We are fairly good at processing our enjoyable emotions because we tend to simply accept them as they are and feel our way through them, but processing our difficult emotions is a whole other story.
Sometimes, you can shift your emotion by shifting your thoughts, but you do need to intentionally process them if the emotion is big or overwhelming.
Otherwise, it could end up getting stuck in the body or subconscious, joining forces with similar past emotional wounds, and continue to drive decisions and behaviors in your life.
So, how do you consciously process emotion?
By staying present with its physical manifestations.
You cannot think your way through an emotion. You must feel your way through the emotion.
The good news: Your body already knows how to process an emotion, so you just have to trust it to do so.
When in doubt, use this mantra: “I love my body, and I trust its wisdom.”
Remember, your body is the culmination of 4 billion years of evolution. It is a highly intelligent organism, and it knows how to process and heal emotional wounds just like it heals physical wounds.
While your body is doing the heavy lifting, you really only have one job: stay out of your head!
Bring your full awareness into the body.
Start by asking yourself, “How do I know I’m experiencing (anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, etc.)?” and “What does (jealousy, grief, boredom, fear, etc.) feel like?”
Then, notice the physiological sensations of that emotion.
Stay present and focus your awareness on the ever-changing expressions. Be a witness, an observer, a scientist, and watch how the emotion plays out via sensation.
Where in the body do you feel it? Does it have a color? A shape? An image associated with it? How does it move and change? Emotions typically last about 90 seconds (however, grief can last much longer) if you stay present with them and don’t go back up into your head to try and analyze your way through the emotion.
Most likely, your body will tell you it’s done processing an emotion by sighing and “shaking it off.” If you’re paying attention, you’ll recognize the sensation of completion when it comes.
Consider difficult emotions to be a necessary but fluctuating part of life. Think of yourself as the sky – unshakable, ever-present, calm and steady. The emotions are just the weather – they come and go, are sunny or gray, calm or stormy, but they always pass.
The sky is what remains.
And don’t forget the second law of thermodynamics, which humans are bound to: “Energy is neither created nor destroyed; it can only be transferred or change form.” Emotional energy also follows this law.
You must take the time to feel and process your emotional energy so it can transform.
Otherwise, it gets stored in your body and causes harm. For more details, check out my other blog post, “Emotional Healing & The First Law of Thermodynamics.”