Emotions are a normal part of being human; A normal part of life. There’s nothing wrong with you for having them, any of ‘em.
And in my opinion, not only are emotions are a supremely normal part of life, they are also gifts along our path. Emotions, especially ones that are finally rising to the surface, can be bread crumbs to the old hurt parts of ourselves that need some good, good lovin’.
Despite this though, feelings can be really freakin’ uncomfortable, annoying, painful, and confusing. Especially those heavy hitters - anger, shame, jealousy, unworthiness.
It’s no wonder we stuff them down, get lost in them, avoid them. It seems many of us either get swept away in their currents or ignore them like a VERY unwelcome visitor. If we act like they aren’t knocking at the door, maybe they will just get the picture and go away. Either of those options, being consumed by or avoiding feelings, make it so emotions hijack our life, our choices, and our state of being.
The truth is, feelings are meant to be FELT. Emotions are energy in motion.
The more we block them, the longer they stay in our bodies, the greater grip they have on us. The more we create stories about ourselves for having said emotions, the more we resist or over identify.
So, how can you work with emotions in a way that actually serves you?
Here are my foundational steps that I share with all my clients.
1. Recognize that you are experiencing an emotion
Sounds obvious, but we can be in an emotional state and not even realize it. We can get all tangled up, charged, and collapsed before we know it. Sometimes we shut down the emotion so quickly that it doesn't register. And sometimes, we let it consume us so fully that it feels intrinsic to who we are.
The key is cultivating the awareness to notice the sensation and signature of being in an emotional state. From there, notice which emotion (or emotions) are present for you. Keep in mind there are no “good” or “bad” emotions. Get curious.
2. Say to yourself “I’m feeling.......”
Naming the emotion helps you recognize it, and not over identify with it. It normalizes and supports the next step. Be sure to avoid the phrase, “I AM _____”. You aren’t the emotion , you are having it, experiencing a wave of the emotion.
3. identify the exact sensation of the emotion
Every emotion creates certain sensations in the body. Identifying the sensation of the emotion and where it is happening in your body is the first step of actually feeling the feeling. Some examples include: tightness, tingling, numbness, heaviness, restriction, ache, openness, etc. This helps you get out of your head, into your body, and in direct contact with the emotion itself.
4. Breathe deep + Feel the feeling (as much as you can)
When you purely feel an emotion (even if just for 30 seconds), it allows it move. It changes shape. Sounds obvious, “duh of course you feel a feeling.” But actually, feeling is different than *thinking* about the feeling. Very different. This is the key, so I’ll say it again. Feel the feeling.
For example, with sadness, you may notice a sinking and heavy sensation on your chest. Take a couple breaths and, as much as you can, actually feel the heaviness, the weight on your chest.
It can be helpful to lay down, close your eyes, and touch the part of your body with the most sensation and charge. Welcome in just a millimeter more of willingness. A second more of the sensation.
Of course some emotions are easier to feel than others, but truly, the greatest pain lies in our resistance to it. Once you actually feel the sensation, it doesn’t last that long.
Now, some feelings have layers and can take more than one moment to wash through. Some have deeper roots than others. Be patient with yourself, and know that any small amount of feeling serves the process. This is where courage comes in. All easier said that done, but trust me, it's so worth it.
If you notice a huge amount of resistance to feeling, if it feels really huge, big, or scary, this is a great time to call in support. Have a friend hold space for you or bring it to your next coaching session. The knowledge that someone is actively loving & supporting you in the process can make a BIG difference. And if a trusted human isn’t close by, tune into the earth that is always holding you. Remind yourself: “It is safe to feel this.”
5. Ask yourself: “What do I need right now?”
After you’ve felt as long as you can muster, or you feel an organic settling or shift in sensation, ask the tender part of your being what it needs. Be open to what answer you receive. Generally the answer involves the next step for you to move the energy or get grounded.
For example, emotions with a lot of charge and energy, like anger, need motion in the body to move through. Maybe it’s screaming into a pillow, jumping up and down, or growling. Sometimes what is needed is your gentle touch, internal mothering, or some action in the future (Like having an important conversation, setting a boundary, etc.) Ask and go for it.
6. Switch channels
Find a gentle way to transition out of all the feels. Ground and reconnect to the present moment; your surroundings, your breath, your feet. Acknowledge yourself for doing this powerful work.
Once you feel grounded, switch channels. Do something totally different - get outside, watch your fave cat video, meet up with the friend, or make some nourishing food.
Switching channels is an important part of integration because we each have an organic capacity or threshold for emotional processing. If you override it, you can actually start to indulge the hurt place and get in an emotional collapse. Listen for your natural capacity point, and trust the unfolding process. If there is more to be felt, there will be other opportunities to do so.
As you learn to work with your emotions in new ways, you will discover a whole new relationship to life and yourself.
There is potent healing and empowerment that comes when we lean in and face our feelings with an open, willing, courageous heart! Remember to stay gentle with yourself, especially if you notice judgements arise.
Feelings are simply feelings - not indicators of your worth, value, goodness, or badness.
Breathe deep, dive in, and experience the full spectrum of your gorgeous self.