In this earlier blog I explained why it’s so important to learn to befriend yourself and become more in tune with how we feel, rather than bottling everything up. Now I am going to explain a brief emotional awareness exercise which will help you learn to allow emotions to be expressed safely and gently through the body and this will be demonstrated with a live video at the bottom.
N.B. It can help to start by allowing yourself to gradually slow your breathing down and to breathe through your nose with relaxed belly breathing for a few moments.
A simple strategy to become more emotionally aware
P – Pause
Pause, even for a moment or two and up to a few minutes where possible, often through the day, for example:
- as soon as you notice a symptom onset, change or increase
- when you notice a ‘button’ has been pressed
- any time you notice you are feeling angry, upset, scared etc
- for 10 – 15 minutes at least once in the day to allow yourself to tune in to how you are feeling and develop this ‘felt’ sense
A – Awareness
Put your awareness on the inside of your body, maybe around your heart area and then just allow yourself to notice any sensations that appear. As you notice them name them, out loud if you can. This might include for example, ‘my chest is tight’, ‘I notice a feeling of sadness’, ‘my big toe is itching’, ‘my chest is easing’ etc. Once you verbally note the sensation, bring your awareness gently back to your body.
W – Watch
Continue observing with curiosity, noting and naming as you become aware of any sensations as they pass through your body. If at first you only notice pains or tight muscles for example, that’s fine and you could move on to ask a question of your unconscious mind and allow your body to respond. e.g. ‘What’s causing this pain/tension in my head/back?’
Note: You are asking consciously but your body will respond unconsciously through sensations as emotions surface and process through. Continue to note and name without thinking about what’s happening and why.
S – Surrender
This is not a thinking exercise and trying to work out what’s happening, or why, will create resistance to emotional processing. This is about surrendering to whatever happens which will allow the emotions to be expressed, without going into the story behind it. If you consider the symptoms to be your inner child ‘crying out for help’, then this might help you surrender to what he/she is trying to tell you and just being there for her/him. Occasional words of encouragement can also help reduce the resistance, for example, ‘It’s OK, we’re safe’ when you have named an emotion or sensation.
It is normal for people to find this challenging to begin with. Often we have been so used to soothing or distracting ourselves, that we have been mostly unaware of how we feel and so this takes time to become more in tune with the sensations our emotions produce in our bodies.
Be kind to yourself, practice and just note whatever you observe and in time you will begin to notice more sensation as you develop this ‘felt’ sense. Remember the selective attention video? Check it out here and hopefully it will help you realise that even if you aren’t yet aware of how you feel, the emotions are there and in time you will become more able to feel how you feel and acknowledge them.
TIP: It can be helpful to practice this by bringing to your attention something or someone you love or feel compassion towards and then observe what happens in your body as you just sit with it and notice any sensations in your body as it is processed and gradually ebbs away.
Where people have repressed powerful emotions for some time, it often feels threatening to be still, because this is when we become more aware of how we feel, without any distractions.
This means that sometimes:
- pain can temporarily increase until we allow ourselves not to resist the surfacing emotion and actually FEEL it
- We can begin to feel overwhelmed by the surfacing emotion and become scared by it
In both these cases it’s important to remain mindfully focused on your breathing or the sensations in your body due to the emotion and when you are able to do this the pain and/or emotion will begin to ebb away.
However, if you ‘go into your head’ and begin to worry/think about it, this can result in panic and refuelling the emotion, which will block it from being expressed.
First Aid Tool
If this happens and you find it difficult to allow it to transition through, then ground yourself by opening your eyes and name 5 objects around you and then notice the floor beneath your feet and the chair beneath you and/or cross your arms and stroke each arm downwards from the shoulder to the elbow and keep repeating until you feel calmer. (this calms the emotional centres in the brain.)
Is it time you befriended yourself by getting to know your true and honest emotions? Allowing yourself to feel them with compassion and kindness can work wonders for your pain. This simple emotional awareness exercise can be a great place to start, give it a go and let me know how you’re getting on.
Emotional Awareness Demonstrations
You can now observe how Joan, who has a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, managed to use emotional awareness to resolve the shoulder and knee pain she had been experiencing over the previous 24 – 48 hours. Up to this point she had been trying to ‘work out’ in her head what was causing it and this session helped her really accept at a deep level how and why emotional awareness is so important, rather than trying to ‘work things out’ in her head.
N.B. Although Joan was able to gain an insight which helped her instantly resolve her 48 hour pain in this session, this is often not the case. Practising this allows you to develop the sensitivity to FEEL how you feel and as time goes by, as you learn to more easily acknowledge and express how you feel, you will find yourself more able to process emotions and therefore in theory, reduce the ‘fuel’ for the symptoms, or even prevent the onset of a symptom. Note, it is more about compassionately allowing yourself to notice how you feel, rather than trying to understand why.
In this video I take Suzy through the emotional awareness exercise and she manages to relieve the pain and pressure she’d been feeling in her head and gain some insights into the causes of her pain. In this longer video notice particularly how SuzI hope this helps you learn to notice this for yourself and provides you with a strategy to help bring you back into your body.