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. They arise from our thoughts or beliefs. How? 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 a bad girl. 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 Its program may be outdated.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 have an instant reaction of anger when it sounds to you as if you are being scolded. That was an event you still carry with you. 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. You can decide if they serve you. You can then choose the thoughts that put your body at ease. That make you body feel good.
in your body. I encourage you to locate the feelings in your body. Perhaps 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. Your willingness to be present with your feelings is the first step to change.
You may soon discover that your emotions arise because of old beliefs, or self-demeaning habits developed from childhood experiences. You created a physical shape, a posture, to hold those beliefs or defend against them.3 With understanding and self-compassion, you can reframe those experiences.
I may teach you movement or breathwork or mindfulness exercises of shape-shifting, so you can increase self-awareness at home. 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”, you are free to choose to heal. Or healing may happen by itself, seemingly miraculously, as the body lets go of stored tension patterns.
This process can happen in one session, or take several sessions to complete. You may have several events to process. Each can go up through the Emotional Tone Scale from grief through fear, anger, forgiveness and gratitude, to enthusiasm.
Where does anger come from?
Anger is the most difficult emotion to master, for many people. Where does it come from? And why is it so hard?
- It could be you have expectations that something is supposed to work out and it doesn’t;
- 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.
All of these situations bring us to anger only because of our expectations, judgments, thoughts or beliefs. If we did not have those judgments or beliefs, other people and the outside world would continue to act according to their inner workings, and even when they interacted with us, their actions would not need to affect our equanimity.
In my experience, all feelings and stuck places in the body change and release with awareness and love–so long as you are safe to reflect inwardly. Note: it is not wise to do this when you are in immediate danger. To protect yourself, or to move out of the situation, quickly, is how to honor your feelings in that situation (see my post, Tiger, Tiger! Trust the Body, Heal from Trauma as an example). In all other situations, love, self-compassion and acceptance for your feelings bring you to a sense of peace.
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.1 I adapted it into a system I call Verbal Point Holding.2
There are other practices that are equally valid. For example, Sue Hitzmann, manual therapist and founder of the MELT Method, says, “We are shaped by the things we do… even our feelings shape us. Especially the feelings we do not resolve.”(Can Emotional Stress Cause Body Pain?)
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. And every feeling arises from thoughts, You can choose your thoughts–does this thought serve me? Does it bring me peace? When you recognize and claim this power over your inner experience, you have choice. And, you can change your inner world by body awareness, by changing your thinking, with self-love and self-compassion.
How are emotions related to 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. Or, 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.