In my last blog I introduced to you a key concept that I have been exploring in my year-long program with Dr Gabor Mate, MD. In this article, we explored something that I see all too commonly in my clinic – why people cannot connect to their emotional self, feel empty inside, lost and disconnected from who they truly are.
In the article, we explored how we relate to others, whether that be with a spouse, a girlfriend or boyfriend, family member, a colleague, customer or, most importantly, our Self, and how these relationships lie balancing on a fulcrum. At one end is Authenticity, the other, Attachment.
To refresh your memory, Attachment, in this context, is the closeness and proximity of another human being, for the purpose of being protected, cared for and nurtured, or, for protecting and nurturing the other. Authenticity means to know, understand and appreciate who we are, and to be connected to our own bodies and our feelings, trusting the guidance and intuition our bodies offer to us, e.g. through “gut feelings”, and to express these feelings authentically through our words and actions.
At some point, many of you reading this learned that you could not be Authentic. You must not connect to your gut feelings, your body, or trust your heart because doing so would threaten your attachment relationship. At some point in your life, usually early childhood, you learnt that even if your gut feelings were available to you, you shouldn’t pay attention to them. This adaptive response was adopted to ensure your survival.
Even though as adults we’re no longer dependent on the same attachment relationship for survival, this adaptive behaviour continues to play out in a person’s life. If they do connect to those messages the body sends, and want to authentically express what they feel, they’re going to feel threatened, and anxious, almost as if their very survival is at stake. This is usually unconscious, and yet felt quite strongly in the body, meaning any rational, intellectual reasoning has little effect.
So, if you are someone who:
Struggles to express your emotions, and instead holds back to not impact others,
Feels numbness or emptiness when it comes to your mental and emotional health,
Finds it hard to find a sense of gratitude, even though you have so much to be thankful for,
Struggles to articulate your emotions as you experience them, or
Can’t seem to stop repeating patterns of behaviour that you know don’t serve you,
these strategies can help you reconnect to your emotional body, find a path towards a more authentic expression of yourself, and experience more fulfilling relationship to others and your Self.
Give yourself a break.
Acknowledge why you have the behaviours you do and the essential role they have played in your life. Develop compassion towards yourself. Notice when these behaviours and coping strategies pop up (because they are going to even with this knowledge). See them, acknowledge them, thank them, then ask them to step aside, telling them “I’ve got this, thanks”.
Thoughts are the language of the mind. Feelings are the language of the body. There’s only so far you can get by thinking this stuff through. Get somatic. By this I mean get into your body so you can feel it.
Move, dance, sing. Connect in. Be willing to hold space for your body and it’s language.
Sit in meditation with your body and just feel it. Focus on the toes, the knees, your hip bones, your back, shoulders and your face. Spend time simply feeling the sensation of being in your body. Notice how it feels, even if it is ever so subtle. It will take time to learn to feel the feels again.
If you are having an emotional day, let yourself feel these emotions and how they show up as sensations in your body. Don’t make them wrong, the emotions, remember it is your body-mind communicating to you – so listen. Close your eyes, notice where in the body it feels funky. Direct your attention to that area and feel it. Notice its qualities, the intensity, the colour it might have, the shape or texture. If the sensations could talk – what would they say to you? All emotions arise, peak in intensity, then fizzle out. See how you can ride that rollercoaster.
Refrain from attaching to the narrative – the story. Stay with the feelings. Feel them in the body, allowing them to peak and be heard, then allow them to dissipate. This is a practice called Mindfulness of Emotions. This is a beautiful way to relate to your emotions, feelings and body. With practice, you will become skilled at holding space for your emotions and minimising the potential detrimental impact it can have on your life when you are in a triggered state.
Work with a somatic therapist, who use techniques that have a beautiful balance of attending to the cognitive, or mind aspect, and also the affective, or somatic (body experience), aspects of your emotions. Check out therapists trained in somatic experiencing, trauma release breathwork, or other certified somatic practices.
If this article has brought up anything for you and you need support, please reach out to me. You are not alone. We all have this going on for us and talking with someone so you can unpack this and start your journey of reconnection is simply a choice. This isn’t about creating something new in your life. To re-connect means that your authentic self has always been there – it’s just under the surface. All we need to do is remember who we truly are.
This video is a beautiful 20-minute Mindfulness of Emotions Meditation that connects you to your breath, your body and your emotions. I hope you enjoy. This is my gift to you.
If you would like to explore the origins of these emotions and why you have trouble connecting to them I encourage you to consider coming in to see me for a deeper exploration using Compassionate Inquiry. Compassionate Inquiry is a psychotherapeutic approach developed by Dr. Gabor Maté that reveals what lies beneath the appearance we present to the world. Anyone with an open mind can get curious about their thoughts, feelings and body sensations. If you are suffering, there is a way to end it. To read more about Compassionate Inquiry CLICK HERE
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