Today, I expand on my earlier postings on body awareness as a tool for addressing emotional pain. I’ve learned many important and enlightening things during my treatment sessions, which I share here…and yes, they are helping.
- “Emotion Focus Therapy” – Becoming more aware of the complexity and nature of feelings.
- “Mindfulness” – Noticing what you are feeling and where you are feeling certain emotions in the body.
- Emotion Focus Therapy and Mindfulness go hand in hand. You have to be mindful of the body to identify what emotions are present.
- Identifying emotions combined with body awareness helps get to the core of issues and feelings. Understanding emotions helps to realize what needs changing so they don’t persist and perpetuate a problem in the body.
- Body awareness helps address and process emotions, and gives the associated energy an outlet.
- Gradual exposure to an emotion, such as with body awareness, will lessen the intensity and lead to a greater understanding of what is happening.
- Emotions can motivate people to take action and address them.
- Every emotion has a corresponding physical manifestation. This means that there is some sensation in the body occurring at the same time as the emotion (“I’m so sad my heart hurts.” “I’m so angry my stomach is churning” etc.). There can also be a chemical change in the body. Hence:
- The mind and body are connected. They are in harmony to protect you and are not fighting against each other. “Dualism is dead!”
- Remember, “It’s natural to have emotional ups and downs,” per Dr. Andrew Weil on Spontaneous Happiness.
What do you feel in your body during an emotion? Pay attention next time and see what’s happening. What do you feel in your body if you are sad or lonely? If you are angry, frightened, frustrated, anxious, irritable, stressed, etc., the emotion could result in shaking, tense neck muscles, clenching the jaw, grinding the teeth, churning in the stomach, fast breathing, choppy breathing, rapid heartbeat, tight fists, etc. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling…what else am I feeling…what else…what else…etc.?” The list of emotions and physical feelings can be short or lengthy. It varies by individual. For example, if you feel tense neck muscles with anxiety, then more frequent anxiety could continually build on those tense muscles and lead to physical pain, or perhaps worse. Thus, certain emotions can lead to or increase physical pain.
In my first posting on Addressing Emotional Pain, I talked about body armor – the body senses something is wrong and guards itself in the form of tightened muscles. This is a protection mechanism.
When trying to identify emotions and physical feelings, focus on WHAT the feelings are and not WHY this is happening. The WHY takes away from the experience because it engages the logical and rational part of the brain instead of the “feeling” side. Staying in the emotional realm first helps identify the emotions. This is what helps get to the core issue, and then gaining a better understanding of it. Once the core issue is identified, then engage the rational side and ask something like “what is this certain emotion about – when does it occur – who is it about…etc.?” Then from there, decide what, or if, you want to do something about it. This process helps keep an emotion from persisting (or lessen the emotion), so it doesn’t perpetuate a physical problem.
Have you ever thought about how your body feels prior to a certain emotion? Being aware of this can predict when that emotion is coming, which is also a step towards preventing a physical problem.
This last Christmas, I received a nice macro lens for my camera. I was tickled! You may ask how a lens relates to what we are talking about here, but I use the macro lens as a metaphor. A macro lens captures details in things such as plants, animals and insects that are not obvious or noticeable without magnification. These details are usually important and have a purpose. I see body awareness and mindfulness as tools that are similar to a macro lens. The details, large and small, give important information about how they affect your health.
The process outlined in this posting is like “cleaning the deck” and removing the obvious and not so obvious grime, dirt and other muck from our mind and body.
Have you tried any of these exercises or something different? What were your experiences?