Welcome to this exclusive preview to The Art of Coming Home.
The reason that photographers do not enjoy working with animals and children is pretty much the exact reason that these rapscallions are masters of the art of emotional processing, and they don’t even know it. Whereas we self-consciously hold ourselves in a certain way, edit ourselves and have an internal screening process for what we allow ourselves to feel and express; animals and kids are very much just running around and screaming, laughing or crying in the ball pit of life, feeling what they feel, and letting it all hang out rather than holding it all in. I am not suggesting we become a photographer’s worst nightmare, but that if we develop some of the skills we need to work through our emotions we can recapture some of that effortless ease of being, creativity, authenticity and self-expression. A very bearable lightness of being.
In this chapter we are going to look at a variety of tools for doing this, feel free to try any you are drawn to in any order. But just before we start using the exercises, let’s first have a look at some of the downsides of not processing our feelings so that we can understand the importance of doing this work. We will also cover some of the less useful means of expressing emotion, in order to address any that we may be using and gain a better understanding of what healthy emotional processing is.
What Happens if We Do Not Recognise and Express Our Emotions?
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.
– Sigmund Freud1
It can be tough just being a person, never mind being completely clear on our feelings and processing them as we simultaneously try to navigate the complexity of life, so it is understandable that most of us tend to file our emotions away to deal with at a later date. After all, most of us don’t want to break down in tears at work, lose our temper when someone irritates us or jump for joy in public. However, when we do not process emotions they usually go straight into our bodies, creating patterns of holding, tension, pain and even illness. As an alternative therapist and bodyworker I often work a bit like a housekeeper on a spring-cleaning mission, helping people to release old, stuck feelings that have been lingering in the body, sometimes for years.
And although storing our feelings in little places throughout our bodies like an Easter egg hunt for therapists is a pretty effective way of coping in the short-term, it is not a great long-term strategy because these feelings stand between us and mental, emotional, spiritual and physical peace and groundedness. That’s not to say I’m perfect in this regard at all – I am always amazed when an ache or pain immediately changes or disappears after simply acknowledging my feelings. Learning to be able to do this for myself has made all the difference in being able to understand what I am feeling and why and have more perspective on what is mine and what is other people’s stuff, which is key to learning to live more intentionally and take responsibility for myself.
This also includes taking responsibility for the effect my emotions are having on those around me; whether I am conscious of them or not. “What?? Surely if I repress my feelings they cannot affect others?!” you might say. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is not the case, even though we think we’re hiding our sadness, our stress or rage, it comes with us everywhere we go, it leaks out and touches everyone we interact with. As mentioned in the last chapter, emotions are contagious, and they will piggyback on our body language, the look in our eyes, the tone of our voice and the words that we use. The illusion that we can override these living, breathing parts of ourselves, while controlling how we behave and how we come across to others and also be happy and be able to connect deeply to others is a myth many of us are brought up with. In reality our emotions, personality, spirit, body and mind are all fully interconnected. All of these parts of us need to be heard, experienced and appreciated in order for us to live in a complete way.
Interestingly the connection between our mind and body is so strong that people from very different cultures feel sensations in similar areas when experiencing a specific emotion2. And we can all get ill by supressing our feelings for too long, for example; people who have a condition that stops them recognising and expressing emotion (alexithymia) were shown to have significantly higher levels of inflammation in their bodies3. Also a potential connection has been found between suppressing emotions and higher cancer mortality4. This is obviously a very sensitive area for many people, but if it is true this does not mean that people with cancer are to blame – it just means that expressing our emotions should be high up on our priority list.
Aside from causing health issues, supressing our feelings has a knock-on effect on our relationships and our quality of life in general. One study found that the more likely university students were to suppress their emotions, the more likely they also were to have less social support, closeness in their friendships, and social satisfaction5. Also, people who habitually repress difficult emotions have a much harder time with intimate relationships because they find it harder to engage with others emotionally6. This is not to scare you in a Struwwelpeter kind of way, just to highlight how important it is that we do not put off being aware of our feelings and working through them so long that we become ungrounded, detached (from ourselves and others) or ill.
