An Opportunity for Healing
The unrelenting disruption and uncertainty of our lives have rattled our emotional equilibrium. Patience has worn thin. The kids are getting scrappy and the parents are getting snappy. Small fractures in personal relationships are showing up and the large rift in our social contract has taken to the streets. This mandatory timeout has put us up close and personal with what needs to be seen, felt, and resolved with a kind of urgency we can’t avoid.
As every therapist knows, when stuff comes up, it’s a great opportunity for healing. The discomfort is a messenger; the pain is a guide; and honoring the process allows old wounds to mend from the inside out. Here’s an easy way to understand the progression: life’s circumstances have stirred the pot and whatever was tucked away and silenced has floated to the top. Now, you have a choice. You can shove it back down, rationalize it away, revert to old distractions, assign blame, and… hold on to it. Or, you can move towards the discomfort, identify the feelings, do some emoting, and… let it go. Whether or not you see the healing potential, with emotions on the surface everywhere, it’s hard to overlook the catharsis.
When an emotion gets triggered, it has an energetic footprint. The energy of fear feels very different in the body than the energy of anger. Sadness feels different than joy. Like weather coming and going, the natural state of this emotional energy is fluid and moving. Emotion= E+motion. Because you experience emotions physically, your body is a part of this emotional equation. The simple questions of “what does it feel like” and “where do you feel it” are that much more effective when you add “what does it sound like” and “what does it look like.” Including this expressive component gets the energy moving. Then, instead of getting stuck and gumming up the works, the energy moves along. This is important because, as neuroscientist Candace Pert, PhD, states: “When emotions are repressed, denied, not allowed to be whatever they may be, our network of pathways gets blocked… and we lose the full capacity to think and act effectively. We also lose our connection with compassion for ourselves and others.”
Like many people in these precarious times, you’re likely to find a bit of fear rumbling around. Is fear of the unknown gripping your shoulders? Fear of being out of control bracing your lower back? Fear of the future clamping your jaw? Inspirational speaker and author Iyanla Vanzant recently stated on her show Fear Not, “… the fear that’s coming up is the fear you brought into this pandemic.” What she’s saying is that the particular hyper-vigilance you’re feeling in your shoulders, back and jaw is possibly old fear you’ve been carrying around for a long time. Honoring what’s happening in your physical body is a good way to connect with this fear, current and past, and let it go.
To experience how this works, you’ll need a private space to do some personal healing work. Invite your curious mind to step aside and explore your emotional body on its own terms. Look for the tension/ agitation/ discomfort to zero in on the feelings. Stay connected with your emotional body and find the sound and gesture that comes from this place. At first, you’ll be self-conscious and feel awkward, but just make that sound on the exhale and sweep it away with your hands. Then, see how you feel afterwards. As a mentor of mine, Dennie La Tourelle,used to say, “The only bad emotion is a stuck emotion.”
If getting in touch with your emotional body feels too scary or your resistance is too entrenched, this may be the perfect time to ask for help. After all, when it’s up, it’s up and there are many ways to get it moving. In this case you literally have nothing to lose except fear itself! Our community has an impressive array of talented therapists doing online sessions right now. Three months in, psychotherapist Michael Seabaugh recently shared that he and his patients have adapted well to the format, some even expressing a preference to continue teletherapy sessions once the restrictions lift. Connecting with a professional can help you avoid detours and distractions, offer valuable guidance, and fortify your commitment to heal.
As a somatic therapist, I’ve helped many people listen to and honor the emotional energy in their body. Because our relationship with fear has a primal taproot, it’s energy can be stuck for years and we just think it is normal. When events catalyze fear on any level, we have the opportunity to dredge deep and get it all moving. Rather than anchor down until these COVID times are over, why not do some emotional healing? Freeing up the E-motion opens the door to clear thinking and deep wisdom. Right now, we need as much of that as possible.