Today I want to share with you one of the most valuable things I have learned in the last few years: How to overcome an emotional block.
First, a personal story:
My husband and I usually email each other every morning on workdays, just saying hello, checking in on how things are going, and discussing business. It’s usually pretty light, affectionate, and informative. Today, however, it was long.
I had included excerpts of letters I had written to three different people– all about the same thing, in different contexts. I was frustrated, and just needed to vent a little and check to see if my perspective was out of line. He called me right away, saying “An email that length requires a phone call response.” (Good husband.) I hadn’t realized how worked up I was over the issue until I started talking about it. My throat felt sore and almost hoarse as I described my frustration with the interactions of the day. I said over and over again that this felt like a test, and wondered if I was handling it correctly.
Here was the issue: It seemed like everyone was asking me at once to do professional work for them, either for free or for very little.
These were not friends or family members, but individuals in my community that I wanted to serve. This happens a lot to people who have skills that they use to serve others on a nurturing level– in my case, doing bodywork. (And I suspect that it happens quite a bit more to women than to men.) I expect this to happen sometimes because of the field I’m in, and I try to handle it with grace and generosity, as well as self-respect.
But today, the fact that I had four requests in 24 hours for special treatment and deeply discounted work sent me over the edge.
I had so many mixed emotions– anger for what I perceived as disrespect for my professional credentials, guilt for asking for payment for my service and expertise, and the weariness that comes from having other people want you to do things for them, without appropriate reciprocation.
And there was insecurity: Is it because I am not good enough to be paid for my work?
As I talked with Jeff, we both drew correlations to issues in my past– chronic ones– that this experience today reminded me of. Feeling exploited, wanting to please everyone, giving away all of my resources until I was hanging by a thread. Trying to keep some of my own energy for my own use and well-being, yet feeling like it was being tapped by others. It also reminded me of some of my own issues that I had worked hard to overcome– and seeing others replicating these patterns really provoked strong reactions for me.
I had a lot of other work to do (yes, work that would pay me!) and plenty of happily-paying clients on my schedule for the week. But I was so distracted and irritated by this emotional situation that I couldn’t get anything done. My chest was tight, and my neck had become sore. I knew what I needed to do.
I needed to “do time” with the issues. And not only that, I needed to feel them intentionally.
How to Overcome an Emotional Block
Here’s the thing about emotions: We experience them in our bodies. And the more we avoid experiencing emotions, the more they chase us. The only way past them is through them.
I know this sounds kind of nebulous at this point, but there is a really clear and simple way to get through the feelings and the mental and emotional blocks they cause.
The key is Emotional Connection.
Here’s how to do it:
- Take a moment. Find a quiet place if you can (especially at first, when you are learning this technique– in the future, you can do it just about anytime or anywhere.)
- Tune in to your body. Do a quick scan and see where your attention is drawn to. Is there a knot in your stomach? A heaviness in your chest, a pull in your throat? Does your neck feel sore? Explore the sensation. Is it sharp, dull, heavy, hot, cold?
- Invite your mind to revisit the issue that brought up the feelings in your body. If possible, let the scenario replay without making any judgements, simply observing your body as you do so. You may experience flashbacks or related scenarios that help you find the root of your emotional block– these are often found in childhood, but can be from any point in time. Don’t worry if you aren’t coming up with much– the most important part is feeling the way the emotion sits in your body.
- Follow the sensation. Sometimes this is all that is needed– stay with the sensation as it moves and takes different shapes in your body, until it eventually dissipates. This is usually followed by a feeling of opening and lightness in your body. Often times, a deep breath signals the release of the emotion from your body.
Here are a couple of tips:
- Do your best not to make any judgements about your emotions, your thoughts, or what should happen to the sensations in your body. Just choose to be present and observe.
- Go slowly. Don’t worry about the whole process, just focus on the little bit that is happening in that moment– and don’t rush it. (Trust me, it really doesn’t take long at all, once you commit to doing it!)
- If there is a scenario that keeps repeating itself in your life, it’s a good idea to recreate it in your mind’s eye, observing closely your body’s response to each part of that scenario. Again, you may get new visions of previous time this has happened, and this will also give you the opportunity to resolve those instances at the same time.
- We spend a lot of our energy avoiding uncomfortable emotions. This just prolongs the agony. It’s natural to get a of hint of something really uncomfortable (feelings of anger, fear, rejection, loneliness, etc.) and then to want to move away from it. Don’t judge yourself for doing this. Acknowledge, then choose to explore the feeling again. You are an observer here, and there is no right or wrong way to feel about your feelings.
I think you will be amazed by how powerful this simple technique is in letting you move past emotional blocks. It’s healing, and will help you really clarify what is going on in your mind, heart and life.
I was attracted to this method immediately because of the type of bodywork I do. I believe that our bodies are our feedback system for our life– physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional. We experience all of life through our bodies, and one of the wisest things we can do is to tune in and listen and feel. Emotions stick around until we are able to really feel them– and when we don’t, they turn into physical issues.
Alright, back to my own recent experience of overcoming my emotional block, related to people asking me to work for them without appropriate pay…
As I was talking to Jeff on the phone, feeling all of the tension in my throat, chest, and neck, I realized that I needed to stop and connect in order to allow these feelings to pass through me.
I took a few minutes to go into my room, settle quietly, close my eyes, and tune in.
I brought up one of the scenarios and played it back in my mind. I immediately felt my throat aching. I stayed with that, and it spread down into my chest, making it harder to breathe, and up into the back of my neck and shoulders. I stayed with it.
As I got distracted, not really wanting to feel it all, I brought my mind back.
Another scenario flashed into my mind, a woman saying “Why won’t you just help me? Why do I have to pay you?” I felt the experience of guilt deep in my stomach.
A family member showed up too, telling me she was disappointed that I would withhold my skills when she needed them. More guilt, deepening pressure in my chest, and then full-body heaviness, as I re-experienced the sensation of adrenal exhaustion I had acquired from trying to meet everyone’s overwhelming needs earlier in my life, without taking care of myself.
Suddenly, I saw myself as a child, hearing the words “You don’t deserve it.” Unworthiness.
My jaw clenched and my throat tightened. A tear escaped my closed eyes. All of the sensations I had been feeling intensified.
And then the pressure lightened and warmth filled my stomach, chest and throat. I felt it move towards my neck, and then my body lightened even more.
I drew a deep breath and felt a sensation of openness through my chest and throat.
I opened my eyes, and felt clarity. I have been afraid that I am not worthy of being paid for my work. People challenging me by asking me to work for free (or for less) has exacerbated this feeling for me. I allowed myself to feel that fear and the sensation of being unworthy, and it passed. I was able to return to work with a clear mind and a lighter body, more aware of the issue that had come up, and free of the emotional block that it had created for me. I could stick to my professional and personal boundaries without guilt and feelings of unworthiness.
Later, after the emotional charge this situation brought me had been defused through intentional emotional connection, I was able to see the professional situation really differently. Working out a discount or replying to a question about my rates no longer felt threatening to me. I was able to see the whole scheme of things in a new light, and suddenly felt like I had options. No one was telling me I didn’t deserve to be paid for m work, and none of it was personal. I could say yes or no to requests whole-heartedly, with a sense of calm and clarity.Hopefully, you will find this technique both helpful and transformative. I learned about this technique for overcoming emotional blocks and living more freely (and honestly) through the book, The One Thing Holding You Back. I cannot recommend it highly enough!