A Couple of Less Healthy Ways to Feel and Express Emotions
Now that we have looked at a few of the ways that repressing emotion can be bad for us, let’s also look at a couple of issues that may result from not being able to process our feelings well. None of us is perfect, so if you find that you sometimes do one or a few of the following things, just remember that many others do also. It is never to late to learn to work with your emotions in order to get to a more centred place, and whether you want to do that work with a counsellor or try to do it by yourself; exercising self-kindness and making small but significant steps are a great approach.
1. Projecting onto Others
This occurs when we dislike an emotion or aspect of ourselves so much we only allow ourselves see it in others, and when we do so, we also tend to judge them for it. The problem with this is that we are missing out on an experience of, and connection with, a part of our self. If you find that you are triggered by certain qualities in others that you do not think you have in yourself, you might want to read the chapter Working with our Shadow where we cover this in more depth. When we reconnect with an emotion or quality that we have been projecting, it often also helps us to be more understanding towards others and kinder, as well as deepening our experience of ourselves.
2. Passive Aggression
Many people learn this behaviour as a coping mechanism in childhood without realising it, when they find that their needs or boundaries are not valued or acceptable to their caretakers. As we still have these needs or feelings of anger, we may find that expressing them indirectly is a lot safer as a way of unburdening ourselves. Unfortunately, it often leaves an unpleasant feeling in the air, damages our relationships and leaves us feeling insecure – after all it is not a powerful way to behave. And because people are not usually conscious of their own passive aggression, it can be hard to switch to healthier ways of dealing with anger, even though as an independent adult it is now permissible to express feelings and a need for boundaries.
If you notice that you do not directly communicate your needs or annoyance, or find “work-around” ways to make people feel your anger, you may be expressing yourself in this way. It is important to get in touch with how you feel and honour this as well as your needs. Do not assume that your needs are not important to other people, or that they will not respect your opinions. Others may not always agree with our feelings, but the ability to express them in an appropriate way means we can have an actual conversation instead of acting out. Although this is about aggression and anger, there are usually other emotions mixed in; frustration, hurt feelings, a low sense of self-worth, which are also worth addressing. We can watch people who ask for what they want and stand up for themselves; notice how they do it and how they seem to feel about themselves, and then take small steps towards doing this for ourselves.
3. Shutting Down
Pretending that our feelings are not there or just pushing them deep down never to be seen again is obviously not a good method of processing our emotions. On the positive side stoicism can be very useful if we need to be clear-headed or just get through a tough day; we don’t want to have a melt-down when operating on someone or giving a presentation, for example, but it is no way to live our whole lives. Becoming like a robot may seem to fix the “problem” of troubling, inconvenient or unpredictable emotions, but it also stops creativity, relating, self-knowledge and any meaningful growth. Many people learn this behaviour from family or the culture around them, and we can also unlearn it. Honouring your humanity, your depth and your worth can be a great approach to starting to open up again. If you find there is a lot in there, it can be a great idea to have a friend to talk to, or find a support group or therapist. Typically, people who have been emotionally closed down for quite a while have a bit of backlog to work through and a bit of support is great for perspective and encouragement.
4. Emotional Overwhelm
When this happens we cannot get ourselves out of a very charged negative emotional state – we may feel we have been pushed just too far. The key in this situation is self-compassion. I also highly recommend that if you are feeling this way, you seek out a therapist, but if you cannot afford this then why not ask for help from your friends or contact an organisation that offers support. Ways of getting out of this that will not work include; criticizing yourself, punishing yourself or going over your flaws or problems in your head over and over again. Be kind to yourself, breathe and move your body in a way that feels good to you. If external events are getting you down, you can also try making a plan – preferably one with very small steps, and make the first ones manageable so you can start taking action right away, but also make sure that you take the time to identify and feel your feelings.
