By Diane Babalas, D.C.
Did you know that trying to overcome your emotions is a bit like taking down your mailbox so you don’t receive bills in the mail? Just as receiving an electric bill and responding to it keeps energy running in our homes, feeling and responding to our emotions keeps our own energy in flow. If we can see our emotions as messengers, like Karla McClaren recommends in her book Language of Emotions, then we can stop judging them and work with the messages they bring.
Visualizing our emotions as a flowing stream is really helpful to understand this form of communication. When the stream is flowing smoothly within us we have emotions come up and we may notice, 'I feel upset or nervous or sad'. Often in our culture, we then do one of two things. We may repress our emotion and push it down deeper, essentially building a dam creating a higher pressure, more intense version of the emotion. Consider fear, in its flowing state, alerts us to something we need to pay attention to. If we ignore the fear, we may then experience an amplification into anxiety and panic.
The other common response to uncomfortable emotions is to act them out. Instead of flowing with the waves of feeling, we put them outside of ourselves where we are robbing ourselves of the information they carry. We may then unconsciously attract similar situations until we pay attention to what the emotion is trying to tell us.
As an example, I recently took a class in public speaking, one of people's greatest fears. After the first week of class, half the people that had signed up and paid for the course dropped out! Many people in the class admitted to turning down speaking opportunities that could grow their businesses because of their strong fear.
I tried to pay attention to my own fear. I decided what I wanted to share with people was more important to me than what could go wrong. I noticed that while I was afraid of sharing my voice, the course offered great steps to prepare us for giving quality presentations. When I realized the main thing I was afraid of was not being understood, I was able to slow down, think things through with clarity and my feeling of fear dissipated as my presentation took shape.
If I had ignored my fear, I know that I would not have given nearly the level of presentation that I was capable of. If I had tried to act out and displace my fear outside of myself, I would have focused on other people's horror stories, blamed my audience or my teachers to justify my own fear. I would have talked myself out of the class missing an incredible opportunity to grow, share and empower myself and others.
Karla McClaren suggests a number of powerful questions to help us unwrap the information that “negative” emotions bring. For example, if we notice a feeling of fear arising we can ask ourselves, "What do I need to pay attention to?" "What action do I need to take?" When we pay attention to the information, we transform ourselves and the emotions transform. We are in flow.
In our culture, we prize our great thinkers and problem solvers. We rarely reward those with emotional sensitivity. Too often we deem our thinking more important than the cues and information we get from our bodies and emotions. I've observed that if we simply create an opportunity to ask and to listen, a lot of the intensity and turmoil naturally dissipates. I think of Lucy who came in with hip pain. As I assessed her system, I noticed a feeling of disconnection in her torso essentially cutting of the flow of information through her body. When we re-established a feeling of continuity, the tension in the hips seemed actually to be coming from a deep pull in her chest. As we worked together Lucy acknowledged a deep feeling of grief and was surprised by how easily the tension seemed to dissolve from her hips.
In my chiropractic practice, I see a lot of evidence in people's bodies of the battles going on between their thoughts and emotions. Our musculature can depict these tug-of-wars we feel. The "stuck" feeling in our backs can be reflecting the paralysis we feel between our own thoughts and emotions. Learning how to listen and value all the information our system is giving us is the first step in healing.
Can you remember a moment that inspired you, that took your breath away? These kinds of feelings move us deeply and can be a portal, connecting us to something deep within. Our sense of passion and knowing deeply what is true for us is a vital, fiery aspect of our being.
When I was in college considering what I wanted to do with my life, I desperately searched for something that I connected to deeply. I wanted to be inspired by what I chose; I wasn't willing to settle for something that would just be practical or sensible. My quest led me to a special chiropractor who used a combination of the typical bone adjustments and specific gentle touch. As she worked with me I realized she was connecting to some deeper part of my being, a part I wasn't even aware had existed. I learned that chiropractic was a profession originally designed to connect people with the clear, innate intelligence within them. I was truly inspired and have been in love with chiropractic ever since.
The human body is brilliant, complex and dynamic. We know scientifically there is no separation between our body, thoughts, feelings, and spirit. When we pay attention to, listen and work with our emotions we live a more healthy, fulfilled life. There are many ways we can improve our listening and our connections to ourselves. I am honored to work with people in my chiropractic practice and love assisting them in connecting more deeply with the unlimited potential within them. Your body-mind-heart is talking to you, are you listening?
Dr. Diane believes the body has amazing wisdom and that we each possess an infinite potential for healing and growth. Assisting others to tap into this internal power and express it with ever greater fullness is her passion and the focus of her work as a chiropractor. She has been serving the Ann Arbor community since 2000. Her practice is called Gateway Chiropractic.