How can we use body’s own intelligence in order to better navigate our lives? Before I started practicing coaching, I never knew that there are people who cannot pinpoint how they feel. They live too much in their head, so everything in their inner world is rationalised. As a matter of fact, we all might struggle to identify our feelings at times, let alone recognise underlying emotions.
Why is it important?
Understanding and recognising our emotions is vital for our well-being. Staying stuck in feelings like anger, irritation or bitterness long-term is detrimental to our physical health. Furthermore, emotional awareness is critical if we want to build strong & fulfilling relationships and raise happy children.
What is the difference between feelings and emotions?
Emotion arises from the body’s response to external or internal stimuli (it is an unconscious process). Feeling is our interpretation of that emotion. Our life experience is dependent upon our feelings – interpretations of our emotions. The amazing news is that all we need to do in order to improve the quality of our lives is to change those interpretations / give different meaning to emotions we are experiencing. However, first and foremost we need to be able to identify the feeling and recognise the emotion behind it.
For example, behind anger (feeling – secondary emotion) there might be deep sadness (emotion) that was caused by a loss of a loved one (i.e. divorce – external stimuli). You can put two people in exactly the same situation – going through divorce (same circumstances) – one of them will experience feelings of peace and relief, the other one will be raging angry. Although, they both have the same underlying emotion – sadness caused by a loss of a loved one, they give different meaning/interpretation to this emotion in association with external stimuli. The first person is probably accepting 50% of responsibility for a failed marriage, therefore, his/her interpretation is “Well, we were both unhappy in this relationship, it would have ended sooner or later, what are the lessons for me to learn here, so my next relationship is better”. The person with raging anger is probably blaming his/her partner for the situation, therefore, his/her interpretation might be “This is an insult to me. How dare he/she treat me like this? He/she stole the best years of my life.” Two exactly the same situations but completely different experiences. If you are emotionally aware, you will always have a choice. If you are not aware, you will most likely have similar experiences to those of a person number two.
Begin with feelings.
Start acknowledging how you feel. Check in with yourself at least couple of times a day. There will be moments when it is easier for you to understand what you feel, i.e. your spouse just said something that made you nervous. You will certainly know that you are not feeling ok. Finding a word in order to accurately describe the feeling might also present a challenge. Here is a printable list of feelings on Etsy to help you. There are so many different words, yet we are using very few.
Recognise underlying emotion.
Let’s say, you feel nervous after something your spouse said to you. What is the emotion behind this feeling? It is probably insecurity / a fear of losing your partner. However, we are all unique – not everybody interprets the same emotion exactly the same way. Furthermore, we don’t necessarily experience the same emotion as a result of the same external or internal stimuli as another person. It very much depends on our past experiences. The information I am sharing would be true to some extent for most people, however, use it only as a starting point to get to know yourself.
Great news is that emotions live in our body. This natural body’s intelligence can aid us to discover what is behind our feelings much quicker. According to the Body Atlas produced by Finnish scientists, fear creates a lot of heat in and around our upper body. Therefore, we might experience tightness in our jaw, chest and/or shoulders. It will manifest as some sort of uneasiness in this area. Sadness generates a lot of cold in our legs and arms. We may even feel our limbs going slightly numb. Happiness, on the contrary, heats up the whole body and can be particularly felt around heart area and on our face – we get flushes.
Catch emotion early enough, accept it for what it is and find a meaning that supports your growth and well-being. It is very important once you recognise the emotion to stop the mental process taking you down the path of least resistance – the usual route. Asking yourself right questions can be incredibly helpful in breaking the pattern of habitual thinking. What is here for me to learn? How can I do better next time? What meaning / interpretation / thought could help me feel better in this moment / this situation? Is it about me – what do I know to be true about myself?
Be curious about yourself, increase your awareness and start improving the quality of your life!
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle