“We have thoughts, feelings and emotions, but we are not our thoughts, feelings or emotions.”
I’ve been on a personal growth path since 2001, but nothing prepared me for the emotions I felt as my marriage was falling apart. There would be days where we’d wake up and start fighting right from the get go, and this would color the rest of the day. You know that feeling when you’ve just had a fight with your significant other and it feels like a sinking weight in your stomach that you carry around with you all day?
I felt so many emotions: anger, guilt, sadness, fear, shame, you name it. I knew that I loved him underneath, but sometimes I couldn’t feel it. So I created time to process my emotions every day. I meditated and practiced many different techniques, until I synergized a technique that worked for me, to feel into the “positive” message underneath “negative” emotions. Then I started showing up with more love and understanding, and both of us worked through our differences in a loving way.
What do I mean by “positive” message? Well I discovered that even the worst of my emotions, like resentment, lead to love underneath, when I processed it through my body with a specific awareness. I learned on a deeper level what my needs and values were, like support, personal growth, and empathy, and learned specifically what I needed in my life to feel fulfilled. I learned how to communicate in a vulnerable way, both to myself and to him, so that we felt emotionally connected and loving, instead of fighting. We’re now the best of friends; we’re more emotionally connected, and give each other more emotional support now than we ever did.
Let’s take a closer look at some emotions that most people think of as “negative”, and see what they are perhaps trying to tell you.
Fear can be a means of self-protection/preservation, and also, a way to find out what you love. When you’re scared, look at what you fear losing, and you’ll learn about what you value, as well as what you’re attached to.
Anger is derived from love of self or others. When you’re angry, it’s because someone or something you love or value is threatened.
Sadness and grief help you remember your vulnerability in this world. They also teach you about what’s important to you, and help you learn more about how to appreciate what you love.
Here’s an exercise to find the positive message underneath:
If you notice that you’re starting to get upset, take a time-out and do this practice.
1) Identify your feelings. If you’re feeling angry or annoyed, ask yourself if there’s something you’re hurt by, scared of, sad about, or longing for underneath the anger. Those are the vulnerable emotions we want to hold in compassionate awareness.
2) Feel the sensation of the emotion in your body, staying grounded. Breathe deeply, in and out of your heart center, and feel the support underneath you. And with interested curiosity, locate the sensation of that emotion in your body. Do you feel this sensation in your chest? In your belly? Somewhere else? Is it warm/cold? Expansive/contracted? Tense or maybe heavy? Notice the sensation of it. And if your mind starts to wander toward what your partner did, just bring it back to the sensation in your body and your deep breaths.
3) Give this feeling compassion and soothing. You can place a hand over this place if that feels right Turn towards this sensation and say something like, “I know this is hard for you. It’s ok to feel this way. I care about you.” And keep breathing into your heart. If it’s hard to feel compassion, imagine that you’re sitting with a close friend or a small child who’s feeling this emotion, and start out by feeling compassion and caring for them, for what they’re going through. First send it to them and imagine them feeling soothed by your presence, and then take that same compassion and send it to your OWN feelings. Breathe in compassion and exhale out all of the tension from your body; release it out with the outbreath; relax into how you’re feeling. Ask yourself the question, “What does it mean for me to open my heart to the way I’m feeling and have compassion for myself? MAYBE I can also feel compassion for other people in the world who are having this same feeling? If it feels right, you can breathe in compassion for your own pain, and breathe out compassion for all other people in the world who are feeling pain. Take a few deep breaths like this.
4) After a few minutes, identify the needs underneath the feelings. Here is a list of needs. And notice if you can feel this same compassion for the need or value. Then ask yourself questions like the ones below.
Questions for Transforming the Emotion
You can ask these questions to yourself first, and then to your partner about their needs, to connect on a deeper level and experience intimacy and understanding.
- What does this need/value mean to you? What is important about that? Is there a deeper purpose or goal underneath this need?
- What does it look like or feel like when you have this need met? Take a moment to visualize or feel the last time you got this need met, and really take that in…….….Knowing that there are many ways to get that need met, maybe not just the way you think?
- What are your core beliefs or ethics behind your point of view?
- Is there a story behind this for you, or does this relate to your history in some way?
- Is there a fear that comes up for you, in not having this need/value honored?
- What other ways can you get this need met?
- What would be your ideal solution here?
Try these steps and tell me about your experience in the comments below!