Photo Courtesy: Dipika Belapurkar
The Way it All Begins
At birth I didn’t sign up for being an emotional human. (This is for you too). I signed up for being, simply, a human baby. Yet, starting from the moment of my birth I encounter the feeling states of all these strange people hanging out with the one comforting person I know, dearest to my existence. My mother. And she’s not feeling entirely good herself, going by her pained expression as she strives to look excited and over-the-moon. Later, (on growing up), I am told she had suffered postpartum blues and she had hated the sight of me (nothing personal I assure you). What a downer that was for her.
Of course, my first experience is nothing compared to the emotional dramas of my childhood, adolescence, early working life, the career-scrambling period, midlife crisis, over-the-hill crisis…need I say more?
Is There a Way Out?
Do feeling states go away, ever? Like at 40, 50, 60 years of age? At death maybe. Like do they get transferred to someone else? Apparently not, we may project them on to our family and friends, and yet, being parts of our persona they stay with us, developing, changing, transmuting, diminishing, and showing up in millions of other ways, over time. If we learn to harness their wisdom, then we can grow and mature into people that are good and dependable to be around. Or else, we can by choice or design be swept away by their tidal force, each and every time a stressful experience impacts our life.
What may a therapist do with the feeling states of a client? Beneath the history, stories and significant life experiences, of a client, lies a veritable mine house of undetected and unresolved feelings. As a therapist I can help them put aside their cognitive narration to instead gently delve into what’s happening in their fascia, muscles, organs, and glands.
It’s natural that the soma or body of a client is super-charged with the feeling states of their experiences. Therefore the way is not out but in.
If I can experience, by placing my hands on their bodies, the interior of their being, then they certainly can learn to examine their own inner feeling states. Very simply put, they can begin to feel the effect of their external stressors in their body, in the form of sensations. Once these sensations are perceived, the feelings that go with them begin to lose their formidable grip, are modified, lessen their impact, and can be banished forever.
Anxiety; chronic pain; depression; anger; hopelessness; all forms and kinds of activation, appear as body sensations. I receive my over-activated client in the state they are in and with their help devise creative ways to befriend what were earlier vague and confusing signals sent to their brain by their bodies. Being friends with what is – is crucial to our successful understanding of their feeling states.
Being ok With What is
Our feeling states can reside inside us in the form of misunderstood sensations for the longest time. For instance, we can attribute pain and bloating in the abdomen to the meal we had yesterday in the restaurant. And, not make the connection to our overriding irritation at the houseguests that have overstayed their visit.
Getting familiar with underlying feeling states makes us touch the length and breath of these important markers to inflammation and pain. We come to know of their intensity and insanity, their relationships with other prevailing feeling states. Such as anger and sadness can co-exist. Our observation of them reveals to us the entire range, creating the undercurrents of our life.
I did say, right at the start, that I didn’t sign up (…..). But, now that I am thick in this feeling melee of sorts, I am decided that I have signed up for becoming embodied. As a therapist encountering the feeling states of many wonderful clients, I have witnessed the resolution of so many tears and so much resulting self-acceptance.
Being okay with what is (in our body), what arises, what leaves us is equal to embodiment.
A Parting Exercise
You, my dear reader, may try this technique right away, without meeting me in person.
Sit back and relax into your chair. Shut out any distractions, by closing your eyes. Look inward. Into the inner terrain of your body. Plenty of thoughts will charge in. Corresponding reactions within the body will surface. Pick on one of the latter that seems overly activated – annoyance, irritation, anything that creates discomfort or tension. Be here, at this sweet spot or edge, for 30 seconds. Too little time to be crushed by this experience. Good. Take your attention to another place in your body, where it feels calm, good, even healthy – another 30 seconds.
Travel between these two and observe the changes that ensue. You will be surprised by what your body sensations can do for you. They will bring you insight and self-awareness, two qualities that will help you to become more mindful in your daily life.
If you do the above correctly, chances are the activation will be gone. You will feel light. Sorted for the moment perhaps; no desire then to reach out for alcohol or other substitutions, like social media. What we endeavored here is called pedulation, a term from Somatic Experiencing, coined by Peter Levine.
My clients in time, with perseverance, learn somatic skills like this one to intervene when their stress levels rise.