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This question came up three (yes, three!) times in one day in my practice and I found it odd.  So I started asking the same question of friends for the following few days.  Ready for the question?  Here it is:  On a scale of zero to one hundred, where would you say your heart is?  Let’s calibrate the scale, shall we?  Zero is drawbridge up, moat filled with alligators, and an armed gunman on every parapet.  Not to mention the reinforced concrete walls, the electrified barbed wire, and the cannons loaded and ready to fire.  Oh, and dragons; lots of dragons.  On the other end of the spectrum at one hundred, what we have is more open and welcoming than a puppy dog.  You’re more vulnerable and less protected than a baby.  You’re an overripe peach, without skin.  Anything and everything that wants to get in is getting in, and you’re not even going to raise a tiny baby fist in protest.

I hope that for all of us, this is a question where the answer changes hour to hour and day to day, based on the situation.  Obviously we’re not going to go argue about the cable bill with our hearts at 100.  And hopefully, when you hang out with your bestie or your favorite pet, your heart’s not in full-lockdown mode.  But, on average, say for the last week, where would you put your heart?  I don’t really care where it was when you were 3.  Or where you hope it will be when you’re 90.  Or if it wasn’t for that stupid ex-husband of yours, it would be at 70, but now it’s at 31.  Tell me where you’re at, right now, in this life you’re currently living.  Or better yet, tell yourself.  Are you on the open and vulnerable side with 50 or above?  Are you closed and protected with 49 or less?  Much more importantly, do you feel comfortable moving around on that scale?

Once, I read about a study which showed that a heart which oscillates between beating fast and beating slowly is healthier than a heart that stays at a constant, calm rate.  (If I could find that study for you now, I would link to it, but alas; my 92 seconds of googling came up with nothing; I got frustrated, and I decided to just write this post instead.)  This report I read made the point that while we typically assume it’s better to be calm and even keel all the time, this is just not true.  Getting all worked up, whether it be physically or emotionally, is actually better for your heart, as long as you also have periods of rest and relaxation where your heart rate comes back down.  Living this way allows your heart to learn a sort of flexibility so that the highs aren’t so shocking and exhausting when they happened.

I feel like this applies to pretty much everything.  I don’t like air conditioning because I want to be hot in the summer.  It’s summer!  This is when you’re supposed to be hot!  I like to work out super hard, then sit on the porch talking with friends for hours.  I tend to get carried away when I cook and I have to remind myself that just because you can put every single one of the spices in a meatloaf doesn’t mean you should.  And at the same time, I’m perfectly happy eating plain crackers for dinner.  Go to extremes, then find middle ground.

Same goes for your emotional, energetic heart.  Your life experiences and your current outlook have led you to whatever number you came up with regarding the openness of your heart.  No biggie.  No need to judge yourself, or flaunt your number.  No number is better than any other (except 9, which is just the coolest number on the planet, but not any extra cool for this exercise).  What’s more important is, can you move from that number, when it’s appropriate?  26 may be a super comfortable place for you right now.  Safe, but not on full-lockdown.  Guarded, but you’ve got a good reason for that.  However, when the love of your life appears, do you have the ability to open up a bit more?  Can you get to 54 so they can squeeze through the door?  And if 78 is where you normally hang out, do you know how to draw things in a bit, when necessary?  Can you hear criticism without it destroying your whole week?  Are your boundaries well defined and well protected, in case an ill-wishing marauder comes your way?

If so, hooray!  You’re like a heart olympian!  If not, what stretches can you do to increase your emotional flexibility?  Imagine scenarios where your heart moves towards the bigger numbers along the spectrum.  Picture your heart lowering the drawbridge, putting the dragons out to pasture, and taking off the suit of armor.  What have you been missing out on, that can now come in?  Now go towards the itty, bitty numbers, put that chain mail back on, and grab your sword.  What challenges can you meet face first, with your heart protected like this?

