My Examen Cheat Sheet

emotions wheel image by Sydtomcat, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I want the power that comes with knowledge of things beyond me. And yet the only power I will ever have is how I respond to the feelings within me.

For all their centuries of scientific study and teaching in universities, the Jesuits emphasize the analysis of a situation is not the be-all and end-all of a situation. More important is recognizing evidence of the presence of God, beyond us, bigger than us, and infinite. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius doesn’t ask us only to think about various readings but to recognize what is stirring inside. That can be new ideas or using our imagination, but when those thoughts stir something inside, we are to sit up and take notice. We are invited to name that feeling. Admit it for better or worse. Then, we can have a conversation about our feelings with God. Are they invitations or temptations? Are they of God or of the spirit not of God?

Being the analytical type that I am, I printed a list of feeling words from the Internet. (There are several of them out there.) I keep it in the back of my journal to use during the Examen as a cheat sheet of sorts. Sometimes I will look at it, and the right feeling word will jump out at me. Sometimes the word stirs where I felt it during the day, even though I might have missed it at the time. Naming the feeling moves me from analyzing a situation and trying to control or resolve it, to identifying how I am letting the situation affect me and where God is calling me to be in it.

My cheat sheet allows me to see patterns in my emotions (Yep, I’m feeling insignificant again; what’s that all about?), and that becomes the launching point for my prayer. I imagine the feeling as a big blob of something that I can walk around and look at and sit with, and then I listen to what Infinite Love says about it. I don’t have to stamp it out or avoid it or embrace it or react at all. I just have to name it and notice it and discern if my feeling is moving me toward or away from the person God needs me to be.

Right now, my cheat sheet suggests I am very content. What would yours say?

Image by Sydtomcat under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Would you be able to send me a copy of the emotion chart ? I love it ! It would be very helpful to me & others ! Thank you for your consideration ! My husband was unable to make me a copy on his printer. Blessings,Nancy Penton❄️🙏❄️. Our son is Fr.Ted Penton SJ. He is in his 5 th year as thé Canadian & American Secretariat for Jesuits,living in Washington,DC for Social Justice & Ecology !

  2. Ah so cool! I do the same! I even made a video about it on youtube when I was doing a ways-to-pray educational series. It pops up if you search for “using a feelings wheel to pray”… or at least it does for me. The video’s called, “Your Emotions Matter to God – How a Feelings Wheel Can Help You Pray”

  3. Lisa, When I was doing the Exercises, my Spiritual Director said “consider your feelings.” I replied, “What are those.” I’m generally too much in my head and don’t pay nearly enough attention to what I am feeling. This post and the chart will be put to good use. Many thanks, and our prayers and love to you.

  4. Thank you Lisa for this resource. The past few years have been difficult and all I’ve said is that I’m sad and I can’t explain it. But looking at the wheel you have made I realize where this sadness is coming from and that it is mixed with a few other emotions as well. This is a wonderful tool and I think every therapist should share something like this! Thank you for the enlightenment. God bless!

  5. A very interesting point… I am reviewing my commitment to reflecting on the examen at night… this will aid me. I have also decided that I needed to have some spiritual direction and have located a SD trained in the Ignition way.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this. I struggle to name and figure out what to do with my emotions. I think this will be very helpful.

  7. Perfect (as usual), for my 2023 goal to stop reacting and listen more to my feelings. Then, incorporate them into prayer. I’m heading straight to the Internet to make my cheat sheet. Thank you.


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