Managing how you feel - Tip No 4

by Fe Robinson

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This is the fourth article in my series about Managing How You Feel.

In this series I present a number of tools and techniques that you can use to begin to engage differently with your emotional state. Feelings are messages, letting us know about something our system wants us to pay attention to. In this way, symptoms are trying to help, its just their approach is outdated and for your needs now, misguided.

Our emotional state is influenced by a variety of things, including where we place our attention.  That's the focus of today's tip.

Sometimes, rather than feeling too much, we can become distant from our feelings and not directly sense what is going on for us. It may be a sense of being cut off, a bit empty or distant, or an experience of feeling out of your body, as if you were watching what is going on from someplace else.  The clinical term for this is dissociation.

Dissociation originates as a safety device of the bodymind. If what is being experienced is too much, our bodymind takes our perception out of it to reduce the intensity and leave us able to cope and carry on.  This can be helpful.  The problem comes if it becomes a habitual response, or if we are stuck with it.  This week's tip focuses on how you can return to your body when you want to, rather than having to exist feeling separated or numbed.

This week's tip is also useful if you are experiencing intense emotions, like during panic.  When your feelings or thoughts have pulled you out of the present moment and what is happening right now into emotional responses and thought patterns that come from the past, you can use your senses to come back to what is happening right now, grounding yourself back into the present. 

Tip No 4 - Come to your senses

To come back to yourself when you are dissociated or overwhelmed, you need to re-engage your senses.  We can only experience our senses from within our body right here, right now, which is what makes this a useful approach.

You might experiment with:

-  smelling a strong (and pleasant) smell.  The sense of smell is an ancient part of our sensing and can be really evocative.  This works with tastes too.

-  creating an intense (and harmless) physical sensation, for example snapping a hair band on your wrist

-  noticing three things you can see, three things you can hear, and three things you can physically feel. You can rotate around the senses for as long as you like/need.

Increasing your choice about where you perceive experience from can be enabling and energizing. Dissociation is not good or bad, it is just an experience. The key is recognising when you want to be associated into your bodymind, and practicing techniques to learn what works for you and to build flexibility.

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