A big part of the work that I do with clients, is to teach them how to allow their emotional feelings. Most of us are conditioned to allow the so-called ‘positive’ feelings (joy, happiness, excitement, love, gratitude) and to attempt to change, get rid of or suppress the so-called ‘negative’ feelings (anger, hurt, shame, guilt, sadness and fear).
I put ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in quotation marks because I don’t like the separation of feelings into good and bad categories. What if we were to think of feelings as simply feelings without the value judgements of positivity or negativity? Perhaps there would be less of a drive to change the ‘negative’ ones and cling to the ‘positive’ ones. Perhaps it would make it easier to allow our experiences to be as they are.
I thought I’d write about this – because recently when I was talking with a client, she said ‘I tried sitting with the feelings, but it just made it worse.’
I asked her what she meant by sitting with the feelings. What was the process?
She told me she just sat down, without distractions and thought about what had happened that caused the feelings she was having.
This is a very common misperception about what ‘sit with the feelings’ really means
It doesn’t mean sit with the STORY about the feelings.
When you sit with the story of the feelings, what will happen is that you’ll keep triggering the feelings.
Sitting with the feelings means turning towards the sensory experience in your body and paying very close attention to it.
Notice where in your body the feelings are most vivid. Is it in your stomach, your chest, your throat, your neck or shoulders? Perhaps it’s in your limbs.
Notice if the feelings have a shape, size, colour, density, temperature or texture.
Do the feelings stay in one place, or move around?
As you’re paying very close attention – do they get bigger, smaller, more intense or more diffuse?
Keep paying attention. What happens? Do the sensations move to other parts of your body or stay put?
Keep paying very close attention only to the sensory experience in your body. Do this until you sense a kind of unwinding, a diffusion or possibly an expansion. Think of a coil that starts to unravel. Stay with it until you sense that.
It might be that the feelings are too big or too painful for you to want to do this on your own. Please honour where you are and seek out support.
In the meantime, you can practice with less intense feelings, like minor irritations or frustrations.
Tips for sitting with your feelings
- When you notice you are going back into the story about what happened, playing it over in your mind like a movie, take a breath and come back into the sensory experience in your body.
- When you notice you’re justifying your reaction or going into blaming the other person, come back into the sensory experience in your body.
- If you notice yourself judging yourself or the other person – come back into your body’s sensory experience.
- If you find yourself analysing the situation – come back to your body.
E-motions are energy-in-motion. What they need is to be felt. Feeling emotions doesn’t happen in the mind. It happens in the body. Thinking happens in the mind 🙂
Let me know if you would like some 1:1 help with this. It’s an incredibly powerful skill to have.
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