Embodied Emotion

This morning I woke up at 4 am my mind already racing with nothing in particular. The familiar tightness in my chest that I’ve had for so long now that it feels normal. The only difference is the severity of the discomfort. The best way to describe this morning was the feeling that I’m trying to breathe while someone is pressing on my chest. The sharp pain allows for shallow breathing at best. I find that when it’s at its worst I need to be especially conscious of the way I breathe as the added” weight” causes shallow breathing.

Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way. – Charles Bukowski

his morning there is an added delight, a slight nauseousness/discomfort at the pit of my stomach. I tried all the usual techniques, breathing into the discomfort, questioning it, sitting with it, but nothing seemed to help, so I end up going and grabbing my phone and scrolling for an hour or so. Yes, I know that’s the opposite of what I should have done, but hey, no one is perfect, and I was sick of my mind spinning through ridiculous scenarios.

I had the same sensations yesterday as I left work. Thick nausea at the bottom of my stomach. I’m aware these feelings don’t last forever but I’d really like to understand where it came from, and what caused it.

I know that it’s possible to live without it. After Ayahuasca the chest tightness completely left for a month or so. I’d never been able to breathe so freely but then it returned, seemingly here to stay. It leads me to believe that it's psychosomatic, caused by unresolved emotions or thoughts and that there is potential for it to go, if even for short periods. It’s frustrating to be in a position where I am aware my thoughts are playing a vital role in these physical manifestations in my body, especially when I spend so much of my time trying to understand them.

It leads me to wonder how many people never make these connections. Those with anxiety or challenging emotions, not seeing the responses in their bodies or maybe suppress them, not wanting to acknowledge the effect they have. I think that I do the same. It feels like I am blocking myself from fully feeling into the discomfort no matter how much I try. In all honesty, I’m quite scared of the day when whatever it is finally makes its way to the surface and I have to deal with it. All I can do is keep turning up, keep going to therapy, and allow myself to be as present with the sensations as my subconscious will allow. Frustrating, but from what I can see it’s the best I can do.

The largest part of what we call ‘personality’ is determined by how we’ve opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness ― Alain de Botton

I was recently reminded of Søren Kierkegaard’s quote “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” I’m not sure I entirely believe it, but it’s a nice idea to help toward shifting the feeling of complete loss of what to do into one of excitement and anticipation for the future.

One thing that helped to ease the pressure in the short term was a walk and some good music. I spent an hour or so wandering the streets and admiring the houses along the way. It’s quite funny actually, I grew up here and until that walk, I’d never really appreciated the gardens, old cottages and 70s bungalows tucked away on the busy main road. I’d never notice them as I was always zooming back and forth by car or on a bike. I think walking is extremely underrated but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.

As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.” – Bessel A. van der Kolk

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