A great article about emotional release as a key to well being on a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual level may be read here by Deepak Chopra, a guru in health and wellness. This article presents 7 steps to dealing with emotions and pain in the body. I highly recommend it.
Speaking from my personal experience, I find it is challenging to deal with painful emotions like deep sorrow or vicious anger and frustration. We all deal with emotions in our own way, but I have a firm belief that unresolved emotions and feelings that are recurring may have a destructive effect upon our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Deepak writes “When you experience physical discomfort, it means that something is unbalanced in your experience — physically, mentally or spiritually. Your body knows it — every cell in your body knows it. Befriend these sensations and their wisdom, because the pain is actually leading you to wholeness.”
Now I can’t know this for sure, but in light of my experiences, I think it is quite possible that emotions that do not get dealt with may turn into physical ailments or illness. This is not to blame the cancer patient or one inflicted by lupus for their affliction. Simply, he is pointing out that if left unattended and perpetually stuffed below the surface, this emotional unaccountability *may* manifest in sickness. Or as Louise Hay mentions, disease is “dis-ease”, or a lack of contentment, satisfaction and relaxation. So it can be important to address the issues that give us mental strain, anxiety or emotional distress. The unresolved emotions can be exhausting to deal with if we do not have the appropriate skills to address them. I mention my own personal struggles with this matter, as I feel that my life challenges with broken dreams and mental wellness have provided me with experiences that left me with a greater awareness of the effects of negative thinking. Dealing with illness forced me to confront the way I handle stress and led to the management of daily life with healthier coping mechanisms – largely gained from trial and error. There are positive ways of dealing with life’s challenges, and this led to an inquiry into mindfulness and the development of a daily practice of meditation. With practice, it is possible to be aware of our painful emotions and transform them. I effectively do this when I am immersed in art, and particularly expressive art therapy. I learned to have gratitude for everything in my life, even the bumps and dips in the road of life. Much learning has come about through difficulties, and in a way I am thankful to my past illness for bringing troubled emotions to the surface to be healed through therapy. I am a big proponent of therapy personally – my sessions with an expressive arts therapist have led to a greater feeling of joy, delight and even bliss (I have my moments). As well, other benefits of therapy and dealing with my thought processes include elevated levels of self-confidence, self-compassion and trust that…well, everything will be ok. I have learned a sort of detachment from goals, where as in the past, I became overly distraught when things did not go my way and tried to control every aspect of my life in responses.
So back to the article referenced above….as I am an avid proponent of mediation, this too focusses on the experience of making space for silence to observe and quiet our emotions. It is beneficial to be in a place of balance physically, spiritually, emotionally, in order to take on agitated feelings with grace and ease. The body contains its own form of intelligence, and in being peaceful, we can access that inner creativity. Without a quiet mind, this process may be impeded or more difficult. Many of the steps that Deepak has outlined in this article correlate with components of my expressive arts therapy sessions. For example, the first step he outlines is to identify and locate the physical emotions. I have been reading a book on Focus oriented therapy, which leads one to look inward for a feeling, or sensation. This body centric focus is extremely powerful in connecting with a word, phrase, image or feeling that is permitted to come to the surface naturally with inquiry. With a professional therapist, one may be led to delve deeper into the meaning behind this message, to witness the experience and explore emotions or a feeling sense in the body. In my sessions with an expressive arts therapist, we moved next to expressing the sensation (tension in my arms, the vision of walking on a tightrope and feeling constriction when surrounded by concerns of falling) through gesture, movement and enactment, which allows my spirit to play, be silly, be expressive and be wildly free to be. Having released the emotions through this process, I was inspired to imagine and then act out jumping off my tightrope, and stomped on the floor, obtaining a greater sense of grounding with each step.
In previous sessions, I have been given the opportunity to write out the voice of my predominant feeling, giving emotions freedom to express fears, anxieties, concerns, or restlessness. Inevitably (this is simply my experience) I have successfully altered my mood and the troubling thought pattern, leading to a greater understanding of my inner voices and troublesome thoughts…which led to the transformation of and a sense of healing, closure, peace and greater well being. I consistently walk out of my sessions lighter and more exuberant, full of promise and possibility. It has been the precursor to being open to a future as a mixed media artist, and helped remove creative blocks and fears of not being good enough. Deepak’s article wraps up with a celebration of the process, and your progress, which –from my lessons working with a coach –has been a long standing tradition of mine. I love this sentiment and encourage you to read the article and try it out with an Expressive Arts Therapist. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it’s a way to honor and welcome our emotions, both the good and bad (and who says which is which). Mastering our emotions and adopting a friendly attitude towards them can only serve to improve your happiness and ability to deal with life’s ups and downs.