The Next Step. On-Line Interactive Wellbeing Program
This week is really exciting for us because we start getting into the meat of what makes us tick as human beings – our emotions. Up front, this is a big lesson as there’s a lot to learn about emotions and how they work.
Why do we call it Emotional Literacy? Well, we don’t believe in the term Emotional Intelligence, as it suggests a predominant role for your mind. The thing is, you can’t think yourself through an emotion.
Emotions must be felt, their message understood and then integrated into your life for the feeling to be allowed to completely flow.
It can be said that the longest journey in the world is 14 inches – from your head to your heart.
Emotion is a contraction of a statement: Energy In Motion.
It’s a good idea to keep this in mind when developing our literacy with them.
So what is our definition of Emotional Literacy?
Emotional Literacy is the ability to feel what you want to feel, when you want to feel it, for the duration and intensity you want to feel it. It’s the ability to interrupt its messages so you can interact with your environment, whilst maintaining your personal power.
It’s been key for you to develop awareness of your emotions over the last couple of weeks. This needs to continue if you want to have your emotions working for you, rather than abusing you.
Let’s get into the lesson proper, but before we do, let’s take a look at three short scenarios, which demonstrate how we get mixed up with the messages our emotions are sending us, and then get tripped up, and create suffering for ourselves.
A man is driving home from work after just being fired. He’s extremely angry at the inconsistencies and dishonest behaviour of his boss and colleagues. Fuelled by this, he decides to send a very spiteful text message to his boss. For the following days he’s consumed by thoughts that bring a whirlpool of emotions with them.
What’s actually occurred for him: this husband and father of a young child originally took the job that was not aligned with him, because of his perceived need for money – fear of lack. He found himself in a job that wasn’t a fit for him, so he quickly and easily began to see all the non-alignment and lack of integrity in the workplace. Resentment built because of his need to continue in the job to pay the bills. So when he was fired he was angry, but with a mix of fear and shame sitting underneath. In taking the job he wasn’t balanced, and acted IN emotion. After being fired, and reflecting within, he was able to see this, and responded to his situation FROM emotion, which meant his results were different from the past.
A man sits at the bar, whilst his partner is out with her friends. When asked if he wants another beer he says, “I better get home because I’ll get my arse kicked by the missus”. On further thought, “Bugger it, I’m always in trouble anyway so give me another.”
Across town her friends are asking her how their relationship is going, to which she tells of her frustrations, irritations and annoyances with her partner.
What’s actually occurred: Because of a lack of self awareness in each partner, there is poor understanding of each person’s boundaries. This misunderstanding, results in poor communication of desires between them. The consequence is it’s vented to an external audience and allowed to stew.
You may have been in a situation where someone has asked you how you are feeling about someone, or something, but at the time you couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Emotional awareness is becoming aware of the tell-tale physical symptoms that can assist you to more easily assess how you are feeling in a particular situation. Emotional awareness involves honouring yourself and your body by listening, and responding, to its signals.
A lack of emotional awareness can occur in two primary ways:
Firstly, a person may become numb to what they are feeling, as a mechanism of self-preservation. It may have been conditioned upon you growing up, or you’ve developed it as a result of experiences you’ve had in your adult life. People that experience a lot of trauma in their jobs, like the police and emergency services, or the military, have a high proportion of people who have become emotionally numb to survive in their workplace environment. Family life often suffers when the individual comes home, and struggles to fully connect with their loved ones.
Secondly, a person’s emotions may ‘hijack’ them. This may occur every so often, or constantly. This situation is caused when a large amount of unprocessed emotion builds up within. For example, can you think of someone you know who gets really angry over small things – can you tell they are holding a lot of unprocessed anger?
Over time we become accustomed to our emotional reactions, or lack thereof, and if our emotional state is one of a level of ‘numbness’, this numbness becomes normal.
We suppress our emotions in three primary ways.
- We can detach ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally;
- We may distract ourselves by focusing our mind on other things. A great example is the use of humour to laugh our way out of fear; or
- We may mood alter to numb the pain we feel through use of a substance or an activity.
To suppress an emotion, and not return to honour its release, is to shackle yourself to it.
