When the shadow is respected, full beauty emerges.
Welcome to the 6th day of the 12 Days of Christmas project! (If you are just joining the project now, you can get the full low-down here: http://thighhighbootcamp.com/2012/12/18/welcome-to-the-12-days-of-christmas-project/ and I really recommend that you start the project at Day 1 to get the full benefit!)
Yesterday’s post was all about reviewing what you’ve learned so far (and it’s a really good idea to review your learning on a regular basis : you may be pleasantly surprised at how much progress you are making 🙂 )
Today is all about exploring the contents of your 3-day food diary in a little more detail. You may have guessed by this stage that the most useful aspect of this exercise isn’t necessarily the recording of the food you eat .Some of the most useful aspects of keeping such a diary are:
1. It helps you to become consciously aware of some automatic patterns you may be running (which may no longer be serving you).
2. It encourages you to spend time in your body so that you can get connected to physiological signals.
3. It helps you to re-learn the difference between an emotional signal and a physiological hunger signal.
Today, we’re going to focus on emotional signals . We’re going to learn how to recognise an emotion by observing it . We’re going to learn how to learn from the emotion (emotions are very powerful forms of communication : are you getting the message?). And finally, we are going to learn a simple technique to help you to process the emotion and let it go.
The theme of the 12 Days of Christmas project is all about your learning to “stay on track” naturally. One way of staying on track is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full: sounds so simple, doesn’t it? So why isn’t it that simple for all of us?
Well, it comes right back to being in your body. To be in touch with the signals, you really have to be close enough to the signal to hear it – that means getting back into your body and spending enough time there to know what each signal means. And when you know what each signal means, it’ about responding appropriately. Eat to respect a hunger signal : that seems obvious enough 🙂 But how do you respect an emotional signal?
Well, that’s what today’s activity is all about.
The Set-Up Take a look at your food diary and notice which emotions are present at the point at which you experience “hunger”. Which are your not-so-positive “regular visitors” 🙂 ? Sometimes, we are not sufficiently present in our body (or so out of touch with our emotions) that we are not able to name the emotion. If this sounds like you, check through your food diary for physiological feelings that didn’t feel good. Is there a pattern of physiological feelings that occurs at the point of “hunger”?
When I first got back into my body, I had absolutely no idea what anything meant at all! I experienced a lot of physical agitation and tenseness at the time of feeling “hunger”. I later decoded this message as “anxiety” (but it took me a while!)
A Little Note For Those Of You Who May Not Be Feeling Totally Comfortable Right Now. You are about to spend time with an emotion – and it’s been a while. It’s a bit like going on a date for the first time in a very long time and not even being sure whether you even like your date! You may be feeling nervous , even a little afraid And you might want to respect those feelings by going gently with this process. You don’t have to dive in : just dip your toe in to start with. You might just want to start with Steps 1. and 2. After doing this several times (and noticing your increasing comfort), you can move further through the process. GO AT YOUR OWN PACE 🙂 And, if don’t feel ready to engage with your emotions on your own (and you have a genuine desire to get re-connected to them),I would suggest a 1-1 session with a professional. *
Step 1 : The next time you experience “hunger” or a desire to eat, check in with your body and see if one of your regular not-so-positive emotional visitors is present. (Or one of your regular physiological feelings that you don’t really enjoy). How do you know it’s there? What are you experiencing that lets you know that there is an “additional guest” at the table?
Step 2 : Once you know it’s present, welcome your guest in a way that is right for you (I know, it’s all very like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost but it’s important to acknowledge its presence. You may not have acknowledged its presence for some while!) If you can name the emotion at this stage, do so now. (I do this out loud.). Now invite your guest to leave your body and sit next to you : give the emotion its own place.
Tip : If your guest needs a little help leaving your body, give it a hand! Locate the feeling in your body and imagine pulling it out gently (it’s always good to be kind but sometimes they may need a bit of a tug!) and then place it beside you.
