Last week’s reflection was on healing through the body and how psychedelic medicine can facilitate connecting with our body through our physical sensations and emotions. This week I want to speak about emotions and how they live in our bodies.
In an open, regulated, and flexible nervous system, emotions flow through our bodies in a wave that lasts only seconds to minutes. Each emotion can be viewed as a visitor that arrives with information for us in response to a thought, behaviour, or situation. For example, the arrival of anger suggests one of our boundaries has been violated.
Sometimes an emotion threatens to overwhelm our nervous system and we may become dysregulated and move into a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response to cope. In these instances, the energy of the emotion may become stuck in the body. Events (triggers) that remind us of the original situation (trauma) may quickly and unconsciously move us into a survival response and the original emotion(s) remain unfelt and unprocessed.
Psychedelic medicine can bring awareness to places in the body where we have stored old emotions. Every emotion has a corresponding body sensation and sometimes emotions live in specific parts of our bodies. For example, maybe you carry unexpressed anger as tension in your chest and arms. The emotions and/or sensations may become heightened during a psychedelic experience and this provides an opportunity for release and healing.
If you are preparing for a psychedelic experience, you may want to play with journaling about your emotions and physical sensations. What is your relationship like with your emotions? Do emotions feel right under the surface, or inaccessible?
When you are feeling an emotion, practice getting in touch with where it lives in the body. How does each emotion reveal itself to you through physical sensation? If you struggle to access your emotions, you may instead pay attention to patterns of physical sensations. Do you have common areas of tension, pain, or discomfort?
During a psychedelic experience, you may feel many different emotions, often with greater intensity than in ordinary states of consciousness. A helpful strategy for navigating waves of emotion during an experience is to track physical sensations and practice breathing or moving into them. Lean in, move closer, and get curious about what’s happening.
If you are integrating a psychedelic experience, what emotions did you feel? What were the physical sensations that you experienced? Were there any emotions that felt challenging or overwhelming to be with? Did you feel any moments of release? How can you continue to stay connected to your body and your emotions? If this is a challenging area for you, you may benefit from experimenting with various somatic therapy practices.