Dear Candy - Ways to work with elevated emotions
Several questions have come up around working with elevated emotions - how to best do it, how to do it if you don't feel it, does it have to be bliss or some other super elevated emotion to get benefit, etc.
A couple of basics to keep in mind when working to elevate emotions:
1) It does not have to be bliss or on-top-of-the-world super intense positivity in order to benefit. There are many different positive emotional states, each useful to the rewiring process. Some of the possible options include: appreciation, gratitude, joy, love, contentment, beauty-appreciating, fun, humour, playfulness, wonder, awe, compassion, loving-kindness, caring, creativity, spaciousness, connection, calm, inspiration, etc. While some may be able to access supreme joy or bliss, it is not a requirement in order to rewire your brain. All elevated emotions are useful, and sometimes elevated states, when repeated, lead to even more elevation.
2) Take the path of least resistance. What I mean by that is whatever elevated emotional state is most easily accessible to you, start there. Fully cultivate that emotional state, take it in and savour it, then build from there to other elevated emotions.
3) Revise how you view success. If you are in a negative state and your attempt to cultivate a different emotional state brings you a little closer to more positive state, consider that a success. We need to look at where we are starting from and define success by anything that moves us toward where we are going, not just when we arrive at our destination. If, after your attempt, you feel a little calmer, kinder, more loving, more grateful, etc., that is a step in the right direction and considered a success. Celebrate that and continue to reach for those little shifts. Eventually they will all add up and before you know it, what started as a little shift will turn into a bigger one.
4) If you don't feel it, act as if you do. Sometimes we have to go through the motions before accessing the real emotions. Imagine what it would feel like if the feeling you are trying to create was real. Bring that into your awareness. It doesn't have to be over the top, it can be subtle. You can also go to a memory of when you last felt that emotion and make it more real that way. If you don't have memories of that, imagine what it would feel like or ask someone else in your life how that emotion feels to them and use it as a template.
Even something simple, like the act of smiling, can change your neurochemistry. Put a smile on your face (big enough to reach your eyes) and try to hold that smile for two minutes (you can set a timer). It will create a neurochemical change in your brain. Or engage in laughter yoga. Dr Kitaria describes how even if you don't feel it and it isn't genuine your system still benefits from the act of doing it. And eventually, we can gain access to the genuine laughter (or smile). If it doesn't happen right away, that is okay. Still go through the motions and know that each time you do it you are developing pathways in your brain that will eventually lead you to the genuine thing.
5) Make this a go-to throughout your day. Remember repetition is key. The more time you spend reaching for and cultivating the elevated states, the easier it will become to access them and to stay there, despite what is happening around you (or even in your own body).
6) Watch the stories your brain tries to tell you about this process and the fact that you might be having trouble accessing those emotions. Do not entertain thoughts like, "this isn't real", "this isn't doing anything", "I'll never get there", "this is stupid", etc. Those are just stories your limbic system has created to try and keep you stuck where you're at. There is solid evidence that if you keep doing it, your brain will have no choice but to change. When those negative thoughts or stories comes up, actively redirect away. You can also tell your brain that you're setting all judgement aside for now and will re-evaluate at the end of a set time period (like a few weeks or a month), to help alleviate some of that inner chatter.
There are many brain retrainers who couldn't access positive emotions when they started, but through perseverance and repetition of the tools eventually got to a place where they were genuinely accessible. You can get there too!
Next week: A variety of Q & A for questions that have been coming in
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com