the same with my emotional patterns; to detect and adjust with specific intent, to use them in the same way as I use thoughts, to deliver certain results I desire, is exhilarating.

    What I find most interesting, experientially, in the Emotional Gym practice is the difference between pulsing, and, the deep dive practice I’ve been using with myself and my coaching clients.

    The deep dive practice enables me to very quickly access an emotion, enter into what I call a ‘state of being’, and go deep in a very short time. It’s usually gratitude, sometimes love, joy, or awe. My body responds with chills, scalp tingles, and other symptoms.

    When I emerge I have a resonant feeling all is right with my world, etc.

    I thought the pulsing would be a snap. HA on me!

    It’s true I can access the emotions easily. My access ‘channel’ is well practiced.

    Ah but my directional pattern is not!

    After I accessed an emotion and pulsed a bit, it was as if the emotion was deciding for me, which one came next. It ‘morphed’ into the next one, without my deciding to do so.

    Well who’s in charge here anyway??

    I’ve always had a very strong belief I am. I believe I can positively impact the outcome of any circumstances I encounter.

    To expand that belief to include the calibration of my inner emotional landscape for the same purpose, to positively support whatever direction I choose, is delicious.

    I’ve taken to using a ‘transition’ word, and varying the times before pulsing into the next emotion, to sharpen my delineation between them.

    It’s just like being in a physical training program. I am loving how my ‘discernment’ muscles are strengthening.

  • Yolanda Smith

    The “Broaden & Build” article teaches us that our emotions prepare the body to act physically and psychologically in particular ways.  The revelation that anger, fear and sadness effects the autonomic nervous system is enlightening and unnerving.

    At the same time, it is refreshing to know that the positive response puts an end to any existing cardiovascular reactivity caused by negative emotions. Being privy to this type of information can be life-changing.

    The practice of redirecting our negative emotions into positive emotions are often tested in our everyday life situationes.  Choosing to look beyond the negativity and find common ground on which to agree and peacefully communicate, will eradicate the negative almost immediately The energy and atmosphere elevates to a more peaceful place, a “good feeling”
    place.

    In the process of learning to exercise my emotional muscle, I tend to want to revert back to my old ways of responding because it’s familiar and less work, or so it seems to be. However, as in physical exercise, I am reminded that if I don’t press through and do the repetitions and stay consistent, I won’t have the desired results.

    One aspect that I appreciate in the practice of the emotional gym, is the fact that we do see results. Not only are we being taught how to put it into practice, but also what happens when you do put it into practice. For example, on page 33 of Growing the Positive Mind, it states that we are sending a signal to the neurons in our brain, where gratitude is stored we are turning the center on and breathing oxygen and and waking it up. Part of the issue I have always had with positive affirmations, is that I felt like I was just saying some good words and they just floated away into the air, never really having an effect on my life. There really is something to the Emotional Gym exercises, it works!

  • Yvette Gauff

    I remember the ‘feeling” I had when, during the first class, we were told we would work at developing these five things. I felt a little surprised, a little excited. Actually, I remember smiling and saying, “What? Really?” These were familiar terms to me. They were all terms from the bible, a book, I have spent many years reading and studying. Despite this socialization, my “story” as a person who was ‘supposed’ to have these five elements working in my life given the time spent, was that of disappointment. I felt few, if any, of these five things were alive, well and fully activated within my personal world. Given my mental state, I would have to develop the five areas.

    When ‘emotional sloppiness’ was presented in class, what came to mind is how we just glop things together: “How are you?” “I am fine”. “I’m good”. “I’m ok”. What exactly does that mean? Do we really know? Many of us walk through life unconscious, on rote, not really aware of what we are truly feeling. The enmeshment that was cited, unfortunately, gives light to a tendency to move in unison with what is around us and allow it to affect our emotional well-being. When looking into the subtleties of enmeshment, I found family dynamics often sited. However, how often have you found yourself ‘picking up’, good or bad, someone else’s ‘vibe’ or how they are feeling? I am reminded of a negative flow though out the administrative staff in my office that began with one woman, and has created a tsunami wave of toxicity, due to the preferential treatment of another women in the office. No boundaries, no differentiation. Enmeshment and DownSpiral at its worst. I have to work very hard to stay away from it, so I am not taken in!

