New Year - New You - Emotionally!
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
When I was a girl no one used words like emotions or feelings and no one asked me how I was feeling unless it was to ascertain if I was ill or not. Because of this I grew up not knowing what I was feeling or what emotion I was trying to express, it became a game of hide and seek within myself and mostly it was hide fearful of what I might find. The old adage "smile and the whole world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone".
Its not that parents are bad they themselves haven't been taught about emotions either and so the generational patterns get passed on until someone breaks out of the emotional cave.
As an adult I had to learn what feelings really are, what is the difference between an emotion and a feeling?
Whilst there doesn’t seem to be a consensus scientifically of a definition, I’ve found feeling are how I actually felt and feel, and emotions are evoked, resulting in how I feel which in turn influence how I act or don’t act.
I’ve also learnt to name and claim my feelings because until I did, I found that my feelings controlled me, once I named and claimed them, emotions and feeling began to lose their power over me. I can begin to control them which feels much healthier in the here and now. Once I began to think about and question my emotions and how I am feeling at any one moment then I begin to see how thought evokes feeling and feeling evokes thought.
Which comes first? A bit like the chicken and egg scenario it seems to me.
What I do recognise is that emotions are conscious and unconscious, autonomously expressed, repressed, suppressed, transferred, projected, confluence, pleasant, unpleasant and at times can be fearful and feel as if they are gonna kill me. But I am happy to report they never have but have ‘felt’ like they would do! Why because they were so out of my control. I've learnt that mainly my behaviour is driven by my feelings and not the other way round.
Sometime most times these days I am aware of what I am feeling and what emotion is evoked and thus the associated feeling which is evoked from some interaction with my environment and the other people within it!
So how did I learn about feelings and how did I learn to regulate them before
they controlled me?
1. Firstly, I learnt to relax by practicing:
Breathing exercises, any breathing to relax is best done when emotions are calm and not out of control and if not used to doing breathing exercise then practice will be needed, so when emotions begin to get out of control you automatically start to focus on your breath.
Bringing our focus back to our breathing automatically calms our emotions, and as soon as you focus on your breath, your mind begins to slow down and thought becomes clearer.
Start by gently instructing yourself to breathe, inhale through your nose to the count of five and place one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy, feel your body rise and fall with each breath.
Take an in breath count five and slowly release the out breathe to the count of five.
In the beginning you might only achieve a count of two or three, that’s great, with practice you will achieve calm, gentle inhalation to the count of five and slowly out again to the count of five. This way you are taking back control of your body as soon as you take the first calm breath.
Once you’ve mastered the art of deep breathing, do this exercise often deep breath for five breaths then breath to your normal inhalation and exhalations for five breaths then repeat the deep breathing.
Practice this breathing technique for at least ten minutes morning, afternoon, evening and when you get into bed last thing at night, this will help you relax before sleep!
2. Next, I needed to find a safe psychological place to go when I was feeling hurt, wounded or fearful of the emotions felt, I achieved this by:
Using my imagination and visualizing what a safe place would look like, what it would sound like, what it would smell like, what it would taste like even and what it would feel like for me to be in a place of pure safety.
Put on some soothing music, sit or lay down and practice your breathing to get your body relaxed and focus your mind.
Close your eyes and imagine a place you enjoy it might be the beach, a holiday destination, your bedroom or a new place all together, one you create with your imagination such as a castle, an island or a cloud.
There is no right or wrong place just so long as it feels safe for you personally.
Visualize the space, how big is it? what is in this space? What can you see? What can you hear? What colours have you created? Can you see the sky, sea or strong walls? Does the castle have a draw bridge? Is the cloud soft or firm? Is the sea warm, hot or tepid?
Imagine you have control of this space and no one can enter until you invite them. You may not want anyone else to come into this safe space, give yourself permission to have this space all for yourself! Create the space that fits you and feels safe for you.
If you find any objects of negativity creeping into this space, then imagine putting the negativity into a balloon you can let go of and watch it float away or pebble which you can skim across the water letting it reach the deepest depth, so it can never return.
If you can’t manage to visualize a safe place by yourself enlist a therapist to support you or there are some good visualization CDs you can buy to help you get into this zone!
