Have you ever found yourself stuck in emotions like anger, fear grief or shame? You don’t need to stay stuck. You can learn to change emotions by body-centered awareness.
Some people choose greater detachment, when they want to get free of emotional chaos. They find a meditation practice to be a wise choice. And equanimity can certainly be a relief. But I caution them to not suppress any one emotion or judge it as bad, since it will rebound.
It is better to heal from the emotional trauma that first gave rise to the chaos in the first place.
Where do emotions come from?
We have a power over our emotions that many people are not aware of. To regain that power, we must understand where emotions come from. Many of them arise from our thoughts or beliefs. And we can change our thoughts. This allows us to change that emotional response that gets activated below our conscious awareness.
To give one example, perhaps as a child, someone was scolded over and over. After a while, the child creates a belief that she is too much trouble. Or that he can’t do anything right. Or that they are worthless.
As an adult, you may still be repeating this to yourself. Then it becomes a program that runs your life.
Some people call this the inner critic. But the inner critic can take things too far, and is not always right. Its program may be outdated. Self-doubt may even become so strong that you fulfill the old program, and, indeed, cannot accomplish anything.
Body Centered Awareness to Master Emotions
A different person might develop a different habit. Perhaps you react with anger when it sounds as if you are being scolded. This anger may be simply a reflex–it happens so fast that it is below the level of conscious thought. Tracking your body’s response to your thoughts can bring your reactions up to the conscious level where you can examine them. Then, you can decide if those thoughts serve you. And, you can choose the thoughts that put your body at ease.
Habitual emotional reactions can include grief, shame, fear, anger, or avoidance. Any of these can contribute to stress. Stress creates physical patterns of pain or discomfort in your body. You can locate both the physical pain and feelings in your body. I may hold points of tension in the areas to increase your awareness, or support movement out of an unconscious pattern. I can also do massage or Ortho-Bionomy® to release pain or muscular tension. Recently, I have also added Mindful Awareness in Bodywork Therapies. It gives you even more skills to access inner body sensations and change them with mindful awareness. You may then learn to witness your emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them.
Love your feelings? Emotional Tone Scale
In other sessions, I may ask you to love your anger and other feelings. It’s OK if you can’t love the feelings at first. I ask you to breathe into it. Or breathe into my hand over an area that you tense up. Your willingness to be present with your feelings is the first step to change.
The second step is shape-shifting. I watch your posture when you first come to my office. I may ask if you are aware of how you hunch your shoulders when you talk about something stressful. According to Stanley Keleman, you created a physical shape, a posture, to defend against certain beliefs.3 We all do that. With understanding and self-compassion, you can reframe those beliefs. As you release them from your body, you will not be so bound by the past.
At the peak of this process you may recognize how an experience has served a purpose for your growth and evolution. When the story that arises is finally about you, not “what someone did to me”, the body lets go of stored tension patterns.
Why am I stuck in anger?
Anger is the most difficult emotion to master, for many people. Where does it come from? And why is it so hard?
- Did you expect something to work out and it didnt?
- Or, did you think you deserved something you didn’t get?
- And perhaps you think someone is treating you unfairly.
- Or, you may suspect someone misunderstands your motives.
- Could it be you are expecting a thank you from the universe for all your good deeds, and all you get is a shower of mud.
In these situations, you might have felt angry. I certainly have. However, no one is “making me feel” angry. I can feel my body tense up, or my head, neck and jaw tighten. Quickly, I can then recognize the emotion in my body. You can, too. As you trace your reactions to expectations, beliefs and thoughts, you become more empowered to change. It is easy to change thoughts. But you can work directly with the body sensations and breath to change emotions as well.
When I feel anger or irritation, or any emotion that disturbs me, I use a process of healing that moves me up the Emotional Tone Scale (ETS, see post Emotional Tone Scale). I learned ETS from Body Electronics Point Holding.1 I adapted it into a system I call Verbal Point Holding.2 Anger is close to the top of the scale. Loving the anger, recognizing that I created it, and that it may have served my own purpose allows me to first forgive myself, then forgive the other. But it can take time.
Forgiveness is a cleansing process. Forgiveness doesn’t work if it is hurried, or forced, or if it turns into another “should”. It only works after we stop looking outside ourselves for an external cause of suffering. As Cheri Huber says, “Examining beliefs, abandoning them, and returning attention to the present is essential to ending suffering, as is living in the awareness that nothing in the universe is personal.“4
One key to ending suffering is staying present to your feelings. Another is to recognize that no one is reaching inside your brain and nervous system to “make you feel” something. In fact, every feeling arises from within you.
How do my emotions affect my symptoms?
Carrying anger and unforgiveness for a long time is like carrying stones in your heart. It really only punishes you.5 Louise Hay6 lists many conditions that result when we burden our bodies with unprocessed anger, resentment, irritation or lack of self-love: kidney stones, gall stones, gout, liver problems, heart disease, chronic pain, immune system breakdown, are just a few. She teaches that when we change our thinking patterns, we change our bodies. That has also been my experience. It takes time, maybe a lifetime. Or maybe in an instant.
Are you ready to change? Call 503-708-2911 to schedule an appointment, or choose the “Schedule Appointment” button to find a time at your convenience.
1 Credit to Dr. John Ray, N.D. Read more in Body Electronics, by Thomas Chavez.
2 See my post, Emotional tone Scale and Verbal Point Holding.
3 Stanley Keleman, Emotional Anatomy.
4 Cheri Huber, Suffering is Optional.
5 Tikkun: Forgiveness as a spiritual practice
6 Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life. Also, Heal Your Body. Both by Hay House Publishing.