Primary Emotions

When I was in treatment my therapist gave me a paper with all the emotions listed on it. I was supposed to refer to it whenever I was confused about my feelings. I was paying how much money to go back to f*cking kindergarden? Where the hell was the coloring book? Everything they did in treatment pissed me off.

I’m so grateful they put up with my shit.

And like a lot of stuff, the staff was right. I wasn’t good at figuring out how I felt. Mostly what I felt was sexual. I spent a lot of time being angry and horny. With some encouragement from the other patients and a great deal of patience from our therapist I started using the list, even though I thought it was beyond dumb.

As I went down the list and really tried to guess what the hell I was feeling, an amazing thing happened. I would feel less sexual and more – whatever the feeling was. I’d run my finger down the middle column and ask myself if I felt this way or that way.

How bizarre was that? I used this list, figured out that I was feeling fear, and all of a sudden every cell in my body that had just been screaming for sex suddenly forgot about sex and got scared.

You can download the sheet from the link to in the sidebar of this blog. The pdf file includes the sheet, an index card-sized version, and a page of business cards.



  1. This list is great and hearing how it was given to you by your therapist has inspired me to use it myself as a tool for helping clients understand their feelings better as IT am a counsellor in training myself. Thank you for sharing….the list and your experience because I have no doubt it will help others

  2. Josh and Rae,

    You’re very welcome! I still regret the past, but since it’s already happened, I’m hoping to give it (my past) some meaning by trying to help others.


  3. Thanks for linking to that list. I never knew how I felt when I was living in my addiction. Now, thanks to recovery, I am able to have access to things like this which bring me closer to my feelings, the things I’ve been trying to avoid all my life.

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