5. Holding Others Hostage
Some people have not learned to feel, process and manage their own emotions in a healthy way. Instead they hold others hostage, putting their (predominantly negative) emotions onto others. Although sharing can be healthy, if we are actively avoiding listening to others and keep forcing our feelings and views onto them, expecting them to submit, we are not processing our feelings. It can often leave other people with a feeling of confusion and unease, because the emotion is very charged yet resists resolution at the same time. Although many of our friends are happy to do a little bit of “clean” emotional processing with us, no one wants to have an unresolvable problem forced onto them. Essentially this is us wanting others to feel as bad as we do.
Because this is a young type of behaviour, some adults who do this can seem as tyrannical or changeable as a toddler, maybe even having temper tantrums like a child. Although we all have the occasional outburst, if it is happening often then this may be something that needs addressing as we cannot have healthy adult relationships without an awareness of our own feelings and an ability to manage them ourselves.
Processing Our Emotions
As we have discussed, there are many short-term ways that we can deal with emotions that may not lead to a healthy and balanced state in the long-term. Ideally we want to help our emotions express themselves and move through us in a natural way. A major part of this is the ability to recognise the feeling, accept it, allow it to be present, listen to it (although some are just fleeting and do not have a lot to say) and to let it complete itself. However, this does not mean giving them total dominion over us, or chasing a state that we find desirable. So there is a difference between honouring our emotions and handing them the reins. Staying centred and grounded within ourselves as we do this work is very useful.
Interestingly, most emotions contain within them the state we need for their resolution or for healing to occur. For example; sadness makes us feel still enough to reflect and honour what has happened, anger gives us the energy boost needed to change what is not right and love makes us open up enough to bond with others. In order to tap into this, we just need to develop the ability to be with the feeling and listen to it. Emotions often resolve themselves organically when we do this. It also helps when we express ourselves, breathe freely and move enough. A child can feel, breathe and express like a pro, but it takes the sophistication and experience of an adult’s mind to understand the finer points of what an emotion is trying to tell us, as well as the discipline of an adult to take responsibility for clean emotional expression. So the adult and child in us can learn from each other!
An example of having a problem with this process is if someone annoys us but we like them so we push our anger down by taking shallow breaths to push the feeling down. Or if someone is feeling lonely but distracts themselves with shopping or TV instead of acknowledging the feeling and talking to someone. There are many ways that we halt the process of our feelings moving through us when we feel uncomfortable, and many of them are reflexive and unconscious. Therefore, as we learn to do this work it is important to learn to be with our discomfort, be aware of our reactions to our emotions and also be open to making some changes in the way we deal with them.
In this section we are going to look at several tools we can use to help process our emotions. You will probably find that some work better for you than others, but do keep an open mind because some may just require a little more practice. If you are not used to expressing emotion, or being expressive in general, then you may feel a little silly. However, this is a sign that you are leaving your comfort zone, and a positive thing as you are more likely to get better results from trying something new, than from doing the same old thing you always do.
An open mind is also handy because entering into a dialogue with feelings (whether they are old or new) may challenge some thoughts or beliefs you have. Do not worry if you find you are taking baby steps – babies are great! You are still moving forward, that is what counts. Also there is plenty of time, so there is no need to try and process all of your feelings in a day, but do keep it up in the days and months to come – sometimes there is no way out but through. And, as with all of the chapters, if you feel a bit overwhelmed you can stop and do an exercise from the Centring and Grounding chapter for a bit instead.
Physical Sensation and Emotion
Now we are going to tune into our physical sensations as we did in the last chapter, but this time we are also going to see if we can draw an emotion out and ask it to tell us what it needs or what it wants to say. Key things to remember for this exercise are: to stay open-minded and try not to decide what you are feeling, but “find out”. Also our minds will want to create stories or reasons for the way we are feeling, try to let all of those thoughts go, and return to an open-minded listening state as our goal is to let the feeling speak for itself, rather than letting our mind take over. And that takes some concentration sometimes, because minds do like to be in control.
