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Posts Tagged ‘working through emotions’

Winding PlantOn my blog entry entitled Shame: What it Feels Like and How to Get Rid of it, a reader posted the following comment:

Can you talk more about the connection between emotions and body? i, too am learning to name emotions. i feel them in my body so strongly, but am struggling with naming and then making that connection. can you keep talking about this part of your healing? ~ Aggiemonday

Michael posted a good response to that comment that I recommend you read. Remember that you need to find what works for you and that it may differ from what works for me. The big picture is the same, though – we are all doing what we need to do along our journey toward a destination of self-love and acceptance.

I wish I was farther along in my progress in this area so I could be more helpful. Shame is the only emotion that I definitely know I am feeling based upon what my body feels. When I get that sunburn feeling in my skin, especially along my arms, I know that I am feel shame, and I know what works for me to process it. I choose not to feed it and, instead, do a visual to pour it out of my body. Other readers responded that they deal with shame differently, so be sure to check out other strategies if mine does not work for you.

The only other emotion I am pretty good at identifying is fear. Ironically, I frequently fail to notice one of the classic bodily responses to fear – an increased heart rate. I lived so much of my life with my heart pounding that I truly do not notice it unless I think to look for it. As an example, I will spend 30 minutes unable to fall asleep before I notice that my heart is racing.

The bodily feeling I notice to identify fear is a sensation in my thighs that I cannot quite describe. My muscles tense up, and I “feel fear” in my thighs. While fear can affect other parts of my body, such as a clenched stomach, the bodily signal I first notice is always in my thighs. When I feel fear, I do deep breathing to slow my heart rate and calm myself back down.

I wish I could be more helpful, but I am still too out-of-tune with the rest of my emotions to describe their physical manifestations. This is something that I am working on. I first learned that our bodies have a physical response to whatever emotion we are experiencing in Geneen Roth’s book, Women Food and God. (“God” represents spirituality in this book – it is not religious in nature.) Perhaps her book will be helpful to you in working through this aspect of healing. I need to read through those chapters again as well.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Upon my return to therapy, at the end of my first session, I asked my therapist how I can process emotions without being swept away by them. His response was to give me homework the next week. He wants me to pay attention to each time someone pushes my buttons and then fill out a worksheet. These are the four questions he wants me to address:

  1. Identify the people who frequently “press your emotional buttons.”
  2. What emotions do you feel when these people press your buttons?
  3. How do you usually respond when these people press your buttons?
  4. What could be an effective way to disable these emotional buttons (that is, disable the button while feeling the feeling)?

I didn’t need to wait to fill out #1. I am painfully aware of the people who press my buttons, and the main ones live under my roof.

So far, I am beginning each response to #2 with anger. I guess that is progress because I used to react with shame, guilt, and fear of no longer being loved. Now it just p@$$es me off. Underneath the anger is sadness and frustration with my husband and mostly frustration with my kid.

For #3 – How I respond varies depending upon the situation. I was surprised to discover that my husband actually presses my buttons more by the things he doesn’t do than with the things that he says or does. Because he is typically not around when I discover the latest thing he failed to do, I don’t really react since he isn’t around to react to it. It’s more just grumbling in my own head.

I actually had to call a friend and ask if “inaction” counted as button pushing. She said it did, so I am including it. I think it is an interesting thing to note that inaction is what is really bothering me the most with him. Of course, the week is not over yet…

And then there is #4, which remains completely blank. How can I disable these buttons? I have no idea. With my husband, I mostly choose to stop caring. The sad thing is that, the fewer behaviors (or inaction) I care about, the less I care. That can’t be healthy for a marriage.

With my son, I actively choose not to go head-to-head with him because that is counterproductive. I have to step away and think through how to accomplish what I need to accomplish in a different way. Some strategies work nicely, such as rewarding him for making good choices. Other strategies, such as trying to reason with him, don’t work very well at all. He has a variety of special needs, which makes parenting him a challenge since none of the tips in the parenting books work for him.

I am going to keep trying to fill out my worksheet, but I fear that #4 will remain blank.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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