Wherever the place is, it is yours and only yours to go to when you feel out of control, insecure or if you just want to feel safe, secure and relaxed.
3. I also learnt to undertake a full body scan by:
Repeating the breathing exercises and going to your safe place for a few minutes, to evoke the feeling of safety and security. Put on some soothing music without words and start at your feet, clench your toes and release, stretch your feet and release, clench your knees and release, clench your buttocks and release do this all the way from your toes to the top of your head.
The goal is to reacquainted yourself with your bodily feelings, sensations and where in your body you feel certain emotions. How your body feels at any given time. Also, to distinguish between what is tense and what is relaxed. If we have got out of sync with our bodies, we may have got into a habit of ‘not feeling or sensing’ our body very clearly.
Feelings may have become a bit of a blur or we may be afraid to 'feel' at all, numbed out, if so go gently and don't do a full body scan start slowly focus on your feet and legs first for a few times, before working your way up to the top of your head or start with your feet and legs and add your face before going to a full body scan.
Enlist a therapist to help support you through a full body scan.
When you get to your face blow your cheeks out as far as you can release, close your eyes as tight as you can and release, frown with your eye brows as hard as you can.
This is where a body a scan can come in useful to help reconnect us to our deeper self.
Don’t forget anything new will take practice, practice and more practice until we become familiar with our self again. So don’t be rushed or have expectations that change will happen after the first practice, take your time ones step at a time.
4. Next, it was necessary for me to just notice what sensations, imaginings, feelings and thought came up when experiencing a personal response to a stimulation whether this be from external or internal sources. I did this by:
Take an in breath count five and slowly release the out breath to the count of five. Undertake the visualisation to feel safe and secure. Once feeling safe question who am I really? What do I do? How do I do what I’ve just done? What’s driving me to act like I am acting? Where in my body am I feeling or sensing? Am I thinking first or feeling first? Lots and lots of noticing, observing, reflecting and questioning to become aware of who, what and how!
It’s not easy in the beginning but with practice it can become second nature.
The goal here is not to actually do but to get into the habit of being fully present with yourself, observing, noticing without doing, feeling and noticing, be still and feel.
Once you have got a felt sense of your body I found it was easier to write down some of what I’d noticed in my behaviours, thoughts, sensations and feelings to begin separating them to become familiar with my deeper self
Just noticing and writing down, aids reflection upon what I’d noticed about my thoughts, sensing’s, feeling and behaviours in the beginning without giving labels, staying in the moment by moment experiencing, helped me to become more aware of this body which houses and contains all that I am and all that I can be, for this we need to be fully present and aware of ourselves at any one given moment! In the beginning it takes practice.
When I’d written some of the experiences down, I was able to go on to 'describe' them more fully, using reflection and to see patterns emerging and to almost step away from the experiencer as being me and experiencing an observer that was also me. Able to be more objective to my experiencing rather than just being spontaneous in the moment or out of control emotionally.
Describing without changing, taking away or adding on to what I'd experienced but expanding the description to get a fully understanding of the experience being described. For example if I'd not fully experience a colour and it was ague I would write the colour yellow seemed to be there but it was not clear or it was faded etc etc!
This created an ‘observing self’ which is now able to step back in the moment by moment experience, spontaneously in a more empowered way and question self in those moments. It does take practice especially if you've got used to not feeling.
The knack is to start and build up one step at a time slowly so you incorporate the new behaviours into your daily routine and until they become autonomous i.e you are achieving the noticing, observing and awareness with ease!
If all this sounds like too much effort is needed at once, regulating our emotions is a process, we need to learn so take one step at a time. Focus on your breathing for a few weeks around a month would be a good goal to achieve to begin to familiarise with deep breathing then add the visualization. Practice this for another month f as few times which ever feels comfortable for you, then add the body scan practice for a month and then start to practice observing.
Just like any physical exercise the mind needs time and practice to begin changing shape, expanding and learning new skills.
Any change in routine, habits or lifestyle all takes time and effort but remember your goal, what you desire to achieve at the beginning.
Set yourself a time and place to start your new you and go for it!
If you feel you need support to undertake any of the above please contact a trained therapist who will be able to guide you through the steps or if close by contact me to guide you through the steps!