Befriending Emotions

During the lockdown I was sharing an intimate space with two of my best friends. One night one of them found me sobbing in our garden under the stars, as she embraced me I whispered to her “There is so much beauty in pain- but we are just so afraid to go into it” Sometimes when your in the thick of that pain you think you will never go out, like your fallen into the abyss never to return. When you do emerge the other side (becasue you always do) It's like you have been washed with divinity. There’s a deep understanding, an awe of the universe and an expanse in your heart. It is one of the great paradox’s of life I have come to learn: We have to plunge into the darkness to emerge through a wellspring of light.

Befriending Emotions

Daniel Siegel, a well-known psychiatrist has ariculated so well and thoroughly about the healing power of emotion. He says that if we are able to sit with our true feelings as they rise, we can be transformed. Feeling deep emotion is our way of processing important new information. When we can be conscious of our emotions, including grief, is how we do the inner work of psychological growth.


When I was growing up I associated the emotion ‘grief’ with someone dying, it is something that I didn’t really have much access to any other time. I was exposed more to the attitude of “it is fine, move on, push through, don’t think about it, don’t dwell and start over” There was no space to honour losses and really release what was no longer part of my life. I see that grief is an emotion that appears quite frequently in our lives from the smallest experiences of moving to a new house, to a relationship ending or losing someone to death. For someone that disowned a lot of sadness and grief I had a tidal wave of it to catch up once I started to give it space.


Why are so many of us afraid of emotions? In particular the emotions we have been conditioned to believe are “bad” like grief, sadness, anger and shame. Why are we so scared of being fully alive in all of our humanness and to really experience what is true for us? After all an emotion is energy-in-motion. Why do we think it’s stronger or better to put on a brave face and just “be fine” and not that let that energy move through us.


Because it is ICKY and painful on so many levels to really be in it! Pain can be cutting, aching and throbbing, grief can be absolutely gut wrenching which is why so many people tend to avoid it or try to control it. This is where I believe medication and additions come into play in our lives.  There are numerous ways a person can disown their emotions and feelings. No shaming here, this is coming from a woman that used to heavily rely on alcohol, drugs, sex and materialism to chase the happy bug and cover up a lot of pain and trauma - Hello that was me!  What we don’t realise though is as we numb the sadness and pain we also dampen the ability to feel the other things like happiness, creativity and playfulness in full measure. Not to mention all the energy  that becomes consumed into “managing” them.

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There are many things to consider that influence our capacity to be with our emotions. For some adults when they were growing up their role models didn’t set a good example of expressing emotions in a healthy way. We are so deeply effected by the patterns of past generations especially if we are unaware of them. Many of us as children didn’t have caregivers that had the capacity to receive us, maybe our emotions were too much so we learnt to hide them. As children we learn to adapt to keep safe.

How many children when they fall over are picked up by their parents and told “Your fine, it’s ok don’t cry”. The parent means well of course but in a really subtle way the child learns it is not ok to cry when they are hurt or in shock. I have seen it many times if the child is held, cries it out, rides out the emotion and the nervous system settles then they start to look around

assessing the scene and then as soon as they feel safe they are off to play again. They rode the wave of being overwhelmed and heightened emotion back to safety whilst being held in a supportive space.


Isn’t it a wish for all to have the experience of being peaceful, contented and satisfied with life? Just imagine if we could move through emotions and learn healthy ways of being/expressing them. The way to a peaceful existence isn’t by blocking out all the “unpeaceful” things in life however we can befriend the experience and by becoming intimate with the waves of emotion that we experience we maybe able to find an underlying peace even when things are tough.


There is healthy and unhealthy ways of experiencing emotion. Unhealthy expressions of emotions are avoidance, blame and denial. Emotions in their healthy form allow us to see a deeper message of what’s going on inside. You can see them like a navigation system. What message is this emotion we are experiencing telling us? Such as anger for instance is all about boundaries. What boundaries have been violated, what boundary wasn’t set? Anger has so much power for transformation - If it is used in a healthy way. A great book to learn about anger is Harriet Lerner - The dance of Anger!