Going back to your original number; is that something you’re happy about?  Are you comfortable there?  Does that rating of openness serve you well?  Again, if so, then super-duper!  If not, now may be a good time to point your nose towards the end of the spectrum you’d like to be closer to.  One day at a time, one decimal point at a time, make an effort to get your heart to a number that better suits you.  And remember, while it might be scary, it’s probably not a bad idea to Love Love Love.

Winter is a hard time of year for a lot of people.  Low levels of vitamin D, due to our position in relation to the sun can be one contributor.  Heap on some cold, snowy weather and we start exercising less, decreasing our natural ‘good mood’ chemicals in the brain.  Throw in a pinch of holidays and the attendant difficulties with family members and junk food, and it’s no wonder we’re all wearing our cranky pants.  It’s also easy to withdraw when things get tough.  No, I won’t be able to come to your super bowl party.  I don’t think I’ll go out dancing tonight.  I’d rather stay home, alone, in bed.  Which is fine and all; until it’s not.  Think of this time of year as the emotional equivalent of moving day.  Sure, it’s tough work and there’s a lot to do, but you’re strong and able bodied.  You can carry tons of boxes by yourself.  But you simply cannot move the couch alone.  No matter how strong you are.  It’s just too big and bulky and heavy and you have to turn it just so to get it to fit through the door.  We all have our own emotional couches that we just can’t carry alone.

As members of the human species, we do better when we work together.  And asking for help is a good idea, with physical heavy lifting, as well as the emotional kind.  But as prideful beings, we hate asking for help.  It’s a catch-22, deedlee-doo.  When we’re feeling low, hanging out with a friend can be more helpful than a bottle of prozac or vitamin D supplements, but a lot harder to ask for; which is too bad. ‘Cause no matter what, it’s easier to get the couch up the stairs, through the front door and into just the right spot with a friend (or three) helping you out.  Emotionally, or physically.  But asking for help can make us feel incredibly vulnerable.  And all sorts of old stories can come up about being whiney, or needy, or mopey, or a crybaby, or a Debbie Downer.  So we keep our mouths shut.  And the couch stays out on the sidewalk.  Getting wet and muddy and not helping us feel comfortable in our living rooms.  Blech.

I’m one of those people who really struggles to ask for help.  Always have been.  Probably always will be.  But here’s a trick I learned that’s helped me a lot in recent years.  Think about how you feel when someone asks you for help.  Do you roll your eyes and feel completely put out?  Do you think to yourself “what a whiney, needy, crybaby?”  No, of course you don’t.  You probably feel like:  Yes!  Of course!  I’d love to help!  Why didn’t you ask sooner?  Is there anything else I can do?

See, it feels good to help.  And again, we humans do better when we work together.  Our brains know on a basic level that cooperation increases our chances for survival.  And when you help someone else out, there’s a better chance that person might help you out in return.  I LOVE when people ask me for help.  Want me to teach you some of my awesome dance moves?  Sure!  Need me to translate that letter your Italian lover wrote you?  No problem!  Need a hand with the couch on moving day?  You got it!  Need to lean on me for a bit while you sort this mess out in your head?  Let me grab some tissues and a mug of tea for you!

Whenever I’m feeling like I should just tough it out on my own instead of asking for help, I try to remember how great it feels when people ask me for help.  I turn it around and think of it as doing them a favor.  I’m just trying to make them feel better, by giving them the joy you get from helping.  And they can always say no, but it can’t hurt to ask.  I’m generally surprised at just how willing people are to help.  I just needed to let them know I needed it.  Give it a try, next time you need some help, but are hesitant to ask.  Think about what you would say if a friend asked you for help in the very same way.  Then go ahead and ask for help.