Emotion is a contraction of the phrase “energy in motion”. And that’s exactly what emotions are.
Emotions are energy moving through your system, and they provide valuable information about how you are interacting with your outside world.
When you ignore an emotion by attempting to suppress it, the energy must be released and will therefore find another avenue or channel, be that an emotion you more freely express, or a physical manifestation.
Have you ever been really angry, only to realize you weren’t angry at all?
At the time, you may have been experiencing another emotion such as sadness, fear or shame. A great example of this is the parent who, seeing their child in the playground walking on top of the monkey bars, yells at them to “get down!” Is this parent really angry? Sure, there may be some anger at the child’s perceived reckless behaviour, but the predominant emotion will be fear – fear the child could hurt him/herself.
Women will often cry when they are angry. In western society, especially Australia, if you are an angry woman you can be labeled a bitch. If you are a scared man or one who cries, you’re weak.
The suppressed emotion, consequently, will come out through a different channel. For men, anger, whilst often ‘tut-tutted’, in our society is more understandable and permissible than to be scared. Sadness and vulnerability are still socially more acceptable conditions for women to experience. Ironically, however, ask a woman what they think of a balanced, emotionally in-tune man, and you will generally receive positive feedback. Perhaps this is why men say they can’t understand women!
If an emotion is suppressed for long enough it will find its way out through a physical manifestation.
There are many people with weight conditions who don’t overeat, yet can’t lose weight. More dramatically, the suppression of anger has now been scientifically linked to the biggest killer in Australia – heart disease.
So what of this coming back to the emotion and honouring its release?
Putting it like that almost makes it sound sacred. There is more to it than we’ll talk about here, suffice to say. If you’ve ever had a deep, deep cry you’ll know the feeling of a weight being lifted from your shoulders – like the world is a slightly clearer place. And if you’ve ever moved through a huge fear and come out the other side, you’ll probably know the amazing, energizing sensation that fills you up.
But to get to these places of freedom, you first have to release the built up, or stagnant, emotions and that involves allowing yourself to feel them – fully.
Many people will not be able to allow themselves to move through their personal blocks to feeling. It’s because of the mental frameworks they’ve developed to allow rational thought to be the predominant pattern in their minds.
Linked to these mental frameworks are levels of denial often experienced such as:
“I don’t do anger”, or
“no point in being sad all the time”, or
“build a bridge and get over it”.
All these are statements of denial, brought on by subconscious decisions a person has made about him/herself in situations when the emotion was being experienced. These decisions lead to patterns of behaviour.
“I don’t do anger”, results in passive aggressive, or submissive, behaviours. A need for a positive attitude at all costs breeds hollowness, almost a fakeness to the person’s rhetoric and behaviour. Interestingly, suppression of fear will often result in controlling tendencies.
The flow on to decision making becomes evident. Anger will often lead to an overly destructive decision, resulting in more severe consequences than may have been warranted. Fear breeds risk aversion within the decision making cycle. Excessive sorrow can lead to an over-empathetic response. All of which result from an individual who hasn’t learned to be intimate with their emotions.
Is it wrong to suppress emotions?
It is not wrong. At times, the situation may not be conducive to allowing yourself to freely express your emotion. Therefore use of detachment, distraction or mood altering could be beneficial. However, it is important that time is allocated later, to find an opportunity for the emotions’ messages to sink into your conscious mind. Once this is done, the energy can be released in an appropriate way.
Suppression in the long run results in a contracting of your life.
The end result of James’ personal suppression was the development of a condition referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The journey of recovery has involved meeting inner demons, the emotionally charged decisions he made about himself, and resolving the conflict – allowing for a ‘letting go’.
Emotional Literacy is simple in that you are equipped with everything you need to foster its development; but it is also one of the hardest things because it means opening yourself to a state of vulnerability that allows you to fully know, understand and feel these emotions. You no longer become immersed IN emotion. You are able to see them, feel them and interrupt them to educate your decisions and actions. Then you are Emotionally Literate.
What are emotions?
Emotions are energy in the body. This energy is always moving. If we resist its flow, we experience discomfort – PAIN.
