How we feel about a situation is a sensation in our body which we often don't 'tune in' to. Instead we label the positive or negative situation with an emotion. We use emotions to describe our perception of a situation. Our perception is called embodied knowing which is our own unique set of associations. These associations emerge from our culture, the activities we do and our early relationships from childhood.
Emotions bridge between:
1. Conceptual - the story of what happened in the situation.
2. Embodied knowing - our own unique set of associations described above, which is our perception.
When we face a situation which is causing us some emotional discomfort, we label the situation with an emotion and embody our reactions to these experiences. We do this by strengthening the connections between neurons from the neurotransmitters in our brain. Neurotransmitters support our learning and include:
1. Dopamine which is released during pleasurable and interesting experiences. However dopamine is also released when we are under stress. Therefore we can embody our unhelpful reactions during stressful experiences because we strengthen the neuron connection when dopamine is released.
2. Adrenaline is released during experiences when we are fearful. Therefore we embody our unhelpful reactions during experiences when we are fearful when adrenaline is released which strengthens this neural connection.
How can we change the perception we have of stress or fear to be constructive to us? How can we change our response to stressful or fearful experiences?
Firstly we should be aware that we generally use too many words to describe the story of what has happened or what is happening in a situation or task which is causing us stress or fear. This distracts us from the sensations in our body which we can choose to 'tune in' to help us overcome the stress or fear.
Secondly instead of labelling a sensation as an emotion, we can explore the sensations in our body relating to the situation or task to then shift our perception of the situation. For stress or fear, we might experience a heavy chest, faster heart rate or a sensation of pressure on our shoulders for example. Identifying the sensation/s, can then help us to explore a more helpful sensation to shift our perception using a scientifically-proven technique in conceptual analysis.
Using conceptual analysis can help us work through stress or fear. This is because the technique enables us to recognise the sensation/s in our body linking to these experiences and then helps us to make room for embodying a new perception to overcome the anxiety or fear.
1. Think about your problem situation or task and have clarity in what is causing you to experience the stress or fear. Do not use words to describe how you are feeling because this is distracting to you.
2. Focus on visualising the struggle you face and paint a picture in your mind of what you see, hear and feel.
3. Consider the sensations you are feeling in your body as you focus on the image. This could be a faster heart rate or a tight sensation in your chest for example.
4. Consider the positive experience you want to feel about the situation or task and why this is important to you. Be clear in why this is important because this is key to the process.
5. Focus on how this feels to you in resolving the situation or completing the task. Consider what sensation or sensations you are feeling in your body and notice this gives you a sense of comfort. This could be a release in relaxing your shoulders for example. You may feel a sense of calm, contentment or a new boost of energy during this movement.
6. Having experienced this sensation, consider if there is room in your image for bringing in the situation or task which has been triggering the stress or fear from earlier.
7. Take a moment to shake your hands or stand up as part of the mental shift.
8. Let the initial sensations you acknowledged earlier from your stress or fear be present.
9. Consider how you can bring the sensation which brought you a sense of calm, into your awareness. Take a mental note of this movement in your body for the shift.
10. Bring the image of your situation or task back into your mind and see if you feel you have a different perception on the situation.
To what degree could you face the situation or task now?
Now you have 'tuned in' to your sensations when experiencing stress or fear relating to a situation or task rather than labelling this emotion. Has this technique changed your perception of the situation or task? Try practicing this technique to create a new experiential awareness.
I help corporate executive women to be more influential during emotion-charged situations by developing their emotional competence to respond constructively.