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Speaking of asking for help, I could use some help myself. The next Demo Days (two in February!) are just around the corner, and I could really use some help making them both a huge success.  The first one is in Lafayette on Tuesday the 14th from 1pm to 6pm.  Next up is Denver’s Demo Day on Wednesday, the 15th from 11am to 8pm.  I still have several spots to fill in each one and I’d love it if you’d send your fabulous friends and family members in to try out this funky thing we do.  30 minute sessions for $10.  You can’t beat the price and it’s a great way to get a taste of Rolfing and SourcePoint without committing to a whole session.  Thanks, in advance, for your help!

First of all, thank you.  Demo Day on Sunday was a blast, as usual.  Thank you for coming, for sending your friends and family members, for making it a great time overall.  Secondly, the next Demo Day will be Wednesday, February 15th in Denver.  AND, Big News!  I’ll be doing a Demo Day in Lafayette next month as well.  So, Lafayette’s Demo Day will be on Tuesday, the 14th; yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, because I love my Lafayette clients so much.

Now, onto our topic of the day:  sadness.  Yesterday was a sad day for me.  Not death in the family sad, but sad nonetheless.  And I was telling my friend Carl about it and I said, “you know, I’ve had two weeks of awesome, happy days; I was due for a sad one.”  But the truth is, it still sucked.  Later, I was talking to my friend Gwen and wondering aloud what I’d write this week’s blog post about; she suggested sadness; I agreed.  So here we are.

I’ve been wondering lately, why it is that the ‘negative’ emotions tend to get stuck in the body, while the ‘positive’ ones run their course and go on their merry way.  I put negative and positive in quotes ’cause I don’t really believe that there are negative or positive emotions.  There just seem to be emotions that we like and really enjoy experiencing, like giddiness and excitement and joy and then there are all the others.  But every emotion serves it’s purpose and anger and grief certainly aren’t ‘bad’ emotions.  Anyway, what I came up with was this:  it’s much more acceptable in our culture to express a positive emotion, than a negative one.  And there are exceptions to this, of course, but generally speaking, it’s more comfortable for other people to witness our joy than our sadness.  It’s easier for other people to be around our enthusiasm than our anger.  Think about it:  if you’re sitting on the bus and you see someone giggling for no apparent reason, how does that make you feel?  And if you see someone crying, how does that make you feel?  Which would you rather feel?  Since we’re social creatures who like to keep our friends around, we are sensitive to these things and take them into consideration.  So, when we’re feeling particularly happy, we’re likely to tell everyone about it.  And when we’re feeling awful, we tend to tell a couple of close friends, if we tell anyone at all.  And the rest of that emotion gets pushed down into our bodies and stored instead of expressed.  Now, it’s just a theory, but it makes sense to me, and I’m going with it.

Emotions aren’t just thoughts, though.  We call them ‘feelings’ for a reason:  we feel them, in our bodies.  And just like an amoeba, we react, physically, to what we feel.  We’ve all experienced heart ache, and it literally feels like somebody punched you in the heart, right?  Your heart aches.  We talk about things being gut wrenching, and where do we feel that?  In our guts.  Butterflies in our stomachs.  The list of overused expressions goes on and on and they’re clichéd because they’re true for everyone.  As painful as it is to fully feel into our emotions, it’s really important, too.

So yesterday, when I was feeling sad and my heart was hurting, I tried, for the first time in my life, to feel into the sadness, instead of distracting myself from it.  I asked myself, “what does this sadness feel like, in my body?”  I tried not to get caught up in the story in my head about why I was sad.  I already knew all the details; I could review them ad nauseam.  But as I sat there, with my heart hurting, I tried to pay attention to what else I was feeling in my body.  I felt the urge to curl up around my heart, to protect it from further pain.  I felt the center of the pain to be in my chest, but that there were fingers of hurt wiggling out from there in all directions:  down to my pelvis, up to my head, out to the edges of my rib cage.   And sometimes, I felt the urge to move with the sadness, rocking and stretching, curling and unfolding.  The hurt felt like constriction, like a tightness, and a little like muscle soreness after a good workout.  Yes, it was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t going to kill me.