Emotions are created by our interaction with the outside world – they are REACTIONS, or for an emotional literate person, INTERACTION – so they rise up, move through us and go. When we feel them fully the energy moves through our body, as it is designed to do.
If we resist emotions, they take a lot longer to process, or for some never be fully released.
As a child, we may have learned that it is not okay to express some emotions, so we suppress them. This energy, which is designed to move, then becomes blocked in different parts of the body.
Emotions, because they are energy, are designed to be ‘in motion’, therefore if we suppress them for fear of experiencing some sort of discomfort, we do not honour ourselves. The less we honour our own feelings the less esteem we have for ourselves, because we foster the belief we are not worthy of honouring our own energy.
There are six primary emotions
There are different opinions about the primary emotions, but the general consensus is that there are six.
But like a good cocktail, they turn up in your body as a concoction – hence the term ‘mixed emotions’, or ‘mixed feelings’. If you have been married before you’d agree. Were you feeling a lot of excitement, or joy, and an ounce of trepidation, or fear, all at once? Buying your first house or car probably brought similar feelings.
Socially we have been taught some things about these six emotions. The top three – Love, Peace, Joy – are ‘good’ so it is okay to express them. But even expressing these emotions too freely can be seen as ‘wrong’ sometimes. As a child, did your parents (or another adult), tell you to settle down when you were freely expressing joy? This prevents a child from gaining a clear understanding of emotions, and their healthy or grounded expression, from a young age.
When you look at your daily life, how openly do you allow yourself to express Peace, Love and Joy?
Sit for a moment and heart centre (go back to the heart centering audio from the introduction session if you need to), and allow yourself to reflect on your openness to freely express each of these emotions in turn.
Below are some easy to do things that can help you express these emotions more readily in your daily life, but please don’t be restricted by them:
– say ‘I love you’ to someone each day
- do something for someone that they do not expect
- spend a minute to look lovingly at someone or something
- meditate for at least ten minutes a day
- have a reflective cup of tea/coffee
- spend some time in nature
- be around children (even just look at some photos)
- do something towards your life purpose each day
- listen to beautiful music (your definition of ‘beautiful’)
- do something for yourself that you’ve been putting off, and allow yourself to enjoy the experience.
A lot of people will say, “I can’t tell [such and such] that I love them, because they won’t receive it.” It may be true that the subject of the gift may receive it, however, this statement is not about the subject. It’s about the person making it, for if in their heart they truly wanted to express this feeling, they wouldn’t need it to be received as it’s in the giving that we receive.
It can take courage to give a gift that you know may not be received, but you be give it anyway, without expectation. This is the definition of unconditional giving; unconditional love.
Before we take a look at the so called ‘negative’ emotions, we need to understand what suppressing them does inside ourselves. We refer to this as ‘the glasses’ and ‘the bucket’.
Emotions ignite as a result of the meaning we place on a situation.
My partner is getting home after a period away. I’ve missed them and really love them so I’m feeling excited. Yet this may not always be the case. The time apart may have been hard, things may have happened for both of you during the separation and so you’re apprehensive about the reunion, not knowing how it will go.
It’s the same situation but very different emotions are being felt because of the experiences, which gives meaning to the event in each person’s mind. In other words, the way we look at a situation or event will result in us giving it meaning: positive, negative or neutral. This meaning leads to an associated emotion, and subsequent physiology and behaviour. We refer to this as ‘The Glasses’ – the lens through which we view our world.
If we then choose to suppress the emotion, or not let it flow freely through our system, it gets stored in reservoirs, or buckets, deep inside us.
Hence our statement that to heal we must change our glasses and empty our buckets.
Changing our glasses means, we need to change our perspective of how we view the situation.
“I’ve got a bastard of a father who was never there for me!”
We use this statement as an example, simply because it is a commonly heard one in our work. So how do you heal something like this? The first thing is to allow yourself to actually feel the anger inside. It may come up as resentment, spite, frustration or irritation to name a few. Then use the anger release techniques articulated below (we use the father as an example, but you can use whoever you like).
