Do you slow down to notice your emotions?
Can you acknowledge your feelings of hurt, anger, impatience or fear without being carried away by them? Can you meet these uncomfortable aspects of yourself with compassion and curiosity?
How do you savor emotions of happiness, contentment, and ease in your body? Could you allow them to calm and nourish you fully?
Many of us underestimate the influence of emotions on our health. We may not understand what emotional health means, or how to access it.
We can learn to be more “user-friendly” with our own emotions. Instead of judging ourselves harshly, or distancing ourselves from the emotion passing through us, we can notice the truth of it and allow it.
Humans are meant to feel emotions. Emotions are not just inconvenient things that pop up to make us miserable or sidetrack us from our goals. They help us in many ways, not the least of which is to help us care about ourselves, each other and our world. They help us connect and love, and know what is true.
Our capacity to feel enjoyable emotions, such as joy, peace, creative flow and a sense of belonging, is directly related to how well we acknowledge and embody uncomfortable emotions within us, such as anger, fear or sorrow.
According to neurologist Antonio Damasio, emotions are Practical Action Programs (PAP) that work to solve a problem, often before we are conscious of it. These natural processes are continually at work in us to help us deal with life’s ups and downs. When we track the physical sensations of our emotions, we can understand more about how the present situation is truly affecting us deep down in our subconscious and our physical bodies. This information then influences choices we make that could benefit ourselves and others.
Emotional expression through our bodies helps us…
- make better choices
- tend to our needs
- get important information
- discharge tension and pain
- re-balance our physiology
- boost our immune system
- acknowledge our truth
- connect with others
- allow comfort and ease to come in
- protect ourselves and others
All this just by allowing ourselves to feel the physical sensations of emotion as they wave through us!
What would happen if you never noticed or allowed your anger? How would you be able to create and sustain healthy boundaries in life? How would you advocate for yourself or another in the face of injustice or harm? Anger is a signal that something is not OK with us that needs to be addressed. It can protect you or someone else, and it can be a catalyst for healthy change.
Physiological signs of anger include heat in the core, face and throat, tension in the gut, shoulders, arms, hands and jaw, clenching of teeth, pressure in the head, and blushing. Often there can be an urge to vocalize and mobilize. If you have ever witnessed a 5-year old child have an all-out angry tantrum, you know what the full force of anger can look like when it moves through the body. An adult also needs to allow anger to move through them in healthy ways without channeling their rage to hurt others or themselves. Healthy expression of anger can include physical exercise, clenching and unclenching fists, allowing heat to wash through the face and body, shouting or other vocalizing, throwing, punching or kicking a heavy bag, stomping or dancing, drumming. Often after initial physical experiencing, anger can then be expressed through writing or speaking about the anger, or through creative projects catalyzed by the anger energy.
I often hear people talk about how they were taught that anger is a “negative” emotion. Some people fear harsh judgement or abandonment from others if they express anger. Some are afraid to feel it in themselves for fear of becoming dangerous to others. Some people blame others and things outside of themselves for causing their anger, but never really allow themselves to feel it in their bodies. Some people get stuck in constant impatience or frustration where they steam their way through life. Some hold anger in so well that they don’t feel much anger, but may have chronic tension, pain, illness, or perhaps let others run their lives for them.
Being able to notice and allow our emotions doesn’t mean that we need to be overwhelmed by them, turn them inward, or that we need to make the whole world know what we are feeling as we gush them outward.
Being friendly with our emotions means we can allow them to wash through us like a wave, noticing the physical experience we are naturally meant to have, in order to process or problem-solve, be informed, or release tension.
Please watch for my next blog post where I’ll talk about why we get separated from experiencing our emotions comfortably, and how we can reclaim them for our well-being!