And you know what?  Today I don’t feel as sad.  The story about why I was sad is still there and still true.  And my heart still hurts.  But I feel better today.  My thoughts are more along the lines of “Yeah, that was sad.  Now what?”  as opposed to “Oh my god, I’m so sad, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this day.”  It’s easy to feel all high and mighty, like I’ve finally figured out the trick to dealing with my emotions.  But I know the truth of it is I’ll have plenty of uncomfortable emotional experiences in my life that I will avoid and ignore and hang onto way longer than I need to.  It’s just good to know there’s another option out there.

It’s also good to have had a physical experience of what I might ask you to do, on the table.  It’s common for me to stumble upon an area of the body where there seems to be a strong emotion stuck.  Anger loves to live in the liver.  Grief prefers the heart and the diaphragm.  Feelings of betrayal adore the throat and the back (like a knife in the back).  And I won’t even get into all the emotions that seem to get stuck in women’s uteruses (uteri?  I don’t know).  When I come upon these blockages, I often ask my clients to experience the emotion.  To feel into it.  To allow it to move through their bodies, even if it’s painful.  I know I’m asking a lot.  But the alternative is to hang onto that emotion indefinitely, and that takes a lot of energy.  Energy that could be used for other things, like experiencing joy, or running an extra quarter mile, or writing a beautiful poem.  And in the long run, which would you rather?

Let’s talk about body awareness, otherwise known as your relationship with your body.  I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about someone who’s really “in their body.”  Or maybe it’s phrased as “she’s really grounded,” or “he has great body awareness.”  Maybe you know a professional athlete and their body is pretty much their whole life.  Maybe you are that person.  But for the rest of us, that can be really confusing.  What does that even mean?  In a culture where living exclusively from the neck up is not only acceptable, but is generally admired, something gets lost in translation when we hear about people who are “in” their bodies.

He’s got a good head on his shoulders.  But does he have a good belly beneath those shoulders?  Why should we care?  The thing is, your body is a super-duper-awesome source of information, but most of us aren’t paying attention.  Take a minute and think about all the information you’re getting from your body, not your brain, right now.  You know the texture of the floor your feet are resting on, and whether or not it’s level.  If you were to step on a patch of ice, your body would immediately know the difference between that and the dry sidewalk.  Your skin is telling you how warm or cold it is where you are, as well as if there’s a breeze or not, and what texture and weight your clothes have.  Your stomach is telling you not only if you have to eat, but if you’re nervous or relaxed.  And that’s just the beginning!  You know how you can feel it when someone’s staring at you?  That’s your body, not your logical brain.

Unfortunately, most of us learn to disconnect from all the signals our body sends us pretty early on.  We learn not to cry when that’s all we want to do.  We learn to pour a cup of coffee when our body asks for a nap.  We learn to sit still and get the work done when our body asks for a walk.  And if our body says “this situation is uncomfortable, I’d like to leave now” we tell it to hush up, sometimes with drugs and alcohol, sometimes by simply staying in a place that’s wrong for us.  In extreme cases, like trauma, we sometimes pretend that nothing’s happened and everything’s fine, when everything is exactly the opposite of fine.  And just like a toddler throwing a tantrum, if you ignore your body for long enough, it gets quieter and quieter until you really can’t hear what it’s saying anymore.  What a shame.

The fact is, your brain and your body are one thing.  They’re you.  Trying to separate them, or to pay attention to one and not the other is like saying you’re only going to eat the flour and sugar out of a cake, but not the eggs and the vanilla.  Good luck with that.  Also, even if you could accomplish that, it wouldn’t taste very good, nor would it resemble cake.  And if you’re only paying attention to your logical brain without paying attention to your body, you’re only getting some of the story, and it doesn’t taste nearly as good as the whole story.