Exercise 9.1: Processing our Feelings Through Physical Sensation and a Chat
The best attitude for this exercise is a relaxed and open, pressure-free one, where we are happy to see where it takes us. As with all of the exercises in this book it is open-ended; there is nowhere you “should” end up. We are just getting in touch with a feeling that is hanging around for a reason, so let’s be open and listen to what it wants to say. You can take your time and as there are a lot of steps you can read and do them one at a time.
a) Sitting somewhere quiet and comfortable, just breathe and let your body relax, letting the tension go with every out-breath.
b) Now pay attention how your body is feeling in general as you continue breathing in a relaxed way.
c) When you have a sense of this, notice if there are any sensations in your body that are more in the foreground, more obvious. What is that feeling like, is it; warm, cool, light, heavy, a ball, spread out, tense, relaxed, for example?
d) Keep paying attention to that feeling in your body and with an open mind notice if you feel that it has a shape and/ or colour.
e) Once you are feeling this physical sensation quite clearly and picturing it in your mind’s eye, say “hello” to it in your mind.
f) Now ask it if it wants to say anything and wait with an open mind for its answer. If it does say something, you can have a conversation with it, finding out a little more information regarding what it said. Every time you ask a question you need to wait patiently for the answer, do not let your mind jump in with the answers.
g) Now you can also ask if it needs anything and again wait with an open mind for the answer. If it does, you can converse with it a little to find out more information or to discover how you can satisfy those needs. Some we can even take care of this through the visualization, such as imagining giving that part of you a hug, attention, or letting it run around pretending to be an aeroplane – anything it is asking for.
h) You can then thank the part of yourself you connected with and ask it if it has anything else it would like to say. When you feel ready to end the exercise, allow a feeling of self-acceptance and love to fill your body and then open your eyes.
This type of exercise can take some practice, so if you found it tricky you are not alone! It is great to revisit it and also try to gently accept any resistance or lack of focus that comes up (which are often natural defence mechanisms). If that happens just keep bringing your attention back to your physical sensations. You may find that you can only do a little bit at a time, which is also fine. Just do what you can and try to be kind to yourself – this is a gentle, firm enquiry not the Spanish inquisition.
There are no wrong answers and feelings do not always make logical sense, but be careful that it is not your mind forming and providing the answers – there should be the feeling of the answer arising organically rather than coming from the head down. Also our feelings may not be able to be resolved completely in one sitting, especially if we have been carrying them for a long time, so it is fine to use this exercise several times for one emotion, however, I recommend spreading this out over days, weeks or longer.
Accepting Our Feelings
In the previous chapter we looked at why the ability to accept our feelings was so crucial. I just want to reiterate that without acceptance, there can be no complete processing of our emotions. This is because in order to work with a feeling we need to be able to see it all, clearly, and also allow it to be present – both of which are impossible if we are limiting our experience of the emotion by resisting it.
There is no single way to accept all feelings, because our barrier to acceptance can be different for different emotions. Therefore, in this section we are going to look at any prejudices and blocks we have to feeling specific emotions, in order to help us to accept having them. If you find you cannot tune into an emotion at all, or reject the idea of having it, that is a pretty good sign you are not accepting it right now. I recommend mulling over why this might be, and giving yourself time and space to come back to this feeling, but do not try and force any change because our resistance can be formidable. Being interested and open-minded is a more helpful approach.
Exercise 9.2: Accepting our Feelings
We are going to look through a list of feelings that some people do not like and select the ones we feel some resistance to working with. It can be hard to call emotions to mind when you are not feeling them right now, so if it helps you can imagine a situation that made you feel that way to get you started. You will be doing all of the steps for each emotion completely before moving on to the next one.
As before, this is an open-ended enquiry, with no right or wrong answers – as long as they are authentic to you, so try to give your most honest answer to each question.
a) Sit somewhere quiet and if you would like to take notes of this exercise, you can make a table as in the example below, but with enough rows to work with up to 5 emotions.
b) Look through this list of feelings one at a time and you can put any that you feel resistance to in the first column. If you want to work with any other emotions, feel free to add them also.
