Dr. Angela Chafee

Increasing Emotional Awareness

You may have learned that only certain emotions are okay to experience and express. Perhaps you were taught that anger is bad, or being afraid or feeling insecure is weak. If so, when these emotions arise within you, you may try to deny them or push them away. Over time, this way of relating to our inner experience often gives rise to anxiety, irritability and/or depression, and gets in the way of having the healthy and satisfying relationships you so desire. Being out of touch with your emotions can leave you feeling disconnected from yourself and disconnected from others.


If you’d like to become more aware of your emotions, here’s how:


  • First, become aware. You can start to increase your awareness by checking inside. Begin a practice of checking inside when you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed. Take a few breaths. Focus your attention on the air coming in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then scan your body for sensations. Do you notice pain or numbness? Do you feel hot or cold? Are you aware of tightness or tension? Whatever calls your attention, allow it to be. Don’t try to change the sensation, just notice it and lean in with curiosity.


  • Take your emotional temperature. Now, open your awareness to emotions. What are you feeling in that moment? Perhaps you notice tension and become aware of fear. Just breathe into the fear, welcome it and lean in. Where does it live in you? You might notice thoughts or stories begin to develop in your mind… Just bring your attention back to your experience of fear within your body.


  • Let emotion flow through you. Emotions are temporary. They pass through when we allow them to, and linger or get stuck when we resist, try to change them or become attached to the thoughts that surround them. When you notice an emotion, bring your attention to your breath and your experience of the emotion in your body. Your mind may begin to spin a story – that’s the human condition. If you focus on and feed the thoughts, the emotion will grow and intensify. If you stay with the emotional experience, void of any thoughts, the emotion flows through you.


  • Decide if action is needed. Sometimes emotions arise because a current situation triggers old memories and old emotions. Acting in the present based on outdated information prevents growth because you’re acting as if you’re living in the past and not taking into account your current circumstances. The steps described above create space so that you can gain clarity and determine what, if any, action you need to take.


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