When you get a really uncomfortable feeling, like rage or guilt or annoyance or grief, do you know how to move out of your head, and into your body, to make sense of it?
Yeah, I didn't either. But I've spent a lot of time (and I'm still spending time) learning how to this!
Let's back up a bit.
Most of us were not met with curiousity or empathy when we tried (and inevitably) failed to communicate our feelings and needs as children.
Instead we were met with any of the following - punishment, invalidation, threats, isolation, or dismissal. Maybe all of them. And others of us were met by caregivers who genuinely wanted to help us, but lacked the adequate emotional tools to do so.
FEELING - not thinking - about how we are physically feeling is the first step in the "understanding, showing, and communicating" process.
F.E.E.L all of the feels
So here's how you can learn to pay attention to your body and the strong emotional sensations you have.
F - Focus on the physical sensation of the feeling
Do a body scan. Stop moving and ground your body. What are you feeling in your head? Is your mouth dry? What's going on in your stomach? What is your body temperature like? How quick or slow is your heart rate? Do your hands feel sweaty? Does your brain feel "stuck"?
E - Embrace this moment as a "temporary teacher." Here to communicate. And it won't last forever.
Here's the thing about emotions. They come and they go. They're like waves in the ocean. And the feelings within our body (the sensations that we label with emotion terms) are telling you something important. Something you may have ignored in the past. Or didn't know how to hear. Something you just want to move past.
Without judgement, and with curiousity, embrace what the feeling is telling you.
E - Expand into the "thinking" brain. Conjur up 3 feeling words to put a name to the feeling
Maybe your heart is racing. Your skin feels hot. And your jaw is clenched. The feeling words for these bodily sensations might be "anger," "panic," or "fear."
Maybe your body feels cold. Your brain is "frozen" and can't think. And your shoulders are hunched. The feeling words for these bodily sensations might be "overwhelm," "sadness," or "grief."
L - Label the underlying need(s)
Behavior is communication of a need yearning to be met.
So, our own behavior, that of yelling, or ignoring, or stomping our feet, and tuning out our children. . .that is communicating a need.
And your needs are also very important!
So maybe, if your feeling words were "anger" and "fear," you might label the need as:
"I am feeling angry and afraid because my need for safety and being valued was not being met. I need to feel that my voice matters and that my concerns for your safety are considered. When I am brushed off and ignored, I feel invalidated and unsettled."
Being valued. Having a voice that means something. Feeling safe. Caring for others. Being though of as important in a familial unit.
Those are all human needs.
So, my invitation to you, is to pay attention throughout your week to how you're feeling. Realy FEELing what's going on in your body and then practice identifying the emotions and the needs that your body is communicating to you!