We know how important body language is important in communicating with others – but what if told you that the body also communicates with you?
Why would you want to know this? Because most of us have been taught from an early age to change our emotions to “fit in” with society. We have been taught to subdue our emotions. Strong emotions such as ecstasy may be ok to express when your sports team win a grand final at the sports ground, but try running cheering up the main street on a busy day at 9am. Because we have been taught to subdue our emotions we have lost touch with what the emotions actually are, but our bodies haven’t.
The body is the form through which emotions are expressed.
Have a look at how you are sitting at the moment, are you feeling relaxed? Have a look at your posture, does it reflect that relaxation? Now I want you to think of a very stressful situation, go into that situation for 15 seconds, now have a look at your body. Has your breathing changed, are you breathing more shallow or deeper? Are you sitting straighter? Are you paying more attention?
We don’t always feel good and so when we feel feelings that cause us to feel bad such as anxiety or indecisive or overwhelmed or fearful our bodies will also show these emotions. Sometimes these emotions are shown by tiredness, anger or frustration and even illness. Have you ever heard the expression “that person/situation made me feel sick?”.
We express emotions in patterns. If we were to look down on our emotional expression grid we would see very clear links between emotion and expression. We tend to express emotions, in the same way, each time, with only little variation to the pattern.
Being aware of how our body expresses an emotion, in effect using the body as a barometer, allows us to tap into our emotional body and understand what we are feeling.
Being aware of the body is not as easy as it sounds. Apart from the fact that we may be suppressing expression, we may also change our body expression to conform to what we think it should be. As a little girl, I was often told that I should smile more, even when I didn’t feel like it. The result, I often smiled at times when I was feeling angry.
The best way to tap into the body to see how you are expressing an emotion is twofold.
1/ put your hand on your heart and stop, feel and observe your body and see if you can tap into what emotion you are expressing
2/ if you feel you are blocking the expression you can do an exercise called “object awareness”. Take time to stop and just observe your surroundings, look at different things and really bring your attention to observation. Do this a few times a day until you have trained your attention to respond. Then bring your attention to your body. Sometimes it is less challenging to observe outside the body first.
If we don’t express emotions, in effect hold them in they will come out in more extreme ways. The most extreme is illness or what could be called an “accident”. These extremes can be a way of the body telling us that it needs to express something but we are stopping it. A little like if we don’t take the lid off a pressure cooker it will eventually explode.
If we can express emotions through our body we become aware of what we are feeling. Becoming aware of what we are feeling can lead us to understand what we are thinking – the topic of the next blog.