Many of us deal with enquiries about how we are feeling with vagueness: "I'm fine," "I am well, thank you," "A bit tired." All well and good until you enter the inner world of self-exploration. For those of us involved in the inner world being upset, OK, or fine are redundant terms. We need to be emotionally literate.
Like a painter whose vision is not restricted to red, blue, yellow, and green, we must possess more ways of describing our emotions. Angry, sad, scared, and hurt are not enough.
So, here's my quick course for converting a previously illiterate person into an emotionally literate one.
Thinking, Feeling, and Describing
One: Do not experience feelings, or more strictly speaking emotions, through your mind
Most people "think their emotions." This is rather like pouring processed white sugar over a sugar-free desert. Please don't! You cannot think emotions; you can only think thoughts and real emotions are not reduceable to thought. Emotions must be felt.
Two: Feel emotions by connecting with their bodily location
When you experience some feeling or other do not be vague. Start by locating where the emotion is in your body. If you have any difficulty with this allow your hands to respond. Nine times out of ten when I ask an emotionally illiterate person to place their hands on the bodily location of their present feelings their hands know exactly where to go.
Briefly, emotions relating to sadness, anger, and power reside in the belly and the pelvis. Emotions related to self-love and self-worth in the solar plexus. Longing, love, grief are found in the heart or chest center.
Once you have located where your emotions are, bring attention to them via their bodily location. Now you should begin to notice how, rather than being stuck, emotions actually want naturally to flow and how they respond to attention in a balancing, healthy, positive way.
Three: Develop your vocabulary and feeling response to emotions by learning how to describe them. This is what we shall look at in more detail in next week's BLOG.
Thank you for reading this. Now tell me: How are you feeling now?
The primary colors of emotion are anger, sadness, fear, and hurt. Anger is very often merely a lid for more authentic emotional states. Anger may appear as resistance (NO!), resentment, or distancing. Sadness may lead to depression or a consistent feeling of melancholy or "heaviness." Fear is commonly experienced in anxiety, nervous behavior, or an underlying feeling that something bad is about to happen (dread). Hurt in a constant sense of neglect, woundedness, or a feeling of not being appreciated.
In spite of the richness of emotional experience that is potential in our psycho-physical organism (the bodymind) many of us have no authentic means of relating to our felt sense or direct experience of emotions. Furthermore, we might not be literate in our ability to express these incredibly diverse feeling states in verbal expression.
The purpose of this BLOG is to give you a leaping-off point for expression and through the expression a fresh new experience of emotions with more vivid intensity. You will also be able to begin to sense and understand how emotions comprise a flow in your body and not merely a static condition.
Let's begin with the first of the primary colors -- Anger.
Raspberry, maroon, rust, salmon -- red has many, many more permutations of its generic redness. Likewise the emotion anger may be expressed as resentment, fury, rage, irritation, annoyance, withdrawal, depression, hate, bitterness, hostility, disgust, dismay, irksomeness, impatience, frustration, or aggravation, among many others.
Play with developing your literacy of these permutations of the feeling state of anger by drawing, dancing, sculpting (perhaps with clay or plasticine), or writing about them. Identify your own expressions of anger, the ones that you habitually experience and demonstrate. Also consider the expressions of anger in those close to you. Some of these permutations of anger will be familiar and vivid to you, others not so much. Work at developing your understanding and emotional literacy in the most creative ways you can find.
Finally, consider what challenges are involved for you in these explorations. Which of these expressions of anger cost you too much now? Which are you ready to release? Which do you no longer wish to tolerate in those close to you? How much of your emotional experience and behavior is reactive and conditioned?
Next, the primary color of sadness.
Cobalt, periwinkle, lavender, azure -- blue too has many, many more permutations of generic blueness. Likewise the emotion sadness can be expressed as grief, dejection, despair, disillusionment, hopelessness, tearfulness, feeling "down" or " blue", disappointment, feeling sorry, despondency, anguish, or melancholy.
Which of these emotional variations of sadness are you familiar with? Which most? In yourself and in others? Be curious and explore the emotion of sadness in yourself and in your own psycho-physical organism. Where do you experience sadness? What types of sadness appear in different parts of your body? What happens when you close your eyes and give these feeling states your full attention? Draw, write, dance, sculpt and in other ways find creative expression to expand you emotional literacy.
In this sensitive work on emotions always be compassionate with yourself, never be judgmental or critical of yourself. Your emotional patterns have a long history and even the most illogical and extreme emotional states make sense when you trace them back to their historical roots in early life. Early life is the time when these patterns originated because that is when you tried to make sense of your emotional experience -- yours and other's.
Fear and Hurt
Next, the primary color of fear.
Acacia, blond, lemon, corn, and cadmium -- yellow has many, many variants of generic yellowness. In the same way the emotion fear can be expressed as panic, terror, dread, hysteria, desperation, apprehension, uptightness, worry, shyness, or hesitancy.
Which of these emotional variations of fear are you most acquainted with? Which do you habitually feel and express? Which do you see in others who are close to you? Explore the emotion of fear in yourself and in the world around you. Don't forget there can be a distance between feeling fear and demonstrating it, as there is a difference also between expressing fear and releasing it. Everyone feels fear at some time; how do you experience fear? What types of fear reside in different parts of your body? What happens when you close your eyes and give your full attention to anxiety, to worry, to agitation?
Draw, write, dance, sculpt and in other ways find creative expression to expand your emotional literacy by giving expression to fear. Every graduation of emotion that is given some outward expression lessens its hold on you.
Next, the primary color of hurt.
Absinthe, apple, khaki, keppel, laurel, and malachite -- green appears to us in many permutations and variations. In just the same way hurt can be betrayal, neglect, anguish, devastation, or pain.
Explore your personal patterns of feeling hurt. Learn to discern the exact shades of hurt that are familiar to you. Now, where precisely do you a hurt, how do you experience hurt, and what happens when you bring your attention to the physical location of painful emotions?
Apply the other principles of examination, exploration, expression, and release that we have discussed here and in the previous BLOGs in this series, concerning feeling and describing, and working with anger and sadness.
In Part 2 of this article we look at conditioned emotions and the freedom to feel.
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [email protected]
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [...]