These days most of us live such hectic, busy lives with very little time spent without some form of distraction from how we really feel. Even in childhood it’s become common for children to have numerous after-school activities and many have parents who are constantly busy too, so we don’t learn the importance of silence.
Often our perception from these experiences is that not being busy is lazy and therefore as we grow up and become adults, we have unconsciously learned to be ‘on the go’ all the time. The trouble with being busy all the time is that the emotions that are naturally triggered in our daily life are often bottled up and not acknowledged and processed.
The drawbacks of bottling up how we feel
Unfortunately, as we know with our work with TMS/mindbody symptoms, by bottling up or avoiding uncomfortable emotions, very real physical and mental health symptoms can eventually manifest. This can be during or soon after a particularly stressful time and this often results in individuals being unable to undertake the activities that they love.
Unfortunately when uncomfortable emotions do begin to surface, because we aren’t used to dealing with them we often perceive them to be threatening. This reinforces our unconscious need to avoid having to feel them.
Unconscious tactics used to stop us FEELING
Tactics used to avoid them could be by being busy because then we can distract ourselves from them, as well as numerous other ways that are common distraction tactics, for example; food, drugs, alcohol, reading, watching TV, mobile phones, video games, caregiving and focusing on others’ needs etc. Obviously most of these are fine generally (for example we do need to eat!), it’s just that problems can build when they are being unconsciously used to distract ourselves from actually feeling our emotions and therefore being able to ‘process’ them.
When you add to this an individual having experienced significant stress or trauma, then the unconscious ‘need’ to distract, disassociate or numb ourselves grows even more. As we know through SIRPA’s work, when these activities no longer work enough to suppress the emotions, then very real physical and mental health symptoms can manifest, such as chronic pain, anxiety and depression.
Feeling our emotions
The SIRPA approach is aimed at education about TMS/mindbody symptoms as well as self-empowerment. We encourage people to learn to become more emotionally aware and to be able to express any unresolved emotions, past and present. This in itself can be an active process, for example through therapeutic journaling, but it can also be passive, for example the use of emotional awareness where we are aiming to develop our FELT sense in order to be able to feel emotions and observing them as they are expressed through the body.
Part of the self-empowering side of SIRPA’s approach is to develop a practice of spending some time each day in silence. This might be to meditate, to sit mindfully or to sit, walk or run in nature. This could be for just 5 or 10 minutes to begin with until we start to feel more comfortable dealing with any surfacing emotions and then gradually building on this.
Watching for signs of the NEED to read, be busy or talk etc can give us an indication that uncomfortable emotions are surfacing, providing us with the opportunity to choose to STOP and deal with them
Building emotional awareness
Usually it’s not the emotion but the feelings that an emotion creates in the body that we are fearful of, yet when we allow them to emotions are able to transition through the body if we don’t resist them. This means that once we can begin to notice the need to distract ourselves, then we can practice sitting with the emotion and allowing it to surface. We can help with this by breathing a little more deeply and slowly, while calmly focusing on our breath.
Observing with interest what’s happening in our body, rather than mentally questioning or analysing it, will also allow the body to respond. With practise we can begin to learn to respond consciously when an emotion surfaces, rather than reacting unconsciously by resisting them.
By bringing more silence into our lives we can learn to become more aware of emotions and to therefore also learn to more effectively and safely deal with unresolved emotions as they surface. Often periods of silence also allows us to gain insights into challenges and issues we might be facing as well as to then be able to address any insights gained.
Silence is something that is beneficial for anyone, whether we have stress-induced/mindbody symptoms or not because it allows us to live a more balanced, healthier and more emotionally resilient life.
In brief, benefits of silence include:
- Allowing unresolved/avoided emotions to surface
- To move on and then express these emotions – initially through somatic tracking or emotional awareness as we develop our awareness of this felt sense. Following this, if a specific issue has come to mind, it can also be helpful to use journaling in order to address this further with the aim of expressing emotions fully and then reaching a point of acceptance/forgiveness of yourself, something that’s happened or others.
- Process experiences/challenges, maybe after offloading onto paper. Without mentally analysing, just mindfully observing your body or nature around you, insights can often be gained.