Breathing is the most natural thing in the world. In with the oxygen. Out with the carbon dioxide.
In with life-giving air. Out with waste. Unconscious. Automatic. When we hold our breath, we consciously interrupt this natural cycle by decreasing oxygen and increasing carbon dioxide in our blood, brain, and lungs. Because a buildup of carbon dioxide is harmful, potentially deadly, our bodies will override our conscious efforts, to not breathe, with painful spasms and contractions of our diaphragm and the muscles of our ribcage. Our body will leave us no other option but to release the breath, even if it isn’t safe to do so – like under water.
Similarly, emotions are as natural as breathing. We experience our emotions, or feelings, in our
bodies – sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not. (ie, butterflies in our stomachs, a lump in our
throats, tears of joy). Emotions communicate to our bodies how we interpret what we are
experiencing. Some of us are aware of what we are feeling, but many of us go through life
unconscious of our emotions. There is a reason we humans are unaware of what we are
feeling. Emotions can be very uncomfortable. We protect ourselves through distraction or
checking out through addictions. Addictions come in many forms: alcohol, drugs, eating,
sleeping, gaming, social media, or pornography. Engaging in distractions or addictions is like
emotionally holding our breath.
When we continually ignore our feelings, “stuff them down”, or avoid them, they can become
damaging to our emotional and physical health. Eventually, the buildup of unprocessed feelings
becomes painful and can override logic and reasoning. This built-up emotional energy will
eventually force a release; even if it is in a way or place, or toward a person that is not
appropriate. You might yell at a child or a boss. You might make a biting, disrespectful comment
toward your partner. Maybe your physical health takes the hit. You may develop ulcers,
insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis, or migraines, etc.
The thing about feelings is they are meant to be FELT. This is how the energy is appropriately
processed and released. This is the ‘exhale’ of emotions. So, how is it done? One way is by
using The Vowels of Processing Emotion.
A - Awareness
E - Explore
I - Invite
O - Own
U – Unite
A - Awareness: become aware of the emotion and name it.
E - Explore: drop down out of your head and into your body and explore how that emotion feels
in your body. (For example, I feel anxiety as a tightness in my chest, a buzzing in my stomach,
my armpits get sweaty, and my face feels hot.)
I - Invite: don’t judge the emotion, don’t resist the emotion, don’t try to avoid or escape the
emotion. Invite the emotion to stay as long as it likes.
O - Own: own that you are the creator of your emotions. “I am feeling _____, because I am
thinking this thought ____________.”
U - Unite: unite yourself with the present moment. What is true right now? Are you safe? What
can you see, hear, smell, taste, touch at this moment?
We all can become comfortable feeling our emotions -- even the uncomfortable ones. It just takes learning a few skills and practice, lots of practice. Actually, it takes a lifetime of practice. January is the time when we typically think about what we want to happen for the coming year. Make 2023 the year you stop holding your breath. Release the toxicity. FEEL your feelings. Doing so will allow you to access the power inside you to create the life you want.
(This post also appears as an article in the Grand Junction Lifestyle, January 2023 issue.)