Iris Mini: Identifying Emotions

“One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels.” – Gustave Flaubert

Emotions are an essential part of being human. While we can’t control our feelings, we can control how we pay attention to them. Cancer can bring new, strong, or complex feelings. The more you stifle emotions, the more intense they become. The more you talk about and process distressing feelings, the smaller they become. Your emotions may need a “chance to breathe” while also noticing and supporting them.

Labeling Emotions

Sometimes it helps to label your emotions. Use an emotion wheel to remind yourself of all the human emotions you are capable of feeling. You may want to challenge yourself to get specific about how you feel. Instead of sad, you might realize you feel vulnerable. Instead of fearful, you may realize you are overwhelmed. Noticing and being specific about your feelings using language is the first step in allowing and processing your emotions.

When to Get Help

If feelings get in the way of your daily life, social interactions, or ability to care for yourself for a few weeks at a time, you may want to talk to your medical team or ask for support from an Iris mental health therapist or nurse. 


  1. Instead of judging, or squelching an emotion, try being with it, accepting it as part of being a full human being. You are not your emotion. You can notice it and decide what action, if any, you want to take. Emotion passes - it comes and goes like the waves.  

  2. For one day, try putting language to all your emotions. Practice being non-judgmental of your feelings. Can you label them as if you were a reporter? What is it like for you to honor emotions in this way?  

  3. Imagine your emotions are birds in a tree. Some are loud and others soft. They stay for a time and then they go away. Notice how the birds move, how they look, and what they might feel like. You can notice your emotions in this way too.