A 5 step path to a healthy, flowing emotional system
Posted Oct 04 2012 8:58am
By Anu Gupta
In my previous two posts, I’ve written about the benefits of feeling your emotions, and how to know if you are in touch with them. If your emotional system is blocked or flowing slowly, here are some practical steps to help build your emotional muscle. As with weight lifting, start with many repetitions and low intensity. Gradually you can increase your endurance and ability to lift or handle heavy emotions.
1) Ask and observe, “What am I feeling right now?” I still sometimes have trouble answering this question right away. If the question is hard to answer, no worries; that is to be expected at times. At first it may help to choose between 4 categories of emotions: fear, sadness, anger, or joy. Once you practice tuning in, it becomes easier to know what emotion or emotions you are feeling. Take into account how you learn new information. Are you a kinetic learner? Does it help to move while asking “What am I feeling right now?” For me it really helps to write things down. Even if I have a vague sense that I feel a particular emotion but I’m not sure if that is correct, it helps to write down an answer. This requires me to commit to a decision about what I’m feeling. Another helpful technique is drawing a face cartoon and illustrating it with your emotion. Consulting a feeling chart may be helpful if you are a visual learner or if you want to work with kids. You can download a feeling chart here or buy a poster here .
2) Connect emotions to your body. Identify where in your body you feel particular emotions in this moment. Is the anger in your head, chest, stomach or all of these? Can you identify a place in your body where you don’t feel this emotion or it feels different? Again it may be helpful to write down where in your body you feel an emotion and where you don’t. Draw a cartoon outline of your body and place your emotions in the picture.
3) Feel emotions as sensations in your body. Be able to identify internal bodily sensations that accompany emotions. Eugene Gendlin calls this the felt sense. Once you know what emotion you are feeling and where you feel it in your body, ask yourself “How do I know I’m feeling this emotion? How does it feel in my body? What sensations are associated with it? In addition, notice any colors, textures, sounds or images associated with sensations. This step is key! If you can identify emotions as sensations in your body you are 90% there. All emotions are felt as sensations in your body, but not all sensations are connected to emotions.
4) Spend time watching and observing any change in emotional sensation. Follow internal sensations for a minute, then 2 minutes, then as long as feels right. With uncomfortable emotions it helps to set a timer and only tune in for a minute, then pay attention to another part of the body that feels more comfortable for another minute. Observing the contrast in your body will help develop your capacity to handle uncomfortable emotions and it will help you practice coming back to your emotions when your attentions wanders.
5) Listen to meaning or messages from your emotions. With practice, once watching your emotions is comfortable, then you can ask your emotions directly. “Why are you here and how can you help me? What do you want me to know? Be open to any messages or meaning that may arise from watching and experiencing emotions. You can also then begin to ask your body and emotions specific questions. For example, “Is this job right for me?” Emotions and sensations will show up to help you answer this question.
Throughout the process of tuning into emotions, clients often go through 3 stages: first healing, then empowerment, and finally creativity emerges. Be patient with yourself. Things may not change overnight, but the effort is worth it.
Anu Gupta is an endorsed mind-body coach. She loves to guide others though healing, and into their power and creativity. Learn more about her approach at www.triplepointcoaching.com