Welcome to our January Newsletter
Focusing on Emotions
How we deal with emotions has a significant impact on our health, as well as our choices, decisions and relationships. This month, I invite you to try a simple practice that can help you to recognize your emotions and integrate them effectively. The practice can renew your mental, physical and spiritual vitality and help you create new patterns and new ways of being in the world. What better way to celebrate the start of a new year?
What we resist, persists!
New research tells us that being disconnected from our emotional intelligence impairs our decision-making and leads to less success. Moreover, unprocessed emotions get stored in our bodies and manifest in physical challenges. It turns out that emotional pain can evolve from the same roots as physical pain (trauma) and travel some of the same pathways in the body and nervous system.
Why is it so hard to sit with and tap into these powerful energies?
Most us are conditioned by our upbringing to judge some emotions as good and others as bad. When emotions are deemed “difficult” we may shy away or avoid them. Perhaps as a child, you were told not be so emotional. Or, if emotions where expressed, you might have been shut down by anger, invalidated or even humiliated. The environment reinforced that it wasn’t safe to be in touch with and express yourself. And to add more fuel to the fire, avoidance of “difficult” emotions has a biological basis as well. Our bodies are programmed to stay away from unpleasant experiences as a means of survival. It can take great courage to slow life down and sit with our feelings. But the payoff can be life-changing.
According to noted neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, feelings are what arise as the brain interprets emotions, which are themselves purely physical signals of the body reacting to external stimuli.
By turning our energies inwards, focusing on our heart space where we feel emotions, rather than in the mind, where we analyze them, we can allow ourselves to simply “be with” our feelings as they come up. Although it may feel counter-intuitive, the longer we sit with difficult emotions and give them the time and space they need to expand rather than closing them down, we move these energies through the system and let them go.
So, if you are up to it, find a quiet space and begin to FOCUS.
What is Focusing? “Focusing” is special kind of awareness, different from our everyday awareness. It is open, turned inward, centered on the present and on the body’s inner sensations. It begins with curiosity around what is referred to as a "felt sense" which is a deep "knowing" that exists in our system. Investigating and having a conversation with our own internal experience can be transformative.
by Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D.
1. Clear a space
How are you? What’s between you and feeling fine?
Don’t answer; let what comes in your body do the answering.
Don’t go into anything.
Greet each concern that comes. Put each aside for a while, next to you.
Except for that, are you fine?
2. Felt Sense
Pick one problem to focus on.
Don’t go into the problem.
What do you sense in your body when you sense the whole of that problem?
Sense all of that, the sense of the whole thing, the murky discomfort or the unclear body-sense of it.
3. Get a handle
What is the quality of the felt sense?
What one word, phrase, or image comes out of this felt sense?
What quality-word would fit it best?
Go back and forth between word (or image) and the felt sense.
Is that right?
If they match, have the sensation of matching several times.
If the felt sense changes, follow it with your attention.
When you get a perfect match, the words (images) being just right for this feeling, let yourself feel that for a minute.
"What is it, about the whole problem, that makes me so _________?
When stuck, ask questions:
What is the worst of this feeling?
What’s really so bad about this?
What does it need?
What should happen?
Don’t answer; wait for the feeling to stir and give you an answer.
What would it feel like if it was all OK?
Let the body answer
What is in the way of that?
Welcome what came. Be glad it spoke.
It is only one step on this problem, not the last.
Now that you know where it is, you can leave it and come back to it later.
Protect it from critical voices that interrupt.
Does your body want another round of focusing, or is this a good stopping place?
Take note that these practices can be challenging, so be patient and have fun with experimenting.
You can even do it with a loved one or friend.
If you are interested in reading more this subject the following websites and books may be useful:
- Focusing: by Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D. (book)
- The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren (book)
- The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Antonio Damasio (book)
I hope you found this newsletter helpful. I welcome any and all feedback.
With love and light,