    So can we experience the opposite in the positive? Do we have the capacity to distinguish
    between love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude? I believe so. As surely as each of these words have a different definition, they have a different meaning and therefore manifestation. To achieve it, the work is very purposeful. And in my opinion, necessitates beginning from a place of knowledge and acknowledgement. What are love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude? To and for YOU? How do they manifest in your world? What do they feel, smell, taste, look like? We are considering emotions, but I believe all of the senses can influence how they show up for each of us.

    I remember a woman who used to say all of the time, “I choose joy”; it was actually on her personalized vehicle license plate. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t seem to be my reality. I saw a piece of artwork recently that read, “I am responsible for how I feel today, and today I choose to be happy”. “Poppycock!” , I thought. “Not possible. It’s not that simple!!” Then there’s that saying: “Information is power”.

    Now armed with the data that we can change the brain, I choose to believe it not only possible to color and differentiate these emotions when we purposefully take time to define them for ourselves, we can experience them. The pulsing exercises give us that opportunity. When given the pulsing assignment, I wanted to experience success early, so I focused on gratitude. It is an emotion I have been purposely working on to aid me in overshadowing negative feelings in my daily life. Pulsing takes me back to a practice of repetition of scriptures I learned in my earlier years in church. Repeating or ‘meditating
    upon’ the things that I would read in order to learn and also renew or shift a mindset. This was a revisiting in many ways for me, with a greater sense of power and understanding. Pulsing is exercising, indeed!

    However, I found this statement profound: “…That is why it is often difficult for very bright people to behave in ways that fit what they know and believe, but fail to do so because they have not developed the emotional integration to carry it off”. Another ‘Aha” moment! It does appears that head knowledge is not enough for us to walk in the fullness of what these emotions have to offer us. Rather love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude must
    individually, become heart-held, heartfelt in our innermost selves, through
    time and specific work, to be fully activated and bear fruit. It is my purpose to gain the emotional maturation and integration to experience this in my life.

  • Yvette Gauff

    I remember the ‘feeling” I had when, during the first class, we were told we would work at developing these five things. I felt a little surprised, a little excited. Actually, I remember smiling and saying, “What? Really?” These were familiar terms to me. They were all terms from the bible, a book, I have spent many years reading and studying. Despite this socialization, my “story” as a person who was ‘supposed’ to have these five elements working in my life given the time spent, was that of disappointment. I felt few, if any, of these five things were alive, well and fully activated within my personal world. Given my mental state, I would have to work to develop all five areas.

    When ‘emotional sloppiness’ was presented in class, what came to mind is how we just glop things together: “How are you?” “I am fine”. “I’m good”. “I’m ok”. What exactly does that mean? Do we really know? Many of us walk through life unconscious, on rote, not really aware of what we are truly feeling. The enmeshment that was cited, unfortunately, gives light to a tendency to move in unison with what is around us and allow it to affect our emotional wellbeing. When looking into the subtleties of enmeshment, I found family dynamics often sited. However, how often have you found yourself ‘picking up’, good or bad, someone else’s’ ‘vibe’ or how they are feeling? I am reminded of a negative flow though out the administrative staff in my office that began with one woman, and has created a tsunami wave of toxicity, due to the preferential treatment of another women in the office. No boundaries, no differentiation. Enmeshment and DownSpiral at its worst. I fight daily to stay away from it so I am not sucked into the current!

    So can we experience the opposite in the positive? Do we have the capacity to distinguish
    between love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude? I believe so. As surely as each of these words have a different definition, they have a different meaning and therefore manifestation. To achieve it, the work is very purposeful. And in my opinion, necessitates beginning from a place of knowledge and acknowledgement. What are love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude? To and for YOU? How do they manifest in your world? What do they feel, smell, taste, look like? We are considering emotions, but I believe all of the senses can influence how they show up for each of us.

    I know a woman who always says, “I choose joy”; it is actually on her personalized vehicle license plate. Then there is a piece of artwork I happened upon that reads, “I am responsible for how I feel today, and today I choose to be happy”. “Poppycock! Not possible. It’s not that simple!!” I would say to myself. Then, there is a saying: “Information is power”.

    Now, armed with the data of the brain’s operation and our ability to ‘change’ the brain, I choose to believe it possible to not only color and differentiate these emotions when we purposefully take time to define them for ourselves, but also experience them. The pulsing exercises give us that opportunity. When given the pulsing assignment, I was reminded of a practice of repetition of scriptures I learned in my earlier years in church. The idea is to repeat or ‘meditate upon’ the things that I would read in order to learn and also renew or shift a mindset. The exercise of pulsing is a revisiting in a way, with a greater sense of power and understanding. I wanted to experience success early, so I focused on gratitude. It is one of the emotions I have been purposely working on to aid me in overcoming negativity in my daily life. I trust the discipline of pulsing daily will be productive!

