When a feeling comes up—let’s say it’s fear—you can simply recognize it and name it by saying, “I sense fear here.”
When you witness and name what’s there, you free yourself from its domination.
There’s been research done at UCLA that shows that when you name an emotion, it activates the frontal cortex and helps to sooth and comfort the amygdala, lowering the reaction in the limbic system.
After you’ve named the emotion, the next step is to allow it to be there—to have the conscious intention to give room to whatever has come out of the woods. There are two questions I find useful to bring a full, present attention to difficult emotions.
The first is, “What is happening inside me right now?” Try to contact the felt sense in your body. Investigate where the feeling lives and how it’s expressed. Feel your throat, chest, and belly—feel where the emotions actually live in your flesh.
Then ask yourself, “Can I be with this?” or “Can I let this be?”
In some way, offer the message that’s needed, whether it’s one of kindness, gentleness, or care. You can say to the emotion, “You belong.” Even if it’s fear or shame, I will say, “You belong. You are a wave in my ocean.” As soon as you give the message that “this belongs too,” you signal there’s no resistance, and that gives the space for the emotion to unfold, release, and be integrated into a greater whole.