Meta-Emotions and Emotion Coaching

A few months ago I read (and loved) Come As You Are by Dr Emily Nagoski. It is a science-backed book about women’s sexuality. However, some of the many lessons I learned were not only applicable to sex, but to many other aspects of life as well. One of these was about the importance of meta-emotions. Meta-emotions are the way we feel about our emotions – feelings about feelings essentially. Here is a look at where meta-emotions come from and how emotion coaching can improve our well-being.

Meta-Emotions: What They Are and Where They Come From + the Importance of Emotion Coaching

So where do our meta-emotions develop from? Well, it almost always stems back to childhood, doesn’t it? Dr. John Gottman is renown for his work on communication and healthy relationships, and according to his research, he has defined four different types of parents as follows:

Emotional Styles

Dismissing treats the child’s feeling as unimportant and disengages from or ignores emotional behaviour
Disapproving judges and criticizes the child’s emotional behaviour, emphasizes comformity to good standards of behaviour
Laissez-Faire accepts all emotional expression from the child but offers little to no guidance or limits
Emotion Coach uses the child’s emotional moments as opportunities to listen, empathize, soothe, guide, and problem-solve

Emotion Coaching and Non-Judgement

I’m sure that you can gather that the emotion coach is the most healthy and effective parenting style for developing emotional intelligence. Depending on what kind of parenting style you grew up experiencing, your own meta-emotions will be effected accordingly. However, even if you had a less than ideal upbringing, as an adult you can learn to adjust these attitudes to more healthy ones.


Emotion coaching is not just about parenting. It’s an important factor in romantic relationships, friendships, and more – especially our relationship with ourselves.


In her book, Emily Nagoski says that “the best meta-emotion predictor of well being is a variable known as ‘nonjudge,'” and she defines nonjudge as “neutrally noticing your own internal states.”


Yes, it is okay to feel lonely when your friend cancels plans with you. It’s okay to feel frustrated when you lose your wallet. It’s okay to feel angry when your boss gives the promotion to someone else. It’s okay to feel hurt when your partner criticizes your cooking. Whatever you feel in any given situation is okay. Just as with mindfulness, you can take note of your emotions without placing judgement on them.


Naturally this goes for the other people in your life as well. Whatever others are feeling in any given situation is okay. It is not your job to fix their situation or change their emotion from a difficult one to a positive one. It is also not your job to judge their emotions and decide they’re just overreacting. Maintaining non-judgement applies to other people’s feelings too.


If someone else is experiencing a negative emotion in relation to you, remember that it is a reflection of their own experience. Their feelings are derived from their particular perspective, thoughts, and past experiences. The only thing you need to do is validate their emotion. Then you can move through it with them by emotion coaching if you both want to do that together.

Take your feelings and other people's feelings seriously, just don't take them personally. Click To Tweet

However, I want to clarify that while all emotions are acceptable, not all behaviours are. Emotion coaching is all about problem-solving and responding to difficult situations in a constructive, proactive way. We are each individually responsible solely for our own feelings and our own resulting actions. All emotions are legitimate, so feel them fully and then find a way to move on.


Which emotional style did you grew up with? What do you have now?


Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are is one of the best five books I’ve read that improved my mental wellness. If you’re interested in other book recommendations to support your wellness journey, I encourage you to grab this list I made of the 5 Books that Improved My Mental Wellness. I go through my top 5 books on this topic and what’s great about each one. Check it out!

5 Books that Improved My Mental Wellness

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