Once you’ve felt the emotion, allow yourself to travel through your father’s life, in his shoes and see what he had to deal with, all the pain he felt, lost opportunities, all the ups and downs. By doing this you may be able to see within yourself that he was doing the best he had with what he knew at the time. This understanding, felt fully may allow you if you choose to forgive him and in the process feel a level of compassion towards him.
There are two fundamentals to this process.
- The associated emotions must be felt fully and expressed completely in a way that no one is hurt, undermined, belittled or made to feel less than. If the glasses, or your perception of the situation, is changed without feeling and expressing the emotion, the healing won’t be complete.
- The perception of the situation must change from negative to neutral or positive. To do this you must first own how you truly feel about a situation and not deny your truth. Then by looking inside and seeing what gifts you may have received in the situation can bring with it a different outlook.
Now look at the bottom three emotions (stated earlier) – Anger, Sadness and Fear, with two combinations of these three – Shame and Guilt. We are socially taught from a young age that these are so-called ‘negative’ emotions. In reality though, no emotion is negative or positive. They just are.
It is the consequences of the expression of these emotions that we, and society as a whole, have judged as negative or positive. We have used this judgement to label the emotion. Let’s have a closer look at what this means.
Anger – when the expression of anger gets out of hand, physical and/or verbal violence may eventuate. Domestic violence is an example here. The emotion of anger, which resulted in a person ‘lashing out’ has been labeled as bad, because it is directly associated with the ‘negative’ act. Anger is telling you your personal boundaries are about to be/are being violated, or your expectations of the world are not being met. Therefore you are required to change something, or change your perception of the situation. It’s an energizing emotion, which provides the stimulus for action. It most often manifests in the body as warmth and flushed skin, tense muscles, a clenched jaw or fists, irregular or quick breathing, an accelerated heartbeat, and a feeling of pounding in the ears.
Releasing Anger: To release anger have a look at the video tutorials below. They will give you a greater understanding of the emotion and how to let it flow in an appropriate manner.
Sadness – if you get upset about something, often those around you will try and cheer you up or, in the Australian male way, slap you on the back and tell you to ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘or grow up’. All these comments actually indicate another person’s level of discomfort with the emotion, and therefore are wanting you to cease for their benefit, not yours. Sadness is about loss, so expressing it indicates you are honouring the relationship you had with that person, situation or thing. is concerned with loss. It calls you to take stock with compassion and reflect on people/events with gratitude. It is a downward emotion, which asks you to sit in it. This is very different than wallowing in it. When we sit in sadness, we allow ourselves to surrender to the emotion, which is necessary for healing to occur. Wallowing holds you with an attachment that will simply increase the level of sadness felt, to a point where it consumes you. You may feel a heaviness of the lungs and even find it hard to breath. It can build up through your throat on it’s way to being released through crying.
Releasing Sadness: The first step to releasing sadness is to allow yourself to feel it; feel it fully. A great way to do this is set aside some ‘Sadness Release time’ in your schedule. Then hire a sad movie, listen to really moving music, get out a photo album of a passed love one.
The key with all emotional release is not to get caught in the story that surrounds the emotion. This simply ignites more emotion.
The INTENTION is to simply allow yourself to feel the emotion, tune into it and allow it to flow.
Fear – can paralyse us, or stop us from doing something. It is often seen as weak so it is frowned upon. Fear is one of the most misunderstood emotions, and is often a cause sitting underneath anger and sadness. It may express itself in your body as a tight stomach or chest, cramps, coldness, shaking, weakness, or dizziness. It calls you to raise your level of awareness. It’s not a red light, but an amber one. Fear says “steady there mate, you’re entering a place where you need all your facilities because it’s unfamiliar, or didn’t go so well last time.” Fear helps you to heighten your awareness, so you can chose how to proceed.
Interestingly fear and excitement live in the same place in your body – the solar plexus (in the vicinity of your navel). To see this in action simply, watch a child stand on a rock to jump into a pool. They will jump between fear and excitement quickly.
Releasing Fear: To release fear use the Emotional Release meditation in the introduction session. The key with this is to allow yourself to identify the causal fear. If you’re not able to do it, allow yourself to go through the process. You may find that not all the emotion has disappeared, so go back to the top of the process and do it again until you feel completely clear.