Feelings to contemplate:
Desire to inflict pain
c) After picking the emotions you want to work with, start with the first one and note your initial reaction to it. This could be a feeling, thought, belief; anything and write it down (see the table below for an example).
d) Now in the next column, write how your reaction to this emotion feels in your body.
e) In the following column write down all the negative associations you have with that feeling – essentially why it is bad.
f) And now write down ways that it could be good. Try and stick with this one even if you feel resistance to it. If you feel the emotion is trying to tell you something, you can put this is in the same column.
This is an example of working with anger:
Don’t like it because a lot of effort to resolve and it is embarrassing
Warmth and strength in chest, attachment to it, aggressiveness
It can ruin relationships, it can hurt people, cause pain
Can be used to protect myself and others, brings some of the truth of a situation out, makes me want to resolve problems
g) After you have completed each feeling you want to work on, try and imagine a sense of accepting it and even being grateful for the gift of energy or information it offers you.
Although accepting emotions we are uncomfortable with can be very challenging, it is essential for getting in touch with all of who we are. So the next time you notice yourself pushing a feeling away, try thinking to yourself “it is OK, I accept feeling this” and see what happens. You can use the physical sensation and feeling exercise from the section above to explore it more. In general, the most important thing is to learn to accept our feelings in their entirety.
Breathing into Our Feelings
Emotions and breath are like peanut butter and jam; they automatically go together. Have you ever tried staying excited when purposefully slowing your breathing or feeling calm while intentionally hyperventilating? It is pretty much impossible because your emotions change your breath and your breathing changes your emotions, which is why breathing in a specific way will elicit a specific emotional state. In the exercise below we are going to use this connection; not to create an emotion, but to help us relate to one and then to help that feeling resolve itself.
Exercise 9.3: Breathing into the Feeling
For this freeform exercise I would like you to keep an open mind and even though it is natural to wish for a certain outcome, it is better not to try and control it. We are going to “breathe into” a feeling, by which I mean become very aware of it, and then use breath to help process it. The object is not to get worked up or overcome by an emotion, but to allow your feelings to be fully present. With this intention, know that you are safe and calm in addition to experiencing any other feelings that come up. If you feel like you want to stop that is fine, you can also slow and deepen your breath and relax your body to return to a more centred state.
a) Sitting somewhere quiet and comfortable, just breathe and relax into your body.
b) Let any tension go with each out-breath and allow yourself to feel heavy and calm.
c) Notice any more obvious sensations in your body and focusing on one, notice what it feels like; warm, cool, light, heavy, a ball, spread out, tense, stuck or pulling, for example?
d) Now, without preconceptions, I would like you to imagine “breathing into” the most noticeable feeling in your body, by putting your attention on that place and visualising your in-breath going there. As you do this you can also have the intention of giving the feeling the space to be itself, to be noticed without judgment. If your attention ever naturally moves to another spot in your body that is fine, as long as it does not feel like a distraction from, or avoidance of, a particular feeling.
e) As you continue to breathe “into” and with the emotion, notice how it changes and where it moves, if at all. And keep breathing with it.
f) Now open your eyes and keep them open as you ask your feeling how it would like you to breathe in order to process it. It’s also fine to move your body, open your mouth wide, stretch or make noises if you feel guided to.
g) Stop when you feel that you have done enough for now and notice how you feel physically and emotionally. Do you find that you are breathing or holding yourself differently than before?
It is incredible how much our breath (and some movement) can liberate a trapped emotion, and even make us feel more alive. In fact, it can allow us to feel more in general. We may not notice how much we are stifling our feelings by controlling our breath day-to-day, but exercises like this show us just how much we may be diminishing ourselves. Breath is a great way back into our bodies and our feelings.
