So I promised that I would show you how to move through your feelings instead of being ruled by them. The pathway is through the title of this series. It is in noticing when we are being driven by our unconscious. For it is in that moment when you realize that you have been lost in ruminations of your thoughts and old behavior patterns that you have become conscious!
I’m going to delve right in and give you a practical exercise that you can walk yourself through whenever you find yourself experiencing an intense negative emotion. This is an exercise I use myself and often walk my clients through during sessions. Once the awareness is there, you have made a a huge leap in taking charge of the emotion. So many times, we find ourselves heading to the kitchen cabinets or reaching for the bottle or other substances when we are in the grip of strong feelings.
The beauty of this exercise is that is only takes about 60-90 seconds! So no excuses! I have done it with my kids around. You can do this in your office, with others around if you have to. Ideally, you should be somewhere where you can be alone and without distractions.
- Close you eyes and begin to take slow deliberate breaths. On the inhale, expand your belly like a balloon and on the exhale push all the air out. Continue this deep, slow, belly breathing through the entire exercise.
- Allow yourself to feel this feeling you are having. Don’t think about the thoughts or situation that contributed to it. Just focus on the feeling. Allow yourself to feel it fully. Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 how intensely am I feeling this feeling? (10 being the strongest you can imagine) Go inside of it, explore it with an open, curious mind and with out judgement. At this point it will intensify- it will become stronger and get bigger and more intense. Your body is completely safe to do this.
- Begin to notice where you are feeling this feeling in your body. It is motoring through your body somewhere. Key into this and really feel where in your body you experience some sensation. Is there a knot in your stomach? Are your shoulders tight? Maybe your hands are tingling? Focus all your energy into this physical manifestation of your emotions. Allow it to expand. Keep breathing into it.
- At this point approximately 60-90 seconds have passed. What are you noticing? Ask yourself now how strong your feeling is? Has your feeling lessened? Did your number go down? It is beginning to subside isn’t it?
You have just experienced a truth- that a fully felt feeling dissipates. It is released. Accumulated negative feelings come out somewhere. They have to surface somewhere in the body.
We live in a society in which giving ourselves the permission to pay attention to what our feelings are telling us is discouraged by phrases such as, “get over it”
Have you ever tried to hold a beach ball under water in a pool? You can only do it for so long before it pops up to the surface. It doesn’t just slowly rise to the surface. It erupts! That eruption in our lives can look like screaming at our kids, impulsively quitting a job, or road rage.
The health risks of suppressing feelings are numerous. Increased stress leads to an increase in anxiety and depression, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and sexual dysfunction to name a few.
Are you willing to start doing something different in order to get different results? I promise you if you do nothing, nothing will change. You’ll continue in your same momentum of behavior that is not serving you well. So, I ask you, would you be willing to take 60-90 seconds to take care of yourself? You are worth that much!