Guilt – is more an opinion than an emotion. It is an opinion of anger against ourselves for doing, or not doing, something. Guilt allows us to keep ourselves small and dependant. If you explore your guilt you’ll find yourself feeling as though you’re a child being judged by the authority within you. It manisfests in your body as a restless feeling. You may feel confined or suffocated with an overwhelming desire to escape. In essence, it’s a desire to escape judgment. It might feel difficult to breathe, and your chest may feel tight or pressured.
Releasing Guilt: You may find it beneficial to have someone guide you through this process to start with. Allow yourself to take a series of deep breaths in and out through the nose.
- Once you feel centred, allow yourself to bring the feeling of guilt to mind. Allow yourself to feel it fully.
- When you’ve fully connected to the emotion, ask yourself – what age am I? You’ll receive an answer straight away, don’t question it.
- Now allow yourself to feel the judgement you made about yourself.
- Feel the judgement, connect with it and allow yourself to move towards it as though it was a real, tangible thing. Then allow yourself to move through the feeling to the other side.
- Ask, what lesson am I able to take away from this?
- Are you able to forgive yourself?
- And now allow yourself to feel forgiveness and create space for love to fill you up.
- To complete this process allow yourself to sit in this feeling of love and receive it fully.
Shame – this is a RED LIGHT. It says STOP you are about to do something that will violate your core being; something that will violate what you stand for, or your values. This is why it’s a social emotion. Our face flushes and we shy away from attention. Because it’s telling us we are about to be incongruent. It is another heated feeling, accompanied by warm skin and flushed cheeks. However, there is also a sense of inner numbness that can paradoxically feel cold or empty. Like humiliation, shame can make you hunch and want to disappear.
Releasing Shame: The best tool to release shame is the Emotional Release meditation in the introduction session. Again, the key with this is to allow yourself to identify the causal emotion. It may be dug in deep because of how shame burrows itself into our psyche. So again, if you’re not able to identify the causal issue, allow yourself to go through the process over and over until you feel completely clear. You’ll feel a sense of relief when done.
Once we can accept our emotions, without labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we can accept our ability to FEEL them. In this way we empower ourselves to use them to our advantage, or let them dissipate with no effect
Where do we feel them in our body?
Identifying what you are feeling is the first step in developing an emotional awareness. Given that emotions are energy occurring in our body, it can help enormously to understand how bodily sensations relate to specific emotions.
Different emotions are felt in different parts of the body:
Chest – Love and Sadness
Solar Plexus (the area between the chest and navel) – Excitement and Fear
Belly – Anger and Joy
You will note that a so-called ‘negative’ emotion resides in the same place as a so-called ‘positive’ emotion. When we block the expression of a ‘negative’ emotion, we are at the same time blocking our ability to fully express and experience the ‘positive’ emotion. Can you see how suppressing your anger for fear of getting ‘out of control’ has restricted you from fully experiencing joy in your life? It is also understandable how we can feel mixed emotions, like nervous excitement.
You will probably recognize some of these symptoms …
Symptoms of Fear
Tightness in stomach and chest
Damp or sweaty palms
Dryness in mouth
Contraction of sensitive tissues, eg. breast, penile
Narrow focus in eyes
Elevated heart rate
Rapid rate of thoughts
Symptoms of Anger
Tightness in shoulders and back of neck
Headache, especially in back of head and neck
Tight, sore jaw muscles
Clenching jaws or grinding of teeth
Crawling or itching sensations in upper back, shoulders and arms
Outbursts at inappropriate times
Picking at fingernails
Symptoms of Sadness
Constricted sensation in chest
Dully, heavy or numb sensation in chest
Pain along breastbone when you press it
Thoughts that dwell on the negative
Difficulty waking up and getting out of bed in the morning
Congestion in sinus and chest that lasts longer than usual
Thinking of losses recent and long ago
You may recognize a few, or many, of these symptoms. You may recognize none. If you have suppressed your emotions for some time, it is possible that you will be somewhat out of touch with the sensations and feelings in your body. Placing an awareness on them, therefore, is a process with which you must be patient with yourself.
