I feel so worried
I’m extremely sad today
I’m very very angry
A feeling is equal to some thoughts and a state of mind – is that it though? When you speak of sadness, anger, fear, despair what do you think these emotions really include? A lot of us mistakenly believe that emotions are just about some thoughts and the way one feels.
This understanding is hugely incomplete
Emotions have a big, big manifestation in the body too. In fact, the body is the seat of emotions.
A sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, the heart shattering into a thousand pieces, the face going purple with rage.. why do you think these expressions emerged?
The 3 Components of Emotions
There are 3 known components of emotions –
The Conscious Experience :
This is usually what you mean when you say “I felt” a certain way. It’s the feeling you go through and that you are consciously aware of. It’s what you experience emotionally
This is the facial expression and body language that accompany an emotion. The frown, the drooping mouth, or the smile that reaches the eyes form this component.
The Physiological Changes:
Yes, this is the third component of emotions. Emotions invariably cause changes in the physiology. Your body responds to every emotion you feel, throughout the day. Your nervous system receives signals from emotional centres in the brain, which then leads to reactions throughout your body.
Imagine this.. much of the time, we aren’t aware of this third component! We don’t acknowledge it as a part of our emotions at all. Maybe it even sounds strange to you when I say that the body has manifestations of emotions.
And why won’t it sound strange? We have been made to believe that dealing with emotions means we must change our thoughts, try to see things differently, try and behave differently and so on.
We ignore the body when we speak of emotional healing. Yet, healing is incomplete if one entire component of emotions isn’t a part of it.
Including the Body in Emotional Healing
No emotional healing, or change, is possible without including the body in the process. Lots of research has been done which shows that being sensitive to, or aware of the body helps a lot in actually changing emotional responses at the neural level. Just pausing and noticing how you feel in your body – which parts feel calm, where there is restlessness, heaviness, or just about any sensation can help a lot. Like they say,
“Where attention goes, energy flows”
Pay attention to your body. In your day to day life, pause and check how you feel in your body. It might be difficult to notice sensations for some of you.. but with time, you should be able to become more aware of your body.
When you feel a certain way, ask yourself “where in my body do I feel angry, sad or happy?” You’ll be intrigued to see how your body feels every emotion with you.
A Small Exercise to Get You Started
Gently close your eyes
Take a few minutes to feel settled
Slowly, take a few deep breaths, to help you feel more centered
Once you’ve taken a few breaths, in a very soft, relaxed manner, turn your attention to your body
Simply tune in to your body and notice how it is feeling
Notice where there is calmness, and where perhaps there is some tightness, tension
Continue to pay attention to the bodily sensations you feel, for some minutes
When you feel ready, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes
Do this as and when it occurs to you, even in your daily routines. Slowly, you will notice the difference. You will know and understand your emotions better, just simply by staying with their actual physical experience. Healing will be more integrated, more complete 🙂
Image Credit: Ian Burt
Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan
Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space, from 2010 to 2015.