Step 3 : Observe your guest. Sit at a comfortable distance from the emotion or physiological feeling. How do you know that this feeling isn’t physiological hunger? (That’s important to ask if you were unable to name emotions in your food diary. If you realise that this is actually physiological hunger sitting next to you, thank it for its presence and take action :)). How do you know that this feeling is an emotion? What are you noticing about it? What are you noticing about your own internal responses? What does your guest remind you of? How is it relating to you? How are you relating to it? What are its distinctive qualities? (Answering this question can be really helpful in identifying this as an emotional signal rather than a hunger signal in the future). As time passes, what do you notice about your comfort level? Are you able to move your chair a little closer? What happens if you move it closer? What happens if you move it further away? What is the name of this emotion? Name it now if you were not able to name it at Step 1.
Step 3 : Learn from the emotion. Emotions are a very powerful means of non-verbal communication. After years of experiencing them, we develop skill at decoding the message. Once we get the message, our task then is to take congruent action : that is, respect the message in a way that is supportive of both our mind and our body (and beyond). As we begin to respect the message in this way, our emotions quieten : their job is done.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, yes, if you’ve been in your body for some time and lived amongst your feelings and emotions (the good and the not so good) – in that case, it is easy. However, for those of us, who have only recently arrived back in our body, it may take a little time to get the message and it may take you a while to get used to the “noise” of emotions 🙂
As you sit next to the emotion, ask the following questions:
1 What message, of value to me, is this emotion communicating?
2.What is the positive intention of this emotion? (How is it trying to help me?)
3.What is there for me to learn from this emotion (of a positive nature), the learning of which would allow this feeling to go?
3.What is something I could do to respect the message, something that I feel aligned and okay with? (Avoid life-changing decisions and big commitments at this stage! Take a small step in the right direction 🙂 Learning to listen to your emotions counts as a step :))
4.Thank the emotion for its communication and for trying to help you. (If the help it is offering is no longer relevant for your life today , still thank it and explain how things have changed. This is a version of congruent action.).
Tip 1: If you get the message but you don’t take congruent action, your emotion is unlikely to quieten 🙂
Tip 2: It may take a short while for the insights to arrive. Be patient 🙂 If no answers come up immediately, just sit next to the emotion and wait. If after a while, nothing has come up, complete the process (the answers may arrive at a later time!)
Let it go!
Step 4 : Let it go. Once you have thanked the emotion, you can invite your guest to leave. I do this by imagining the emotion turning into the wind and blowing through my body. As the wind blows through my body, I feel the feeling and bid it good-bye, by name. You may enjoy a very gentle breeze, you may prefer the wind to blow around your body ,or away from your body, instead of through it (although having the emotion go through your body lets you get used to feeling feelings again – and that can be very helpful :)) or you may even prefer to design your own process for letting go!
I have to tell you that the first time I tried this, I had a real epiphany moment at this stage. I realised that when it was time to let go of the feeling, I didn’t want to! The emotion I was working through at the time was sadness. As I looked at the sadness and acknowledged everything it had done for me, everything it was trying to tell me, I became incredibly sad myself (I am actually crying as I am typing this). I realised that I had enjoyed spending time with my emotion : it felt sacred and I wanted to keep the connection.I was actually feeling the feeling for the first time in a long time. I wasn’t frightened of it at all. In fact, I was suddenly in awe of the gentleness and dignity with which this emotion had handled itself in its attempt to help. It was an utterly tender experience. It was at this very moment that I decided to start respecting my body. It was at this very moment that I decided to start respecting my emotions : all of them.
In a nutshell 🙂 By learning to recognise an emotion and its purpose, we can begin to respect our body and our emotions in new ways. Just pay attention to what’s happening the next time you experience hunger : are you getting the message in a different way? If you begin to listen to your emotions rather than feeding them, what happens?
I look forward to hearing how this works for you!
Gotta run 🙂 ! JT
Group experiences can be nourishing and nurturing!
*If you would like to discuss the possibility of 1-1 coaching sessions (face-to-face or via Skype) with me, do feel free to call or email. If you think that you might enjoy exploring/ resolving your emotional relationship with food in a group setting (it can be fun, transformational and extremely nurturing to work with a group of peolple who really get where you’re coming from), do consider coming along to a live event! The next live events are in Northern Ireland (in Portrush and in Belfast in January and February) and in the England (Warrington in February). Check out this page to find out more http://thighhighbootcamp.com/dates-venues-price/
© Jane Talbot 2012