When I teach conflict management skills, a key take-away is to dispel the myth that emotions and feelings are bad—a detriment to healing conflict with others. In fact, the opposite is true; both our emotions and feelings are data; important data that help us understand conflict situations in a clearer, more rational way. Interestingly, the same is true even when we're not in conflict with others.
Emotions are our initial reaction to an event or situation and manifest as sensations in our bodies. They are considered raw data that turns into emotional information. Feelings are the mental interpretation of that raw data and give us a framework to create perceptions and beliefs. Understanding both is important but most of us have much more practice at understanding our feelings. We often don't take the time to understand how our emotions connect to our bodies in any deeper way other than, “Oh yeah, I carry stress in my neck...” or “I get stress headaches.” But, doing so can be powerfully healing and liberating.
Emotional body mapping is the quickest way to track where emotions land in our bodies and is a therapeutic technique that I use often with my clients. Sometimes we use mapping for simple awareness, but most times we use it to help release negative emotional information that has gotten stored as what researchers call packages in our bodies. Common spots where these packages live can be chest, neck, back, pelvic region, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, muscles, nervous system, skin, cells, just to name a few, and they can do incredible damage if left unreleased.
Nowhere has this been more evident for me than when I work with women who have suffered miscarriages. Whether the miscarriage happens early term or as a still born, the mother’s body holds on to the negative emotional information experienced from the traumatic event right down to the cellular level. Of course, emotional mapping is only the first step in helping to release the pain of such an experience. I am honored to be able to help guide women not only to release and heal but to reconnect to positive emotions that also impact the body only in a much healthier way.
Emotional body mapping can be as simple as stopping to take notice of where your emotions connect to your body. As soon as you experience an emotion, notice the body part that has a corresponding reaction. That will probably be the most affected body part first, but if you spend a minute more, you’ll notice others. Keeping track of the affected body parts is the first step not only to increasing your emotional awareness (and emotional intelligence) but also to counteracting the potential long-term consequences of life’s most stressful moments.