“I am ____ years old, Meredith”, you say. “I know how to feel emotions!”
I know that’s true, but I’d like to offer you a way to somatically experience emotions. I believe that we can access our emotions through our body, and that when we suppress our emotions without properly expressing them, they can actually be stored in our body, where they can cause pain and discomfort.
This technique provides an access point to whatever emotion you might be feeling, and a safe way in which to express it so that you’re not storing it in your body. Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a safe, private place where you can feel comfortable expressing whatever comes up. You might also want to have some props nearby that you can safely use without damaging anything (e.g., pillows are useful for expressing anger).
- Bring up the thoughts that cause you to feel the emotion you want to process.
- Start to tune into your body. While you hold those thoughts and that emotion in your mind, take note of where you feel sensations in your body.
- Pick whatever sensation feels most prominent or interesting. Describe the emotional sensations to yourself. When you feel it in your body, does the emotion have a shape, a temperature, a texture, a color? Does it maybe feel like tingling, buzzing, pressure, or tightness? Recognize what the emotion truly feels like in your body.
- Let your mind drop deeper into your experience of the emotion. Follow the energy of the emotion wherever it goes. The sensations in your body may change; try to stay connected to them as best you can.
- Let your body do anything it wants to do. It might just want to breathe and lie still, but it might also want to cry, or move in some way (e.g., stomping your feet, punching a pillow, curling up in a ball). It might also want to make a sound (e.g., growling, yelling, humming).
- If you mind drifts and you move away from the emotion, gently tune back into your body again. Become acquainted with the emotion again, including describing it to yourself as in step 3, and letting your body express it.
- Stay with this process as long as you like. The emotion may naturally dissipate after a while, or it may not; you can keep coming back to this exercise as needed.
This technique can be used to feel and express any emotion you experience. Give it a try the next time you think you’re suppressing an emotion or just want help experiencing your emotions in a mindful way.