Emotion, the word means ‘to move’.
It is so imperative for me to feel, allow and understand my emotions, and here I would like to demonstrate what the purpose of emotions is in our lives.
Emotions can be complex and some are more easy to be with than others! The positive emotions are fine to ‘fess up to – joy, love, gratitude, happiness, sympathetic joy, compassion. They make me feel good, connect me to others and generally are the ‘good’ guys. The not so good guys are the more difficult emotions, sadness, fear, hatred, jealousy, envy, shame, anger, to name a few. They are also telling me a lot about how I perceive a situation, and how I need to behave….and I have had to learn about how to allow them and listen to them!
Understanding difficult emotions
1. Protection – They’re telling me to act, move, change the situation so it can become more comfortable
2. Guidance- They let me know what needs to be done next or what is missing.
I think of emotions as a rudder in the choppy seas of life.
Difficult emotions always happen for a good reason. They are alerting me to any threat in the environment, helping me to respond to a situation and keeping me safe. They are the language of the body in response to thoughts and external stimuli, and they alert me about how I need to act in a given situation. Without access to them I become like a sailing ship in a strong current without a rudder. This actually happened to me once many years ago, on a sailboard in the Bribie channel. I had forgotten my rudder and was caught in a current sending me swiftly out to sea! Emotions are like that rudder, giving me traction in the current of the external world and its endless stimuli.
What happens when these unconscious emotions reamain out of awareness? Read on!
Supressed emotion becomes stuck in the body
When emotion is blocked or suppressed, it becomes stuck in the body and my physio friends tell me they see this all the time. Whilhelm Reich described this phenomenon as character armour, the muscular spasms, tightened jaws and postural shifts associated with chronic emotional suppression. Chronic headaches, rounded shoulders, tense jaws, lower backs in spasm. Ever wondered why massage feels so good? it’s releasing more than just stiff muscles!
Now sometimes its not even suppression, but I remember a time when I didn’t even allow these difficult emotions into awareness. They just appeared like a wordless fog, so linked to shame that the whole shame bound lot was submenrged beneath my conscious awareness. All I was left with was an amorphous discomfort and a sense of not understanding why!
Fear of Overwhelm
Many clients tell me they are afraid of expressing their emotion for fear of overwhelm, so they keep them under lock and key, just like in the picture above. It made you laugh, huh? There may also be a resigned feeling that expression won’t change anything anyway. I beg to differ. Not acknowledging and expressing them causes a general suppression of all emotion. This results in a deadened experience of life, difficulty enjoying pleasure and shallowness of relationships with others.
Therapy can help
In the safe environment of therapy, emotion can be allowed, expressed and experienced in a graded way, it can be allowed to move through, leaving you in a different place. And the magical thing is, that when it is released you can begin to engage in life differently. You will feel more alive to yourself, more spontaneous and more able to connect with others. Your shoulders drop back and your jaw relaxes. Back pain resolved and energy is released for use in being with the world. You will find your voice in ways you may never have dreamed of. I think of therapy as letting the valve off the pressure cooker, it creates an internal environment where growth and development can replace anxiety, stress and overload.
Not a quick fix!
The process takes time, when you think of how many years have you been building your bodily tensions, they’re not going to be dissolved in a week! But its a journey worth taking.
Learning how to recognise and allow difficult emotions is a blessing, but the old adage is true, “The only way out is through”.
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