I think that society conditioned us that happiness is the default and anything else is less than but it is impossible to feel happy all the time; and chasing that state of happiness is detrimental. Guess what… We are wired to experience a full spectrum of emotions. It is the HUMAN EXPERIENCE and sadly many of us deny our full humanness. It is no wonder we can struggle if we have an expectation that we are only supposed be happy then when we are not we feel like we don’t fit in the “normal box” we are struggling and trying to get back 'there' (Anyone ever watched the Disney film - inside out, about 5 main emotions, the focus is on Joy but the movie shows that sadness is an inevitable and necessary part of life - Great film for kids and adults!) Society teaches us to push away pain and loss. What belief do you carry around pain?


“Your body knows how to cry and grieve. If you let your feelings arise and keep trying to understand them, you’ll come out of the experience a more integrated, mature person, with greater compassion for both yourself and others" - Lindsay C. Gibson: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

One of the reasons why we attend to avoid our feelings is we don’t feel safe enough to feel our big emotions. If we were one of those children who got shut down for having  emotions, if they made caregivers feel uncomfortable then we learn it is best to keep them in - you need to keep the people you depend on close.

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But how do we do start allowing ourselves to move through our emotions? We start small and learn to become a container for experience. There maybe some emotions that are really available for you, and some not at all and so it is good to spend some time to reflect on this. Between the two friends and I we have a playful joke of emphasising the words “no no, I am fine, everything is JUST FINE” You know it’s not - its good to get curious about what your pushing to the side or not allowing yourself to feel. Then there are the emotions that we have access too and we are able to express in a really overwhelming messy way and so can we get curious about the pattern that comes with them? Firstly it is good to seek out safe spaces where we learn how to hold them and understand them. There are many resources and all  kinds of therapists that can help you access this, it also is helpful to aqquire non-violent communication skills to be able to effectively communite your feelings to others. Recently I did a wonderful 'emotional freedom' somatic dance workshop with Bernadette Pleasant, founder of the Emotional Institute, she has an intoxicating and fiery way of teaching and regularly leads discussions on emotional healing, grief rituals, inclusive movement, and empowerment for all. 


“I speak to individuals who have been silenced, shut down, suppressed and unexpressed.” – Bernadette Pleasant


For my own journey of accessing emotions, one of my greatest teachers was and is the practice of Yin Yoga - the slow meditative practice invites you to come into grounded asanas and commit to stillness while over time (a few minutes) the gentle yet consistent load of your body and the magic of gravity help to release the deeper tissues of your body. We have many things stored in this tissues, on my mat I have experienced sadness, grief, anger, bliss, boredom, agitation and many more… there in the stillness there is no where to go but just observe the emotions, reactive thinking patterns, stories and sensations are they rise and pass, move and change. Here is this profound style of Yoga I started to find ways of being comfortable with the more uncomfortable experiences. We always are supported by the breath.


There is pure gold in the pain, there is real strength in the pain and there is resilience in pain- being able to be true to what is real for you right now.  Accepting the truth of your feelings in every moment makes you fully Human! Your whole being matures by developing emotionally capacity.


In September I will be hosting a 3 week online challenge. The content I have geeked out about for the last few years and I am so happy to gather it all up and offer it out. Each morning there will be an opportunity to explore some theory and then invitation into a practice of Yin Yoga or Yin/Yang Yoga to explore your internal landscape becoming more familiar with your body. By combining the poetic, nature-based philosophy of the Five Elements Theory (which Yin Yoga draws on) with scientific insights from Neurophysiology. This intention is cultivate and develop trust in our inner experience and allow it to be our navigation system- both out in the world and in our relationships. (Please see event details below)


All my Love 

Victoria heart

A Journey Inside with Yin/Yang Yoga

We are combining the poetic, nature-based philosophy of the Five Elements Theory with scientific insights from Neurophysiology and the Practice of Yin Yoga. 

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