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What's in an emotion?

Quite simply, an emotion is "energy in motion". Now you may have heard that phrase being coined quite a bit out there in the world of self development, trauma and mental health... but what does it mean??

Energy in Motion

The latin derivative for the word emotion: 'emotere' literally means 'energy in motion'.

Our bodies are constantly scanning our inner and outer worlds and responding accordingly. The brains primary role is to keep us alive and is therefore constantly on the lookout for anything that poses a threat. When the brain receives information via internal or external stimuli, it analyses what response to take and does so, sending signals to the body to release chemicals and hormones to support that action.

These decisions are based on our life experiences, trauma patterns and wellbeing of our nervous system. If the brain perceives the stimuli to be a positive and supportive one, it may instruct the body to create serotonin, dopamine and endorphines. If it perceives the stimuli to be a threat in any way, it may instruct the body to release cortisol, non adrenaline and adrenaline.

All of the above is happening constantly and the decisions made happen in a split second, without our conscious awareness.

And this all creates movement of the energy within our body.

It is widely believed that emotions are mental states of being. However more and more research is emerging to prove that emotions derive much more from a physiological state, than a psychological state. This is why it is so important to work with the body when considering emotions.

Emotional Narratives

All energy carries a vibrational frequency which we perceive as negatively or positively affecting our bodies. We then label that energy. Fear. Joy. Anger. Pride. Grief. Love. (The brain loves to label, compartmentalise and rationalise everything!) However the more we focus on that labelled emotion, the more we get drawn into it and it becomes a prolonged or constant state (mood).

According to modern neurology, emotions last on average, 90 seconds. This can vary from individual to individual and depending on the type and intensity of the emotion. It also depends on where we place our focus. But in most cases, if left to process organically, and without allowing our thoughts to get carried away, an emotion will pass through us, like a wave, within 90 seconds.

Because, effectively, it is purely energy, in motion, with no agenda.

When we accept this, we can begin to detach ourselves from the labels we give these emotions and focus on bringing more awareness to the sensation in the body, in order to process and if necessary, release them.

Transforming Emotions

Many texts state that emotions are supposed to move through the body to be released. Whilst this is the case with a lot of emotional states, I believe some emotions can be transformed and redistributed within us to support us in some way.

For example: I am a singer. Before I sing, I have a rush of activated or high aroused energy flood my body. Particularly within my torso region. It feels busy. Active. My heart rate increases. My tummy does flips. I feel surges of electricity racing down my arms and legs to my extremities. My nervous system has gone into a sympathetic (fight / flight) state. It is a feeling I know all too well.

For years, I labelled this sensation to be 'negative'. It replicated similar sensations I had experienced during very stressful or painful experiences in my life. Whether consciously or subconsciously, my brain perceived these sensations to be bad, scary or even life threatening. For this reason I would go into survival mode and physically armour my body to protect myself from what my body perceived as a threat. Closing up, constricting, suppressing, making myself small and avoiding the situations that had caused me to feel that way. I literally could not sing. I would be in a complete state of fear that was crippling.

Until I began to get curious with the bodily sensations caused by this energy in motion, using the breath and somatic practices to keep me resourced and safe. And I realised that this anxious / nervous energy was almost identical to the sensations I experience when I feel excitement, joyful anticipation and pride! The only difference is my perception of that energy and where I place my focus. If I allow myself to be carried off with stories of fear and hurt... guess what, its gonna feel like a pretty darn scary emotional state to be in and one I will fight to supress or allow to completely consume me and shut me down. Whereby, when I stay anchored in the knowledge that this is just energy and it can not hurt me, I have over time, learnt to transform that energy into one of power and pride, that enables me to sing with confidence and heartfelt passion.

Bottling Up Emotions

I like to describe our bodies like a bottle of champagne. With the trunk and torso being like the bottom of the bottle. Wide, expansive and open. The bubbles of energy neatly contained within the bottles walls. Then the body narrows as we rise up past the shoulders, into the neck, jaw and the head. Just like the bottle of champagne before you get to the cork. And here's where it gets interesting. Because just like a bottle of champagne, the bubbles of energy want to rise up and out of our bodies. However, they frequently get blocked around the neck and jaw with the clenching of teeth, holding back from speaking our truth and supressing our emotions. It all gets blocked around the cork.

Those who know me will know I have a strong aversion to alcohol due to its proven poisonous and toxic effects on the mind and body. I therefore liken the holding onto and bottling up of these bubbles of emotion to be hugely damaging to us on a physical and mental level, which has been scientifically proven to be the case. When we suppress emotions we direct them inwards, like a physical attack on ourselves, causing physical pain and tension, illness and disease or creating violent interactions with ourselves leading to low self esteem, unhealthy shame and depression.

The other issue with bottling up emotions is that there is only so much pressure the cork can take before it explodes and the champagne (emotions) erupt uncontrollably, often with undesired consequences. This can result in unhealthy or violent outbursts towards others.

Of course, we can sometimes burst with high vibrational energy likened to love, joy and gratitude, but these eruptions tend to be much milder than the lower vibrational energies.

The ideal scenario is to slowly tease the cork from the bottle neck, allowing for the gases to release bit by bit, gently releasing the build up of pressure and toxins, before slowly removing the cork allowing for the champagne to flow effortlessly.

Breathwork and somatic practices can help enormously to work with this analogy, and make it more a norm. Of course, we will always have times where we are unexpectedly shaken up and our corks pop. But the more consistently we breathe and self soothe, the less likely we are to encounter such circumstances.

Positive vibrations attract positive experiences!

Emotional Beliefs

"Calm down!"

"Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!"

"You're such a cry baby"

"Control yourself!"

"Children should be seen and not heard"

"That's not very ladylike"

"Boys don't cry!"

"Man up!"

"You're not right in the head!"

Any of these resonate with you? For many of us, we were conditioned into believing that the expression of emotions was not acceptable, a sign of weakness or of mental health issues, or being less worthy as a human. As a result we learnt to suppress, shut down, constrict, collapse and hide away parts of us that we felt were faulty or unlovable. It is likely that we completely dissociated from our bodies in order to stop feeling the feels. We abandoned ourselves and lost the ability to trust our body's innate wisdom. And this can make the thought of going inwards to confront or express an emotion, feel like a very scary one indeed. No matter how many times I stand here telling you "your emotions are just energy in motion, they can not hurt you", if your body's computing system is hardwired to believe that emotional expression will result in rejection, abandonment or abuse, it will resist in order to keep you "safe".

This is why it is so important to cultivate a sense of safety within the body, something which I believe is crucial before any emotional work and trauma release.

Remember the champagne bottle analogy. Take your time. Allow the energy to release little by little. Be gentle with yourself.

And remember... your emotions are not your weakness. They are your superpower!!!


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