For people who really want to change their lives: this could be a place to start.
One of the most dramatic things for me this past (Southern Hemisphere) winter was accepting many of my shadows. I dealt with things which have haunted me for years and survived. But there is an art to this process and I would recommend you find someone to help you out if, you want to try this, and it all becomes too much. (Somatic Experience Therapist)
The biology is very simple, in a way. Our brains, indeed our whole body-brain system, experiences emotional disconnection pretty much the same way it experiences physical pain. The root of sorrow comes from wanting to be with someone we can’t be with…cry-it-out babies, forced/unpleasant separation with small children, teenage crushes which aren’t returned, jealousy, the divorce we didn’t want, death of a loved one, and so on – any circumstances that stop us being truly emotionally connected to, or physically with, the object of our love – will create a sense of sorrow in our brains and bodies. This is the root of loneliness and we can feel it even when we are surrounded by other people who love us or in a crowd.
These are not pleasant sensations and often as not, in the modern west, we are taught to block them or distract ourselves from them – kids are told ‘it’s not that bad, adults are told to ‘harden-up’ or ‘get-over-it’ etc. Or, as bad, we are taught to go over and over and over the situation ad nauseum – but don’t move through to where resolution lies. For most of us, the block-it approach is what we end up taking – other people get bored at listening to us, responsiblity calls, life goes on, yadda, yadda, yadda.
The problem with this is that our feelings work on a pendulum. If we block the more unpleasant sensations in our bodies and brains, we also block the matching fabulous sensations. If we have an intense experience, or several emotionally disconnecting experiences, and we block them all the time, we end up being truly part of the Living Dead with a tiny emotional range and unable to experience the joy life has to offer. This can affect how we connect with new people, how well we treat our old friends, even our sex-life can be impaired if the emotional pain is too much – we simply don’t feel the intense highs in life. Instead of the sensations in our bodies and brains moving fluidly from approach to withdrawal in a natural way we end up stuck and unable to move anywhere. We’re numb and life passes us by. In relationships, we just need a body in the room and we don’t know what to do with the real needs of the other person.
The problem is, we can do too much too soon. In reconnecting our sensations with our bodies we can re-traumatise ourselves and end up in a worse state than we were before we began. It’s like adding baking soda to vinegar. If we try and dump the whole jar of soda in with the glass of vinegar – there’s going to be a mess. If we add a little at a time, allow the reaction to happen and then add a little more, we can still end up with the whole jar in the mix – but with no explosion and a fairly neutral solution.
The process I used was simple. I didn’t concentrate on emotions or thoughts, but on the sensations in my body. I now know I am revealing something sad in my psyche when the underside of my upper-arms ache. This comes from me trying to cover my face – I can NOW remember doing this when I had my miscarriage, I can NOW remember doing this when I realised someone close to me was kissing the ex-who-I-was-still-in-love-with, I can NOW remember doing this when my grandfather died. All of these memories kind of popped into my head as I allowed the sensations in my body to be, they were always there I had blocked consciously facing them as a survival strategy. Over the winter, I truly came to understand the whole meditation advice of – allowing thoughts and images to bubble up to be faced and processed into proper memories. My memories still make me sad but I’m consciously aware of them and they don’t overwhelm me. I also now recognise that I need to stop when my arms ache – my body is trying to tell me something. This is how I meditate (when I can) now, too. Not with focussing on zen or emotions or flow, but by connecting with my bodily sensations.
The great thing is now I am feeling deeper physical joy. I am seeking fun more than chores, responsibilities, drive to overachieve – the chores etc were keeping me from the fun and keeping me from feeling what I needed to feel. I am now planning fun times in my day and week, and can accept and embrace more spontaneous changes to my schedule (naturally difficult for my Owlish temperament).
There is a saying, ancient Chinese I think, about waking women and the power they contain – I’m kinda feeling like that at the moment and it’s g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s.
(As parents we can help our children move through some pain and emotional disappointment with Boring Cuddles. One more of these posts and then back to parenting stuff.)