Our emotions bring us a tremendous amount of passion and power.
They give us invaluable information about our underlying universal human needs and are a source of vitality, aliveness, and connection for ourselves and others. Embracing the fullest range of our emotional experiences on a moment-to-moment basis – without numbing out or acting out – is energizing and enlivening.
However, many of us grew up in cultures in which we were taught not to trust our emotions or our emotional experiences. We were taught to see emotions as problematic – especially the unpleasant ones. Some of us were taught that the best way to relate to emotions is to tolerate them stoically. We were taught to remove them from our awareness and interactions, thereby suppressing our deeper human desires and passions and making us more compliant and obedient to social norms.
A lifetime of suppressed emotions is also a lifetime of suppressed desire. When we detach from our emotional lives, we detach from our deeper vitality, energy, and life-force. Over time, the feelings we’ve tried so hard to contain, repress, and suppress build a momentum of their own and can intensify into snarling rages, paralyzing grief and annihilating shame. When our emotions force themselves into consciousness in such intense, overwhelming ways we become horrified and increase our efforts to suppress them. Such experiences scare and shake us, renewing our resolve to stay out of touch with the harmful monsters within.
We get stuck in a vicious cycle of suppressed emotions. First, we use our energy to suppress our feelings and end up feeling heavy, tired, and disconnected over time. Eventually, our feelings build up internal pressure and momentum, overwhelming us and then getting released and discharged through unconstrained self-expression. We feel a rush of relief in the short term and temporarily reconnect with our energies, but often feel guilt, shame, and regret about the way in which our emotional energies were expressed – leading us to repress (subconsciously) and suppress (consciously) the emotions all over again, seeing them as bad and wrong.
If we want to break these life-alienating, self-sabotaging cycles, we’re invited to develop a new relationship with our tender, emotional inner lives. We need to learn the Art of Emotional Alchemy. Instead of seeing emotions as dangerous, overwhelming, out-of-control, unacceptable, inappropriate, or undesirable, what would it be like to see them as your inner gateway to meaning, purpose, acceptance, belonging, intimacy, freedom, and connection?
Our emotions are not problematic; they are deeply intertwined with our wisdom, memories, desires, and energy.
Once we learn how to connect to our feelings and sensations, name them accurately, observe and witness their sensations and movement through our bodies, connect them to our universal human needs – once we practice feeling them with consciousness and compassion, we also then reconnect with our inherent energy, vitality, and desires.
Whenever we are feeling stuck, unmoored, unmotivated, and lost at sea, it’s often an indication that we are out of touch with our desires and intrinsic motivations. And very often we become out of touch with these desires and motivations because we’ve tied up our energy in so-called “negative” emotions (such as rage, anger, fear, grief, envy, or sadness) that we haven’t given ourselves permission to feel, acknowledge, and process.
Every emotional state we experience brings us clues about our deep desires. Desire lies at the root of emotional experiences.
So, how do we actually metabolize, process, and transform our emotions into energy, vitality, and empowerment, you may ask?
Approve of your feelings – every single one of them. The first step in making peace with all of your emotional states is to welcome, allow, and approve of them.
Develop a wider literacy of feelings. Give your emotions accurate, nuanced names. Download these feelings sheets: 1) needs met and 2) needs unmet, and broaden your vocabulary. Words are tools of distinction, and the more specific and nuanced your toolkit, the more clarity you will develop with your experience of emotions.
Focus on what your feelings and emotions are telling you about your needs and desires. Make the connection: I feel hungry because I have a desire for food. My feeling of thirst tells me about my need for hydration. My feelings of loneliness point me to my own needs for companionship and connection.
Watch your feelings move and change, and track each emotion’s patterns through your body. Is there movement upward or downward, inward or outward? Does this energy you’re experiencing radiate out from you, or does it move tightly inward toward your center?
Practice celebrating the aliveness that you find within yourself when you become aware of your feelings, by using this mantra:
I celebrate feeling the aliveness of disappointment…
I celebrate feeling the aliveness of anger …
I celebrate feeling the aliveness of sadness …
I celebrate feeling the aliveness of [insert feeling here] …
Try to access the pleasure inherent in our feeling states – even the “negative” feelings. By focusing on the energy, sensation, and movement of a feeling, you might even find that your perception of something unpleasant becomes enjoyable. When you stop seeing your feelings as dangerous, bad, or wrong, you might discover your ability to access the inherent pleasure of the vitality, energy, movement, release, and power that can be locked up in fear-states, anger-states, sadness-states, and more.
Moving back into deep and empowering connection with our emotions is a lifelong journey and taking any of the steps above can strengthen your connection, increase your awareness, and help you move toward the wisdom and intelligence of your experience of life.
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Thanks so much for this overview of what we will be covering in March. You describe so very well about how I was taught to deal with emotions by being stoic – "the good girl". 4. …"tracking emotions patterns through my body" is such a worthy goal for me at this time. And I felt so consoled by your comment "Moving back into a deep and empowering connection with my emotions is a life long journey"! Thanks for all you do to assist me on this journey! Karen Greer