The safest place to be when you are scared, worried, or anxious is in your body.
Can you feel your feet right now? Without looking, are you wearing shoes or socks? How do you know? Many people will answer this last question with a memory. “Yes, I am wearing shoes. I know because I put them on this morning.” But in truth, the best way to answer this question is by feeling the sensations, the sensory information being sent to your brain.
The same is true when it comes to feelings, emotions, and experience. I’ll often ask clients. How do you know you’re feeling anxious. Again, many clients will pause, look confused, and answer, “Well, I can just feel it.”
To a certain part of your brain, sensations are sensations. There is no difference between the sensations associated with feeling a shoe on your foot and the experience of anxiety. Now, there can be significant differences in the intensity of sensations, of course. If I tightened the laces of your shoe, you would quickly notice.
The reason the safest place to be during emotional distress is that at their purest, bodily sensations, physical sensations are completely neutral. When we are in distress most of us are stuck up in our head. Listening to the thoughts and voices that only fuel our anxiety, worry, and fear. Body awareness gives us some distance from the negative emotions, thoughts, and belief systems that keep the distressing experience going full-force. Thoughts when disconnected from our feelings and sensations result in corrosive rumination, fantasy, delusion, and excessive worry
Drop below the storyline. The storyline takes place in our mind, which just so happens to reside in our head! Drop into your physical sensations. I will often guide clients in learning how to find where and how distressing feelings and emotions show up in the sensations of their body. Often, each of us has common map of where our anxiety, worry, fear consistently shows up in our body. I’ll ask clients to get such a detailed sense of where and how their emotion is felt in their body that if we could connect them to a 3D-printer, we could print it out, and they could hold it in their hands and say, “Yes, that’s exactly it!”
When you can begin to drop below the thoughts and storyline of your distess and focus purely on the sensations of your experience, you will notice that the experience can and will soothe on its own. Your confidence in handling distressing experiences, and your ability to manage and navigate anxiety, worry, anger, confusion and other uncomfortable feelings will grow immensely, allowing you to lead a happier, more peaceful, and satisfying life!