The second awareness technique I want to discuss is to conduct a physical inventory. By this I mean that we will use the physical sensations in our body to help us determine what we are feeling.
Emotions are manifested in our bodies. What we feel emotionally is reflected in what we feel physically. If you are having trouble feeling an emotion or cannot name what you are feeling, you might be able to use your body as a clue. You can train yourself to recognize what it feels like to be happy or sad.
Here is a quick guide to the sensations that go with each of the feeling families. It is important to note that these physical sensations can vary from person to person. As you begin to pay attention your own body, you may note minor variations.
Happy – Faster heartbeat, relaxed muscles, laughing, smiling
Scared – Faster heartbeat, tightness down the back of the neck and in the shoulders, jittery or tingly, constricted breathing, feeling cold, sweating
Angry – Faster heartbeat, tightness in the jaw and clenched fists, pain in stomach, change in breathing, feeling hot, yelling
Sad – Tense muscles in chest, moist eyes, feeling cold, crying, lump or tightness in throat
Excited – Faster heartbeat, jumpy, tense muscles, yelling
Tender – Relaxed muscles, feeling warm, full sensation in chest, arms want to hug.
As you go through the course of a normal day, you can take a physical inventory to help you understand what you are feeling. Check your heartbeat and see if it is elevated. Look for areas where your muscles are tight. Use these to help you determine what is going on with you emotionally.
It is important to remember that we may feel a combination of two or more emotions at any one point in time. While one may dominant, it may be the one that is further below the surface that we need to understand and address.
For example, if someone does not complete a deliverable on time and does not let us know, we may feel a combination of anger and fear. We might be angry because they did not let us know. We might be scared because we are going to have to slip the schedule or miss other commitment dates. The feeling of anger may dominate in this case. However, it could be the fear that is underneath that anger which is more important to understand and manage.
Conduct a physical inventory on yourself and see if that helps you to determine what you are feeling. Next we will talk about a related technique: The Face in the Mirror.