Most people have the mistaken idea that emotions are to be managed.  When you process your emotions, they do not need to be managed, they naturally shift and change in healthy ways.

To make this shift, you need to understand the physiology of emotion.  The brain and the body are complicated.  The following is a simplification of the mind/body connection in regard to emotion.

The right-brain, limbic system and the body create the emotions we experience.  The left-brain analyzes emotions, but it does not create them.  We express emotions from our right-brain; we talk about emotions from our left-brain.

Emotions come in waves.  When emotions are pleasant, such as experiences of contentment, satisfaction, happiness, and joy, people tend to breathe normally, rarely noticing the waves.  Feelings do not stay the same – they come and they go.

What goes wrong?

When emotions are uncomfortable; such as experiences of high excitement, fear, grief and loss, people change how they breathe, often without realizing it.  As the emotion wells up, people tend to hold their breath and then shallow breathe.  They shift into their left-brain and start to question what is happening (What if ? What’s wrong? OMG, Etc) Holding the breath blocks processing of the emotion so the wave cannot crest, it cannot recede, and therefore, it cannot dissipate.  Now the emotion has to be managed. Unprocessed emotions tend to build over time, like a stack of coins, as other situations create similar feelings.  There is more and more emotion to manage.  There is less and less energy to manage or wall off the emotions.

When emotions are distressing, such as intense love, fear, grief, and rejection, people get into the habit of trying to avoid them.  What they are trying to avoid are the sensations of the feelings.  The actual situation that created the distressing sensations, usually gets lost. Now life becomes about avoiding the awful sensations.  This complicates life because people become so focused on trying to avoid, they cannot live freely.  Also, by trying to avoid feelings, people often behave in ways that actually create the very feelings that they are trying to avoid.

The breath is the key to processing emotions.

As an emotion wells up, breathing through the emotion allows it to crest and recede.  At first the waves may be intense.  By breathing through the waves they dissipate and get smaller and smaller until, like waves on a beach, they are gone.  There is nothing left to manage or avoid.

By facing a feeling and breathing through the sensations of an emotion you will learn that you can handle it.  Knowing you can tolerate and handle difficult sensations, will free you up to make the decisions that you want to make.  You are less likely to experience difficult feelings and, because life can be difficult, when you do, they won’t last as long.

Embrace all the moments of life. The capacity to experience the full range of emotion, from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy, creates a sense of being fully alive.

With care & concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

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