How to Be Emotionally Aware - No Cat Ears Required
Imagine yourself in a job interview. Your potential employer has just presented you with a challenging question - actually, a hypothetical problem to solve. You furrow your brow, deep in thought, hoping that your expression communicates an effective balance of superior focus and tempered anxiety.
Suddenly, you breathe a sigh of relief. You remember that you don't have to worry about whether your mental state is shining through. It's already out in the open - thanks to your furry, mind-reading cat ears.
Yes, you heard me. No, I'm not pulling your cat tail. A Japanese company called Neurowear has recently begun offering its product, the Necomimi, to our apparently emotionally unaware United States population.
Described on its website as "brainwave cat ears" (I swear I am not making this up), the Necomimi looks like a headset with two large, plush catlike ears attached. Using electroencephalography (EEG), sensors resting on the forehead and ear supposedly detect whether the wearer is relaxed, focused, or both.
If the person is relaxed but not focused (perhaps while watching an episode of the mind-numbing Jersey Shore), the ears droop. If the person is focused (hopefully while driving, but not necessarily), the ears perkily stand tall. And in those rare moments of feeling in the zone, when one is relaxed and focused (might I suggest when one enjoys an extra-large Chipotle burrito without it falling into pieces), the ears - heaven help me - wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.
The Necomimi launched at Comic-Con (How fitting!) for a retail price of $99.95.
If this new product was purely ridiculous, I could stop writing now and you could happily Google "Necomimi" and order your fuzzy cat ears in whatever style suits you (Pink Panther variety, anyone?). But this product is not only ridiculous - it's also disturbing.
Since when do we need to rely on pop culture and expensive technology (aside from whether or not it really works, which is another issue altogether) in order to be emotionally aware? We can learn to recognize our moods, express them truthfully, and be attuned to the emotional states of others without making a mockery out of the process.
It starts from within. Call it mindfulness, paying attention, or whatever combination of words suits you. But exercise it often. For instance, I just took a deep breath and took stock of how I'm feeling, physically and mentally. I feel a little tired, but peaceful about sitting in the comfort of our home as I write this post. I also feel a little excitable about this topic, so even though my body is tired, my mind is flickering at a nice pace.
There. That wasn't hard. And I didn't even need fuzzy ears to wiggle, wiggle, wiggle for me.
Perceiving the emotions of others is not as easy, and that's okay. While it's good to be concerned about others, honoring people's inner experiences as their own is a lost art. If you're wondering how someone is doing, you can ask in a non-threatening way. For example, "How are you doing? I'm a little stressed out (only say this if it is true) and wondered if you are too." Oftentimes, the person will be grateful that someone cared enough to ask.
I suppose your alternative could be to slap a Necomimi on the person's head and stare until you see some movement. But from a scientific perspective, I'm guessing this approach may obscure your results.