For the next two weeks, place the intention on paying attention to your body’s signals as a warning sign that something is out of balance. Use it as an opportunity to explore what is going on for you.
When you have a symptom ask your body what it might be trying to tell you. Place the intention on tracing each symptom back to its root cause and identify the emotion that is associated with it.
Cellular biologists have scientifically confirmed what the ancients have known for eons, that emotions all have their own vibrations and if suppressed will be stored in different areas of the body. Figure 1 is a diagram based on the work of Louise Hay in her book, You Can Heal Your Life. This is but one book which helps explain the messages your body can be sending you when you’re prepared to listen.
Start by doing this Emotions Questionnaire
When embarking on any journey it is important to recognize where you are now, and where you want to go, so you can gain an understanding of the best way to get there.
This questionnaire will provide you with a good indication of your level of emotional awareness, and assist you notice how it develops and improves over the period of the course.
It is designed to give you an indication of your current emotional state. Be as honest with yourself as possible when you answer these questions, as the result will assist you to set the conditions for healing blocked feelings, and for developing your emotional literacy.
Provide an answer to each question using the scale below:
0 = Almost never
1 = Rarely
2 = Frequently
3 = Much of the time
4 = Almost always
|1.||I understand it is important and healthy to express all of my emotions, and don’t judge them as ‘bad’ or ‘good’|
|2.||I feel comfortable allowing my natural emotions to emerge, even when I am not sure why they have arisen|
|3.||I am comfortable spending time alone without feeling lonely|
|4.||I set healthy boundaries with the people in my life|
|5.||I have peaceful relationships with my family members|
|6.||I trust my intuition, even when others attempt to discourage me|
|7.||I can handle rejection without questioning my core worthiness|
|8.||Although at times I may experience anxiety or sadness, I know these are just passing moods that will resolve|
|9.||I am authentic in my most intimate relationships|
|10.||I can effectively communicate my needs to people in my life|
|11.||I am passionate and enthusiastic about what I am doing|
|12.||I do not hold on to disappointments, grievances or regrets|
|13.||I understand and accepts my body’s needs and desires|
|14.||I am comfortable giving and receiving affection from others|
|15.||I enjoy my sexuality without limiting inhibitions|
|16.||I respond to feedback openly, with a desire to improve|
|17.||I am trusting and trustworthy in my relationships|
|18.||Even when facing significant challenges, I trust I will be okay|
|19.||I care for myself through healthy choices, which reinforce my self-worth|
|20.||I know I am a lovable person|
If you scored above 85, it is likely you have a healthy self-image and you process emotions in a healthy manner. This score suggests that you are not burdened by emotional residue from your past, that you have a high sense of self worth, set well defined boundaries for yourself, and take good care of your body. It is likely that your relationships are peaceful and nurturing, and that you experience great pleasure in your life.
If you scored between 65 and 85, it is likely that you describe yourself as ‘fine’. In this range, you have a ‘normal’ level of emotional well-being and, though you sense that you may be able to feel more alive than you do now, you are not very motivated to make too many changes in your life right now. This score range suggests that your sense of self worth may sometimes waiver, depending on your circumstances, your boundaries with others may be blurred at times, leading to unresolved anger for you, and you may not take consistent care of your body. It is possible that every now and then you find yourself ‘erupting’ at loved ones for no reason.
A score below 65 suggests that you are carrying a heavy emotional burden about who you are and what you deserve in your life. It is likely that your sense of self worth and lovability is low, and that you did not receive healthy messages about your intrinsic value as you were growing up. It is possible that you are consistently struggling with issues that continue to hurt your relationships with others. As a result, you find it difficult to love yourself, nurture yourself, give or receive affection freely.
If you are in either of the second categories, this course will continue to assist you to release some of that emotional burden you are carrying, so you can feel healthier, happier and freer.
We suggest you review this lesson a number of times this week. There is a lot to process and you will be continually integrating.
As always, if you have questions, get in touch with us.
Big Love and Man Hugs,
Kirsty and James