Many people suppress or deny their emotional experience because they have not been taught how to experience and incorporate them in such a way that improves their relationship to self, others, and the world. I have been reading from Bill Plotkin's book Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche and I came across a teaching that I believe will be valuable to us all: The Four Steps of Emotional Assimilation.
Western cultures suggest that the rational as the superior human experience while emotional experiences are inferior. The truth is that when you learn how to celebrate and honor situations that stir an emotional reaction, whether you perceive them as a negative emotion or a positive emotion, you can develop a richer and fuller life experience.
Begin to see every emotion is a teacher and a support to live in alignment with your mind, body, and spirit's true expression.
If you were not given the chance to learn how to express and incorporate your emotional experience as a child, now is the opportunity to learn how to let your emotions serve you and your relationships. It is never too late to invest in your emotional intelligence.
Bill Plotkin's describes his work in relation to the four cardinal directions, but for this blog I will not be going into depth about the associations with each direction.
The South. Experience the emotion as it is expressed through your body. Emotions are experienced mentally as well as somatically so allow the emotion to express itself in your hands, face, core, legs, voice, posture, etc. Do not interpret here, simply let the physical expression take place.
The West. Ask yourself what this emotion is suggesting about yourself? What values, boundaries, expectations, needs, wants, and desires might you have? Be curious and self-compassionate as you reflect.
The North. Share your emotion to others using nonviolent and compassionate communication (word and action) so that you can establish balance in your social world again or celebrate what is already going well.
The East. Reflect on how this emotional experience fits in with your bigger picture life story. Know that by being apart the collective humanity, you are never alone in this wild adventure of being human.
It's never too late to invest in your emotional intelligence
Here is a brief example of a situation in which one might go through the four steps of emotional assimilation...
Situation preceding emotional reaction: A woman gets cut-off while driving.
Step 1: She experiences a visceral reaction, an urge to curse, grip her hands tightly on the wheel, followed by a trembling in her hands and mouth. She allows both to be expressed and brings an awareness to both.
Step 2: She reflects on how she expects drivers to contribute to a safe experience on the road and was angered because she felt like the driver put herself and her passengers in danger when they cut off her off.
Step 3: She shares with her passenger how scared and angry that experience made her feel and asks if they need anything to feel comfortable again.
Step 4: She recognizes that she responded appropriately overall and was glad her anger didn't put anyone else in danger because that is not aligned with her values.
When the majority of the people in the world learn how to experience and respond to their emotional process, we will have more harmony and collective healing. Let me know if you found this to be a helpful tool. I always love hearing from you :)
Licensed Massage Therapist & Wellness Coach