I remember my first experience of group therapy at the age of 20. We all had to say how we felt at the start of the session, and I would pick a feeling because I honestly didn’t know what I felt. One day I picked ‘happy’, just randomly for a change. One of the women in the group asked me why I was happy and I became tongue-tied and didn’t know what to say to her. I felt like I had been caught out in a lie. I couldn’t honestly tell what I was feeling at the time and how to discern if I was happy, angry or sad. I just felt confused, numb and frustrated mostly.
What I know now is that I didn’t know what I was feeling, because I was a master at emotional dissociation. That was the way that I had learnt to deal with my emotional discomfort. To escape my feelings, I just disassociated from them and acted out in compulsive ways. I have come to realise that this is the way that many people learn to cope with emotions. Often when our emotions become intense, we react by trying even harder to deny them, medicate them or force them out of our conscious awareness. It is at these times that it is most important to get in touch with what you are feeling as there is something important that you need to address in your life.
One of the easiest ways to become emotionally cognizant is to be grounded in your body. Karla Mclaren, in her book ‘The Language of Emotions’, says that the body has no choice but to be present so it is an effective way to access your current emotional state. Simply bringing your attention back to your body will allow you to create the condition for your emotions to surface. This is especially useful if you are not sure what you are feeling. Gradually over time, your emotions will start to surface if you continue to be present and grounded in your body.
Coming back to my body took many years of sustained intentional self-work. I practised yoga and studied dance. I changed my diet so I was not stuffing myself with junk foods and started to eat wholesome, natural foods in smaller quantities. I lost weight. I received body work. I gave body work. I trained as a Zen Shiatsu therapist. All the time, I worked to be present in my body and the discomfort that it brought. I cried many tears. I raged. I laughed much. I felt clumsy emotionally. Eventually though, I began to know what I was feeling at any given moment and why I was feeling it. My emotions no longer eluded or overwhelmed me.
I had to be very honest about my emotions in order to understand them. I continue to work at it every day, and this keeps me emotionally centred. I know that it’s not about resisting, suppressing or ‘rising above’ an emotion, as this is only a short-term superficial solution. I know that my emotions are there to help, and only by acknowledging them, will I find my way back to feeling calm and centred.
I was lucky that I was led to people that were able to help me become grounded though I believe that this was also the result of my sincere desire to do so and perseverance over the years. Many people get lost in a sea of medication or the dependency that therapies can bring. I am not saying that medication or therapy is wrong, in some cases it is the best and only option. Certain healing approaches however encourage dependency and dissociation as they do not bring you back to your body or empower you to accept and embrace the gift that your emotions really are.
Facing my emotions was my saving grace. Even though at times I thought that I would get swallowed up by them and they brought me to places of despair and great confusion. Walking through those times, painful as they were, and allowing myself to feel what I was feeling, eventually brought me great emotional clarity. I did not walk them alone though and my greatest healing came from asking for support and the guidance of those that had walked this path before me.
You may also need support or guidance as only someone who has found their own emotional centre can show you the path to do the same. You may need courage, as the messages from your emotions may be telling you that you need to face things in your life that you are afraid or feel unable to face. They may be things about yourself, your relationships or circumstances in your life that are not working for you and your deepest self wants you to change.
Integrating your emotions are a key aspect to a fully expressed life. It is by acknowledging what we feel and then trying to understand what that emotion is telling us, that we can truly be alive. Our emotions never lie and they are always there to help us, even if we don’t know why at the time. If you can be brave, ask for help and persevere, you are sure to learn the language of your emotions and know they are only trying to bring you to wholeness, clarity and authenticity.