Dear Awesome Woman,
As someone with an extremely sensitive nature, I grew up trying to squash, ignore and reject my emotions. It had been just too painful to feel so much all the time. I basically “left” my body – that is I dissociated and lost awareness of what I was feeling. I used my mind a lot to try to figure out what I was feeling and whether I should feel sad, mad, glad , scared etc.
But, guess what? Emotions aren’t housed in the mind. They are housed in the body.
A few years ago, when I started on my coaching journey, I learned this very valuable piece of information. Emotions are energy in motion – actual physical sensations in the body. So I understood that I actually needed to “be” in my body to actually know what I was feeling.
Being in my body means just putting my awareness on it. I do this consciously by wiggling my toes, taking a breath and noticing what is happening within.
And why bother to do this? Because our emotions bring messages with them. This is their gift. They have so much to tell us when we tune in to what they are trying to tell us.
In addition, by placing your attention on the physical sensations, you are allowing the emotional energy to flow. This prevents many health problems because stuck emotional energy can, G-d forbid, turn into stuck physical problems.
For example, I used to get terrible headaches a few times a month. I began to notice that every time I felt irritated with something or someone (even myself), my jaw would clench, my neck felt tight and then about an hour later, my head would ache.
So I began to take a moment to stop and breathe when I felt that irritation. I would wiggle my toes and bring my awareness into my body. Whatever physical sensation that was there – be it a tightness in my chest, a clenched jaw or squinty eyes, I would allow those sensations to be there. I allowed myself to feel irritated and just accepted that truth – I was feeling irritated.
I didn’t judge myself for it, I didn’t whisk it away with rationalizations of why I shouldn’t feel angry (irritation is a form of anger), or tell myself that the person didn’t mean to…..etc.
You know what I mean.
Instead, I made a conscious choice to stay in my body. I didn’t spend my energy making excuses for the other person. I just got honest with myself and allowed me to feel what I was feeling.
I have far fewer headaches now because the energy doesn’t get locked in my jaw or neck. And when I do get one, I know that it’s most likely because I’m not letting the emotional energy of what I’m feeling to flow. Instead, I’m dialoguing in my head.
With the headache, I’ll take some time to tune in and put attention on it. Perhaps I’ll do some free writing and get those thoughts on paper. Better on paper, than swirling in my head. Sometimes, the headache may go away, but if it doesn’t, I’ll take an excedrin.
Besides the health benefit of allowing emotional energy to flow, there’s also a message that each emotion carries.
For example, the message of anger is one of protection. It is letting you know that an emotional or physical boundary has been crossed. When you recognize that for what it is and allow the emotional energy to flow, then you can take care of yourself in the way that you need to. You may or may not choose to do anything more than that.
When you take the time to be aware of the physical sensations that are being felt, then you actually get answers and in that space you can decide if there is an action on your part that needs to be taken.
Maybe you need a little distance from someone or maybe just a breather because you’re spreading yourself too thin. You may choose to say what’s bothering you to the other person. But you will be acting from a place of strength and centeredness and this will allow you to honor your boundaries as well as someone else’s.
With anger in particular, you may not only want to feel the sensations in your body, but do some physical movement as well. You can do this in the privacy of your own room or bathroom – I do this and though I probably look really weird, no one is around to see it. I scrunch up my face, or do a silent scream which is open my mouth with no sound coming out, but just an exhale of energy outward. I may also write an angry letter that I don’t send, but rip up.
All this is so the emotional energy flows and goes out of me rather than staying blocked inside. And when I discovered that the message of anger was boundary protection, I understood why I was feeling irritated, annoyed etc.
If you are interested in learning more about the messages of your emotions, stay tuned for a guide that I’m working on. I can’t wait to share more of what I’ve learned about grief, fear, vulnerability, anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, envy and even joy.
In the meantime, though, Karla Mclaren’s book “The Language of Emotions” and Linda Kohanov’s book “The Power of the Herd” are great resources.
So, honor yourself by feeling what you are feeling. Take a moment to stop, breathe, wiggle your toes and go within. Notice the sensation coming up and stay with it for a few moments. You may be surprised by what it is telling you.