Have you ever thought about sitting down to have a chat with your anger, grief, resistance, pain, or fear? Have you ever struck up a conversation with self-sabotage or conducted an interview with anxiety?
Sounds silly, huh? We know emotions aren’t real beings, so talking to them sounds . . . a little crazy. I thought so, too, at first and wasn’t 100% comfortable with the idea of sitting down, visualizing Resistance sitting across from me, and asking it questions.
The thing I learned, however, when I started dialoging with my feelings (whether resistance, numbness, self-sabotage, or perfectionism) was that this method allowed me a far greater insight and understanding of these parts of my life than just turning them over in my head did.
Why? I think this method draws on a different part of ourselves. Instead of hashing our issues out over and over again in the spheres of thought, we’ve now tapped into our creative side. Some would say we’ve allowed space for our unconscious to get involved in the process, as we’ve taken a step back from trying to figure things out in a purely intellectual manner.
For me, dialoguing with my feelings has given me far greater insight and revealed that every single one of these feelings is there to help and guide me. Self-sabotage wants to protect the core of who I am from being torn down in the turmoils of life, Numbness wants to protect me from self-sabotage by anesthetizing my emotions, and Resistance wants to protect me from taking a risk and experiencing possibly devastating rejection further down the line. In their own ways, each emotion is there for my good. When understood and wielded properly, they can be very effective, but when allowed to run in charge, they become crippling.
Who, then, needs to be in charge? The person in charge is what some call your Wise Self. This is the part of you where all your hopes and dreams, all your experience, all your wisdom, reside. This is the part of you that sees things clearly and objectively (though not perfectly). Some might call this the Higher Self or Core Self. When you are at peace, you often encounter the Wise Self running the show. Think back to a moment you were at peace, happy (or able to tap into emotions without feeling controlled by them), and felt as if you were seeing everything clearly and in balance. Or imagine a moment your creative side took every and you felt as if you were stepping into the flow of life. That part of you is who your emotions look to for guidance. They are messengers, heralds, and counselors, but they have no idea how to run a kingdom.
So, how do we dialogue with our emotions?
It’s not hard! Get comfy, then visualize your emotion sitting or standing across from you. You can visualize something specific (maybe your anger looks like a grouchy bear or resistance like a boxer about to take you down) or something more vague. You could even just visualize the word “Anger” sitting across from you. Once you’ve done that, start asking questions. Try “Why are you angry (sad, hateful, scared, etc.)?”, “What are you trying to accomplish?”, and “What do you need from me?”. Write down any answers that come to you or any insights you gain. At the end of the interview, remember to look the emotion in the face and say, “Thank you for trying to protect me. I see you and accept you.” This is vital (as explained in the TED Talk linked below). Your emotions are here not as enemies but as helpers. They may seem like a burden, a hindrance, or even an adversary, but they are part of you and there for a reason—to help you survive and thrive. Rejecting them only puts you at odds with yourself.
Challenge!: Try dialoging with an emotion that’s been cropping up a lot in your life over the past few weeks. Take down notes afterward and notice if the practice of dialoging helps you better understand and accept the emotion. Do you feel more connected to your Wise Self? Was the practice uncomfortable? If so, can you better adapt it to fit what you need and what feels natural for you? What did you learn?
Further Study: Check out this TED Talk by Emily Eldredge, where she explains more about the power of dialoging with your emotions and how to go about it.