I also find that the quality and sound of people’s breath and the sound of their voices are all incredibly significant in my self-development work with people. Whether someone only takes little sips of air, their voice sounds like crying or like bottled aggression, it gives us an indication of their internal state. Breath shows how much we trust the outside world, how free or giving we are and how easy it is for us to receive. The sound of people’s voices, meanwhile, tells us how their instrument is tuned – because our emotional state creates a complex pattern of tension in our body which shapes the sound of our voice as it comes out. To explore this as a way of releasing emotion, we are going to work with our body as an instrument in the exercise below.
Sounding Out Our Feelings
In the chapter Our Connection to Our Body we use an exercise called The Loud Sigh to try to hear what we are feeling. This is a great tool, which you can also try now to see if you can identify the emotions in you that are shaping the sound. Take a deep breath in and sigh loudly out. The key is not to try too hard to produce a certain sound, not to modify it or stop it. Just let the sound flow out, loud and uninhibited, all the way to the end, but do not “push” it out. How did it sound? Normally when people start, they cannot hear anything in particular, then little by little they may start to hear things such as stress, annoyance, sadness, excitement or other, and this gets easier with practice. But now let’s try a more varied tool to help process our feelings.
Exercise 9.4: The Sound of Our Emotions
You will want some alone time in a private place for this exercise, so that you can express yourself freely. Try not to be self-critical or change the sound intentionally, but let whatever is in there come out naturally, also knowing that it does not have to be loud or dramatic to be effective – just real.
a) Relax in either a seated or standing position, and feel free to change between these at any time in the exercise.
b) Tuning into your physical feelings, choose the most obvious one, the one most in the foreground.
c) Now I would like you to tell it that it is allowed to make any sound it wants through you, within reason. Thin walls may lead to you making it a little more quietly, but you can still do it. If you live with other people, you may want to warn them you are doing this first or wait until they have gone out.
d) If you feel awkward, you can start with a hum or a sigh and let it develop from there. Try to be explorative, but not take charge; let the feeling guide you. Also know that there is no “right” sound, so try to put any self-criticism to the side.
e) Now that you have made a few noises, ask the feeling if it would like to add any movements. Again let the feeling guide you, but ensure that you only do what is safe and do not push through pain.
f) You can breathe, make sounds, and also move, until you feel that it is enough, that something has completed, or that you need a break. At this point take a moment to be still, acknowledging your emotions and body and thanking them for doing this with you.
How do you feel now in your body, mind, energy and emotions? Although this is best done in private, you can do a modified, socially acceptable version throughout the day by tuning into your body and making small movements or quiet sounds. You will probably find that your body starts to feel freer and lighter because many patterns of tension are emotional in origin.
Movement and Emotion
Across all cultures you can see that movement and dance is vital to community, bonding, ritual and self-expression. Aside from the psychological and social benefits, because certain aspects of our physiology depend on movement in order to work properly, we need to move to stay healthy. However, as we become more and more sedentary we start to lose our connection to this primal need, and to areas of our body which become numb and disconnected. We need to intentionally shake the cobwebs out of the musty cellars of our hunched bodies, through movement –whether it is dance, exercise, stretching or random self-expressive mime.
Also, because emotions often exist in a place inside us that can be hard to reach with words, they can sometimes be expressed more easily in non-verbal ways, such as movement. In the exercise below we are going to liberate any emotions that have become imprisoned and stuck in our body and self, by moving the way the emotion tells us to. This requires us to tune into our feelings and to move without a fixed sense of purpose; the polar opposite of what we normally do in society. It is also a great opportunity to scare your neighbours if you wanted one, or you can also draw your curtains if not.
Exercise 9.5: Moving to Express Emotion
You can do this exercise with or without music. Although it can feel a bit crazy or forced moving without music, you do avoid the issue of your feelings changing and conflicting with the mood of the song you are listening to. So I suggest that if you choose to use music you switch songs as needed.