This is part of the reason we see so many ailments that are normal in our culture today.  If you stop listening when your stomach says “I’m full,” you end up overweight.  If you don’t pay attention when your bones say “I’m tired,” you end up with colds and flus and depression that force you to finally lie down.  And don’t get me started on all the anxiety disorders that are so popular today.  Perhaps your body is telling you that something’s not right in your life.

If you’re one of the people who believes they’re a head with some other stuff below it, maybe you can try checking in with that thing carrying your head from place to place.  I know, that can be unfamiliar and strange just to think about.  But there are some really simple things to try to get you started.  First, take off your shoes, and take that body for a spin.  Think about all the information you can get from your bare feet.  What’s the texture of the ground you’re standing on?  Temperature?  Hardness?  Can you feel what’s underneath the floor?  Another thing to try is meditating on, or bringing your awareness to one specific body part.  Meditate on your stomach for five minutes before eating.  What is it really craving?  Protein? Sugar?  Fat?  Does it need a bowl of ice cream, or would two bites be enough?  Bring your awareness to your pelvis.  Can you sense the front and back?  Are your sit bones contacting your chair evenly, or is one more solidly connected than the other?  What about your breath and your lungs?  Does your breath fill only the front or only the back of your rib cage?  Maybe it only fills your belly or more of your right side than your left.  To start with, just notice these things.  This is your body talking to you.

Oh, and a couple more things:

Body Awareness is one of the big goals of Rolfing.
I know my ability to live “in my body” went through the roof with my first trip through the ten series.  And since then, I’ve been able to stop worrying about my weight for the first time since I was little, since my body takes care of it for me.  If you’re struggling with your own body awareness, schedule a session or three and let’s see what we can accomplish.

Thank you so much for your help with Demo Day!
Yesterday was my first ever Energy Work Demo Day and it was awesome!  Thanks for coming in yourself and/or sending in your friends!  Next month’s Demo Day will be a “normal” Demo Day where each mini-session will be a blend of structural work and energy work and it will be on Wednesday, December 14th.

Hey there! I’ve been helping out in a class at the Rolf Institute® for a few weeks, and I had the biggest ‘discharge’ of my life after receiving a session from a student the other day. I was shaking uncontrollably, coughing, completely disassociated from my body, and having some minor convulsions. It was terribly uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t describe it as painful. And yes, this is normal. It’s what we in the business refer to as ‘discharging’ and it happens all the time, while not necessarily to that extreme.

What is discharge? Well, at least in a Rolfing setting, discharge can be a whole lot of things; from tears, to shaking, coughing, spitting, laughing, or emotions such as anger, grief, and fear that seem to come out of nowhere. Burping, moaning, sweating, a sudden rush of energy (like you want to run a marathon), and talking incessantly are also signs of discharge, as is a sudden wave of memories regarding a specific event, person, or time in your life. Occasionally, it can even be the more traditional forms of discharge such as urination or excretion.

Why does discharge occur? As several massage therapists have told me, “there are issues in the tissues.” We store a lot of things in our bodies, from fat cells and toxins to memories, emotions, and energy. When a bodyworker goes in there and starts pushing tissue around, and working with the energy systems, stuff gets stirred up and when it’s ready, released. The ‘when it’s ready’ part is the important part. I’ve been on the receiving end of about 40 Rolfing sessions so far, as well as a bunch of other bodywork from a bunch of different practitioners. And while I’ve experienced discharge several times before, it was nothing like the other day. All the other little stuff had to come out first before my body was ready to give up the big stuff. And I’m sure there was an element of timing, as well as a feeling that this setting was a safe place for a big discharge to happen.

Again, discharge is normal. If you find yourself in the middle of a session and suddenly you’re crying, or shaking, don’t worry. I know it can seem strange and overwhelming, but try and rest into the experience of whatever’s coming up. It’s better to get that stuff out than to hold it in. And Rolfers are well trained to pay attention to and support discharge during a session. I won’t leave you in a place of instability or disorientation. I promise you’ll feel lighter when all is said and done.