A practical guide to loving your emotions by Dr. Gail Brenner.

A practical guide to loving your emotions by Dr. Gail Brenner.

Does your emotional life seem like a puzzle? We experience emotions and they bring suffering and upset to our lives. But somehow we know that it’s possible for them to move through us like clouds across the sky.

We are so much bigger than our emotions, and they can’t begin to define our true nature. Whenever you’re experiencing emotions, there is also something that is untouched by them, something that can hold them in a vast, loving embrace.

Our emotions—all of them—need tender loving care. And who best to care for them? You. How to do that? Here’s a practical guide.

Emotions are given to us. They’re built into the human body. They’re an integral part of the experience of this lovely human life. And they’re here to be accepted and loved. Sometimes emotions—the challenging ones like fear, grief, and anger—pass through like a light spring rain, and sometimes the weather is wild and stormy.

Don’t be attached to always wanting peace and happiness. When emotions visit you, don’t avoid them. Because you’ll be missing out on an opportunity for melting barriers inside you.

Openhearted Welcoming

Being with emotions is simple, once you get the hang of it. It’s just about letting the energy run through you. First you notice the emotion: You’ll say, “I’m angry,” or you’ll become aware of a wave of upset or unhappiness. Take a breath and pay attention to the sensations as you breathe. Then turn toward the emotion, and hold it in the wide-open space of being loving and aware. Let the sensations in your body be. Welcome the energy or power or agitation or numbness.

When your attention gets drawn into your mind and you’re grabbed by a lot of thinking, gently bring attention back to your body and breath. Don’t wish for your experience to be any different than it is. Just breathe, open, and let things be.

And when you welcome the emotion fully, you’ll feel it. You might sob or scream as it moves through, and this is okay. It’s being released and liberated.

Be with your emotion like this for as long as it feels right—maybe 30 seconds or a half hour or more. You’ll know. At some point, you’ll be moved to focus on something else or take some kind of action. You’re just flowing to the next thing.

When You’re Flooded by Emotions

When strong emotions arise, they can be overpowering. They take you over so you can’t sleep. They occupy your mind so you can’t focus on anything else. You’re distraught and out of sorts.

If you’re panicky, deeply feeling grief, or in a rage, you might find it too hard to relax and let the emotions be. Maybe they feel out of control and too strong. This is when you take a different approach that honors the emotion but gives you some space from it.

Take several deep breaths, filling your lungs in the front, side, back, top, and bottom…then exhale. Soothe yourself physically by hugging yourself or stroking your arm or shoulder. As you do this, focus your attention on the sensations. Put your hand on your heart or belly. Take a few breaths. Try this grounding practice. Put your attention on the situation you are in and name what you’re perceiving. For example, go into nature and say, “the air on my skin, the birds chirping, trees moving in the wind. ”And another grounding practice. Stand up and feel your feet on the earth. Feel grounded right where you are. Then breathe or name things or put your hand on your belly or heart. Reflect on what you really want for yourself in the moment, and say “peace, calm, relaxation, steadiness.” Repeat whatever words resonate for you like a prayer.

Once you’re not so overwhelmed, turn toward the emotion directly and let it in like the loved one that it is. It will untangle naturally when it’s met with love and acceptance. Emotions run through you, but they’re not you. Let them come and go, and here you are—awake and alive in this very moment.