What we consciously experience as fear, joy, anger or grief, is only the tip of the iceberg is called an emotion.
Just like the floating ice giants, a lot remains hidden from us during this emotional processes. Emotions are related not only with the subjective experience, but also include physical reactions to certain elements that prepare people for behavior and motivate them to act.
For example, the sight of a snake automatically increases the heart rate and blood pressure, improves the blood supply to the muscles.
It provides an optimal energy supply for the muscles through the release of hormones, and focuses on the potential threat and thinking away from other, currently unimportant things.
All of this creates the ideal conditions for two options for action: fight or flight.
So an emotion is something very far-reaching, comprehensive. It focuses our attention, influences our thinking ability and our self-assessment – that is, our cognitive processes.
It is reflected in bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and sweating, which are controlled by the nervous system and hormones.
After all, an emotion in facial expressions, gestures, the sound of the voice and behavioral tendencies practically paves the way out – we are talking here about the expressive and the behavioral components.
The term “Emotion” goes back to the Latin words and it means the expression moving outwards.
Emotional reactions seem to live an independent life within us.
Sometimes a single word, gesture or facial expression is enough to trigger strong feelings.
We are then in anger, grief, hurt, shame, longing, emptiness – or other states that are difficult to put into words – and do not really understand how it happens to us.
Due to the intensity and inexperience of such an emotional reaction, further reactions, comments and evaluations of the actual feelings usually arise together with it.
If there is anger, maybe something else in me says: “Attention! You must not be angry now! ”
Or if there is grief, the thought may come up:“ That is ridiculous! Pull yourself together!”
When you look closely, emotional reactions are complex inner processes that, despite all their differences, always have one thing in common: They need you as a strong, interested, participating, compassionate partner.
Because compassion and loving interest are ways to free yourself from the entanglements of an emotional reaction.
If I can look at my feelings in this way and listen to them, I can then better decide how I want to deal with them and the situation as a whole.
How can such an emotional response be released? It takes practice, the more the better. It needs you as a lively counterpart who takes time for the feelings that arise and is really interested in them.
I have described five simple steps here to first understand the process and then test it in practice.
The first step is to recollect yourself whenever there is an intense flow of emotions. In this step you will only become aware of the present situation.
You may notice that something is wrong, uncomfortable, needs your attention. You may notice a feeling in yourself, maybe it is anger, sadness, disappointment. You can see how incredibly fast this emotional reaction is going on in you, and you may feel attacked, swamped or foggy.
Instead of automatically fighting back in anger, being confused and sad, stop and take a moment to calm.
Simply by saying “stop” inside, taking a break and exhaling deeply. This will interrupt the automatic process.
You only need a few moments to take this step. Sometimes it can involve going out of a conflict situation and going to a quiet room.
It is also possible to only look at an emotional reaction afterwards if you have the time and space for it.
The second step is to notice your body and slow down. You now take the time to feel your physical body, perhaps first your inhalation and exhalation.
It is also helpful to feel the contact of the feet with the floor and the weight of the body. You can proceed systematically, from feet to head – or rather follow the free flow of perception.
You can also try that now.
If you read this text, you can perceive your body at the same time.
How exactly does the body feel now, from head to toe?
You will notice that you are reading more slowly overall because you are always aware of your body as you read.
The same thing happens when you talk to someone, for example; if you perceive your body at the same time, then you will most likely speak more slowly than you are used to.
This is exactly how it works with emotions.
You become slower and clearer if you also perceive the physical body for your emotional participation. Because when you feel your body, you feel more than just the current feeling.
The third step is to put your hand where the feeling is in the body. To do this, you localize your feeling in the body.
Mostly there are feelings in the areas of the neck, throat, chest and abdomen.
You then feel heat, energy, contraction, pain in the body – or more complex images appear, such as the emotion of having an iron ring around your chest or head, or a concentrated energy in your lower abdomen.
Every day a little more. Imagine taking a small step every day that brings more happiness, joy, love and success to your life. What would be the impact?
The touch of your hand is like a kind, compassionate, loving, unconditional acceptance of what is – without evaluation and without fear.
You can ask internally whether the touch fits so; and if not, how it should be different so that it feels recognized and justified to be there.
Take your time to really let this get together happen. Your hand, breathing together – it’s like that, whether you sit next to the feeling without wanting anything. It is important that it is really a cooperation and not about changing it in a given direction.
Sometimes it may not work out so well in the beginning. That is not bad, because it is also unusual to be compassionate with the feeling.
You may find it difficult to be kind to your anger or fear. Then try now to just greet the feeling.
The fourth step is to perceive what feeling or emotion is experiencing from its point of view and whether it wants to communicate something.
You may automatically call the feeling “fear”, but what may be behind it and what does it want to communicate on its own?
If you feel anger, ask your anger now what exactly it is so angry about – and let you explain everything in detail.
For example, you may feel badly treated by your friend. The angry part of you may let you know that it is not okay for him to be treated so condescendingly, and that he feels let down.
You would discover together with this emotion that the anger is not only angry, but also sad or hurt at the same time.
Or when it comes to sadness, sadness could tell you what exactly makes it so sad. Maybe you are ignored or lonely.
Let it tell you exactly what it is; and make sure that it is you who listens and is there for them. If you lose the thread and threaten to sink into the feeling, go back to the first step.
Overall, take a lot of time to listen and really be there for the feeling or emotion within you. It’s like a dialogue in which you are very compassionate and open.
At the same time, if you take this step, you have become stronger and more stable – because you are listening, you are there for all the feelings.
You are no longer just a victim or uninvolved spectator of what is there. Your powerful compassion can work miracles here.
In this last step you become aware of yourself again. You consciously take the time to feel your body and your breathing.
You make yourself clear that you are according to the motto “I am here”. And you make yourself clear that you have given space to this emotional reaction and listened to it.
You make yourself clear how strong and intense your feelings are or were and how much they therefore require your attention. They need you as a compassionate counterpart; and therefore it is important that you can feel it without sinking in or being swamped by it.
The hand that may still be on your body, where the feeling is or was, can now make this aspect palpable: “I am there for you. I am strong enough to recognize you, to give you space and to listen carefully. I can understand how you are, and it’s okay for you to be that way. ”
Finally, it can make sense for you to stretch and stretch and take a few deep breaths to get back to everyday life.
If you can perceive and acknowledge your emotions in this way, you have already freed yourself from the reaction for that moment.
You have become a strong, lively counterpart for a vulnerable side in you; a good basis to react to the next reaction with a little more openness and interest.
Sophia have studied at Medical University in Michigan and have good experience in the field of human behavior and psychiatry. She is also working as a researcher in well know medical industry.