    However, I found this statement profound: “…That is why it is often difficult for very bright people to behave in ways that fit what they know and believe, but fail to do so because they have not developed the emotional integration to carry it off”. It does appears that head knowledge is not enough for us to walk in the fullness of what these emotions have to offer us. Rather love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude must individually, become heart-held and heartfelt in our innermost selves, through time and specific work, to be fully activated and bear fruit. It is my purpose to gain the emotional maturation and integration to experience this in my life.

  • kit

    Rather than capacity, I would ask ‘do you (I) have the ‘discernment muscle’ to be able to distinguish between the emotions of the Emotional Gym.

    The truism ‘You can’t improve what isn’t measured’ seems to point to the root of why many people don’t distinguish.

    Our culture is loaded with paradigms and language about how emotions are some vague and nebulous stuff that ‘happens to us’, as if we are simply leaves buffeted about by emotional currents.

    Why would we measure and track that which we believe is apart from us and uncontrollable?

    The Emotion Gym is fascinating in gleefully rejecting the paradigm of nebulousness, in making emotions measurable. Not precise, but measurable nonetheless. Which makes them quantifiable. Not nebulous!

    I’m pretty fluent in observing my inner mental landscape, detecting my thought patterns, noticing when they are skewed with emotion or opinion, jumping to conclusions, assumptions, etc. I can purposefully adjust my patterns and use my thoughts, as I need, to improve my life. I consider my mental processing, a terrific tool that works really well to deliver certain results I desire.

    To anticipate and intend, to do the same with my emotional patterns; to detect and adjust with specific intent, to use them in the same way as I use thoughts, to deliver certain results I desire, is exhilarating.

    What I find most interesting, experientially, in the Emotional Gym practice is the difference between pulsing, and, the deep dive practice I’ve been using with myself and my coaching clients.

    The deep dive practice enables me to very quickly access an emotion, enter into what I call a ‘state of being’, and go deep in a very short time. It’s usually gratitude, sometimes love, joy, or awe. My body responds with chills, scalp tingles, and other symptoms.

    When I emerge I have a resonant feeling all is right with my world, etc.

    I thought the pulsing would be a snap. HA on me!

    My access ‘channel’ is wide and not calibrated, but it’s well practiced.

    Ah but my directional pattern is not! Practiced or calibrated!

    After I accessed an emotion and pulsed a bit, it was as if the emotion was deciding for me, which one came next. It ‘morphed’ into the next one, without my deciding to do so.

    Well who’s in charge here anyway??

    I’ve always had a very strong belief I am. I believe I can positively impact the outcome of any circumstances I encounter.

    To expand that belief to include the calibration of my inner emotional landscape for the same purpose, to positively support whatever direction I choose, is delicious.

    I’ve taken to using a ‘transition’ word, and varying the times before pulsing into the next emotion, to sharpen my delineation between them.

    It’s just like being in a physical training program. I am loving how my ‘discernment’ muscles are strengthening.

  • kits3rdaccount

    Instead of capacity, I would ask ‘do you – I – have the ‘discernment muscle’ to be able to distinguish between emotions of the Emotional Gym. The truism ‘You can’t improve what isn’t measured’ seems to point to the root of why many people don’t distinguish. Our culture is loaded with paradigms and language about how emotions are some vague and nebulous stuff that ‘happens to us’, as if we are simply leaves buffeted about by emotional currents. Why would we measure and track that which we believe is apart from us and uncontrollable?

    The Emotion Gym is fascinating in gleefully rejecting the paradigm of nebulousness, in making emotions measurable. Not precise, but measurable nonetheless. Which makes them quantifiable. Not nebulous!

    I’m pretty fluent in observing my inner mental landscape, detecting my thought patterns, noticing when they are skewed with emotion or opinion, jumping to conclusions, assumptions, etc. I can purposefully adjust my patterns and use my thoughts, as I need, to improve my life. I consider my mental processing, a terrific tool that works really well to deliver certain results I desire. To anticipate and intend, to do the same with my emotional patterns; to detect and adjust with specific intent, to use them in the same way as I use thoughts, to deliver certain results I desire, is exhilarating. I’ve taken to using a ‘transition’ word, and varying the times before pulsing into the next emotion, to sharpen my delineation between them. It’s just like being in a physical training program. I am loving how my ‘discernment’ muscles are strengthening.

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