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Unlocking Mental Well-being: iflow Psychology
Your Trusted Resource for Psychological Support

Your Sydney Psychologists, Australia.

Why Can’t I Identify My Emotional Feelings? The Paradox of Self

Introduction: The Paradox of Emotional Feelings

Emotional feelings are intrinsic to the human experience, shaping our actions, relationships, and decisions. However, despite their omnipresence, grasping and comprehending our feelings and emotions can often resemble navigating a complex maze.

Emotional Spectrum: A diverse group displays a range of feelings, reflecting the intricate landscape of human emotions.

Understanding the Complexity of Emotional Feelings

At its core, emotion is a multifaceted construct encompassing physiological arousal, subjective feelings, cognitive appraisal, and behavioural expression (Ekman, 1992). This complexity presents a challenge in accurately identifying our emotions. For instance, physiological responses like a racing heart or sweaty palms can signify emotions such as anxiety, excitement, or both, depending on the context.

Moreover, emotional feelings aren't always discrete entities categorised into joy, sadness, anger, or fear. They frequently intertwine, creating intricate emotional states that defy simplistic categorisation.

The Influence of Culture and Society on Emotional Perception

Our cultural and societal backgrounds significantly influence how we perceive and express emotions (Matsumoto, 2001). Cultural norms and social expectations dictate which emotions are deemed acceptable, leading to challenges in accurately identifying emotions that diverge from these norms. This cultural variation in emotional expression can also lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations, complicating emotional self-awareness.

Psychological Factors Impacting Emotional Identification

Several psychological factors hinder our ability to identify and understand emotions. Past experiences, especially traumatic ones, can shape our responses to emotional stimuli (Brewin, 2003). Additionally, learned emotional suppression or avoidance strategies from childhood may inhibit our capacity to recognise and process emotions effectively (Gross & John, 2003).

Cognitive biases and distortions further complicate emotional self-awareness, making it challenging to discern our emotional experiences accurately (Niedenthal et al., 2005). For example, confirmation bias may cause selective attention to information confirming pre-existing beliefs or emotional states, while cognitive dissonance may lead to rationalisation or minimisation of contradictory feelings.

The Role of Introspection and Self-Reflection

Despite the belief that introspection—the process of looking inward to examine thoughts and feelings—is a reliable method for understanding emotions, research suggests otherwise (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). People often struggle to accurately introspect their emotional experiences, leading to discrepancies between self-reported feelings and emotional states.

Psychological therapy has been shown to enhance emotional intelligence, positively affecting mood, socialisation, energy levels, and overall quality of life (Jahangard et al., 2012). This highlights the importance of seeking professional support when navigating emotional challenges.

Conclusion: Navigating the Maze of Emotions

In conclusion, understanding our emotions is a journey riddled with obstacles. From the intricacies of emotional experiences to the influences of culture, society, and psychological factors, numerous barriers impede our ability to accurately identify and interpret our feelings. However, by fostering mindfulness, embracing vulnerability, and seeking psychological support, we can navigate the labyrinth of emotions and enhance our quality of life.

Find a Psychologist

Professional support is available if you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty or you want to optimise your life. Contact iflow Psychology today. Call 02 6061 1144 to schedule an appointment.

Flexible Counselling Options

iflow Psychology offers in-person, telehealth, and telephone counselling services.

As registered psychologists, we provide compassionate support tailored to your needs. Take the first step in your journey towards well-being.

Medicare Rebates and Referrals

With a doctor's referral and a mental health plan, you may be eligible for Medicare rebates. Receive quality care while maximising your healthcare benefits. Let us be part of your path to healing.

Contact Us

Complete our simple enquiry form, and our friendly admin team will contact you during office hours. We are here to answer any questions and assist you in scheduling an appointment.

Location Details

Visit iflow Psychology in Leichhardt, Inner West Sydney, NSW, Australia, for in-person consultations. We also provide convenient telehealth services, ensuring accessibility no matter your location.


The information on this website is for informational purposes only. Before making any decisions, we recommend consulting your treating doctor, health professionals, and legal representatives. This is particularly important if you have health concerns, existing mental health or medical conditions, or feel you are not coping.

(c) 2024 Dean Harrison

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