Please note that you may be surprised by the force of your movements as stronger emotions see their chance to escape. Again, as long as it is not hurting you or unsafe it is fine. You may also make incredibly beautiful or very silly movements, just go with whatever happens and see how your feelings emerge and express themselves.
a) Stand in a private place with enough space to move.
b) If you want to play music, use your intuition to select the right type of music or even specific song.
c) Now as you are standing relaxed, tune into your physical sensations and your feelings. Without forcing anything, let them guide you in making a movement and just keep going.
d) There are no wrong movements, as long as they are safe and you are not dictating or controlling them with your mind. If you are expressing your feelings then it does not matter if you are doing a moon walk or hopping like a bunny, it is all good.
e) Continue until you either feel that you are finished or that you need a rest; you can always come back to it later.
How do you feel now? It can be a bit tiring sometimes, so if you need a quick nap that is a good idea, even 5 minutes may help. I also recommend that you do not try to analyse your emotions, just stay with how you feel now and be present. If you feel like it, you can also say thank you to your body for carrying those emotions around for you until you were ready to feel them. They do work very hard for us, so a little self-hug and a sense of appreciation can be a nice way of recognising this effort.
Self-Expression to Free Emotions
Self-expression is a wonderful way of tapping into feelings we do not even know we have. And we do not have to be good at writing or even spell correctly to do this, we just need 10 minutes, a pen and paper (or device) and an open mind. The advantage of doing this over making sounds and movements with carefree abandon is that we could do it in the middle of a coffee shop or on a bus and no one would know.
As with all of this work we are not trying to work towards a specific outcome, but to listen to our feelings. Therefore, you do not have to worry that you are doing this wrong, or try to make things go in a certain direction – it is exploratory and freeform. The only wrong way to do this is by being very self-critical or forcing yourself to write about specific things, instead of allowing things to come up as they wish. Often random things want to come out, that we would never have guessed were on our mind; if so, just let them.
Exercise 9.6: Writing Our Feelings
So, in this last exercise we are going to simply write without pause for 10 minutes on the subject of our feelings. We do not pause to correct grammar or collect our thoughts – if at any point you cannot think what to write then you just come back to writing the starting phrase over and over again, which is: “I feel”.
a) Sit somewhere comfortable and quiet, with a pen and paper preferably, but a laptop is OK too.
b) With an open mind write the phrase “I feel” and then if words come naturally just write them down, but if not just keep writing “I feel I feel I feel” until something starts to comes out. Also, come back to writing this phrase repeatedly whenever you feel stuck for something to write, until you naturally start writing something else. Continue to write for 10 minutes and then stop.
c) As mentioned above, we do not correct spelling or grammar, as this breaks the flow and puts us in the wrong state of mind (critical). Do not worry if what you write does not make sense or is not what you think you should be writing.
How do you feel now that you have done that exercise? If you like, you can date it and keep it in your diary, it may be interesting to you in the future when you look back with more perspective. Free writing is a tool many writers use to tap into their creativity and overcome blocks, but we can use it to tap into our feelings and temporarily shrug off the day-to-day thoughts that we have in order to look deeper. If you ever feel like it, you could take what you wrote and transform it into a poem or some prose. Something beautiful can often come out of our deeper feelings, whether it is truth, art or transformation and it is always wise to enjoy this if we can.
Well done for your effort in this chapter! Do not worry if you found one or more of the exercises difficult, as I said before, they may take a little more practice, but stick with it. There is nothing quite like working through our feelings for opening us up to more life. No amount of meditation, medication, exercise, education or effort can move us forward in our self-development if we are not processing our feelings – they will always be in the background, affecting all of our self. But by processing them fully we can acknowledge what is, and this grounding in the reality of ourselves frees us to live in the moment, often with lighter bodies and clearer minds, and with the unmistakeable sense of certainty that comes from dropping pretence. This is a wonderful state to be in – not being weighed down by the past or dragged by worry into the future, just here in the present, being ourselves and living. What a fantastic relief and immense opportunity.
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind;
It is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;
It is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions;
It is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”
– Samuel Ullman8
 Freud 2019
 Nummenmaa et al., 2014
 Honkalampi, 2011
 Chapman et al., 2013
 Srivastava, 2009
 Goleman 1988
 Philippot, P. et al. 2002
 Samuel Ullman Museum 2019