Even if we are not aware of our emotions, cannot define them or even if we don’t realise we have any emotions, they still exist and affect us and our bodies. Those among us who are able to understand personal emotions as well as emotions of other people have a big advantage: if we understand emotions we can also transform and channel them.
In many cultures and families people do not learn to express emotions or to talk about them. Many people, for example, struggle to say “I love you” to their loved ones. Children who grow up in such environment would rather learn how to suppress emotions than how to express them. Although such suppression may be praised as self-control and ‘a stiff upper lip,’ unrealised and suppressed emotions may become the source of various blockages in our body, lead to illness and life dissatisfaction.
More specifically, suppressed emotions may lead to:
The loss of life energy
Weakening of the immune system
Unintended and unexplained actions
Suppression of grievances
Ungrounded protests and attempts to prove something
Quite a gloomy list, indeed. But we can break down a tendency towards these scenarios by simply tracking our emotions and questioning their belonging as a part of our character.
Emotions are not genetic, they are acquired and as such they can be influenced and changed. When we understand our emotions, we are able to choose a proper mechanism for their positive transformation.
All our emotions find their reflection in our bodies. The good way towards their proper understanding is the recognition of their presence in our body language. Below I list a few such emotions and their expression in our body language.
Most people would agree that when we feel ashamed, it feels as our face and chest are on fire. At the same time, our limbs are cold and heavy. Many people cannot help but get red-faced, while others feel as if their body physically shrinks.
As a rule, grievance is located in our chest, causing its compression, aching feeling or even a spasm in the solar plexus of our body. It may feel warm or neutral, accompanied by our desire to bend our back and clench our fists.
This is one of the strongest emotions, which affects our entire body. As a rule, fury and anger spread like hot waves in our bodies, awakening the desire to act. Actions caused by fury and anger are often thoughtless and hasty. The powerful adrenaline rush makes us react unpredictably. Commonly, anger signals the transgression of certain limits. If we manage to locate and localise them, our anger will subside.
We often feel it as itching or tingling in the limbs. We can’t remain still, our body needs movements and actions. When we feel such body reaction, it is better to find the way to release it instead of blocking it. If we block, for example, the desire to skip along the path or do a few push ups only because we wear a formal suit, we may equally end up blocking our work enthusiasm and motivation.
We often block this emotion by another one - shame. We feel it is shameful to enjoy the pleasure or to indulge ourselves. In fact, the experience of pleasure serves as a prevention of depression, nervous breakdowns and fury. Our body experiences lightness and muscle relaxation. We are eager to smile. It is important to experience pleasure and see the results it offers to our bodies.
We experience gratitude as a nice warmth throughout our body, as a desire to breathe deeper and to hug people around you. We feel how our mood is lifted and we want to create. In this moment our body actively produces serotonin, the natural neuromediator.
Each emotion may have slightly different, individual, expressions in our bodies. What is certain is that we can follow, recognise and transform our emotions.
The first step is to track our emotions. The best way to do this is to relax, find a comfortable position and recollect a situation when we felt any particular emotion (shame, grievance, pleasure, etc.). We can then slowly shift our attention to the behaviour of our body. How does it react to a given emotion? What do we feel and where is this feeling located? Once we are able to connect each emotion to their specific expressions in our bodies, we can have better understanding of our bodies and their reactions to particular emotions.
As the next step, we can transform our negative emotions into the positive ones. If we make an effort to cultivate our positive emotions on the regular basis, we will acquire an overall state of positive thinking. On the contrary, if we feed our negative emotions, we’ll get the corresponding results. We can notice it in our body language. When we feel down and depressed, we put our head down, hunch our shoulders and bend our entire body. If we try, while in this state, to change our body language - straighten our shoulders, raise our heads higher, open up our arms and look into the distance - our brain will pick up a signal of confidence, openness and a positive attitude. In this way, our cognitive state begins to affect our subconsciousness.
Sometimes, however, emotional blockages go much deeper and a mere change of body language is unable to send a proper signal to our brain. Such deeper blockages can be tackled during individual coaching and training sessions. If you are interested, you can watch the video of Amy Cody (TED) where she explains these connections.
How do you use the power of emotions and your body language?
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…”
(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)
We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!
With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.