I’ve been working on developing a skill set for processing emotion. It’s super powerful and helpful because things that I used to tuck away or constantly numb have become less scary. I can say, “Hello shame, disappointment, jealousy, longing (or whatever the emotion happens to be)—let’s do this.” I have a few ways of processing emotion and I thought it might be helpful to share.
Music. I love playing the piano and singing as a way of processing emotion, although I think singing loudly along with a song a high volume can do the same thing. Music is such a powerful form of expression. It’s helpful to dance, sing, play or listen.
Motion. There is something about motion that is so helpful. Sometimes we feel paralyzed by our emotions and we want to lie in bed with the covers pulled up. For me, motion is almost always more helpful. I try to honor my emotion by allowing it to flavor my movement, like I might listen to a sad song as I walk, or take it easy in my yoga practice. The intention of the movement is everything. If I’m trying to numb out the pain with a loud, peppy song when I’m down, it doesn’t work. A few weeks ago I was feeling really sad and went to the YMCA to lift weights. I listened to the Lumineers (sad music) while I lifted and at one point, I sat down on the weight bench and cried for a minute. That, for me, was a good picture of the process. (Yes, I am the crazy lady crying on the weight bench at the YMCA on a Tuesday afternoon!). House cleaning, going to work—all of these obligations can be effective MOTION for processing emotion when the right intention is applied.
Art. I have always liked writing poetry—seriously, since first grade. Mark Nepo says poetry is the “unexpected utterance of the soul.” I believe art, in all its forms, is a powerful tool for processing emotion. Elizabeth Gilbert described “creativity with a little c” as anything that is slightly creative and I think it is useful to think of art this way when processing emotion. You don’t have to be creating a masterpiece. The whole purpose of the process IS the PROCESS. Draw a picture, write a poem, write a paragraph, build it with Legos, arrange the contents of your refrigerator—just do something that shows you exist in the world and that this moment, this emotion, is real!
Here’s a poem I wrote this morning, while processing some shame. I put it here, not because I think it’s so great (I actually have no idea how one judges the merits of poetry), but to give you permission to pull your emotions into being. Namaste.