Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Disappearing down the mental off ramp

People who are great thinkers struggle with being in touch with their emotional life because their issues often get processed intellectually, and they bypass what they’re actually feeling. 

They would rather know why they’re having an experience, rather than experience the experience itself. They would rather step back from their feelings, analyze them and plan their reaction to them, rather than simply allowing those feelings exist. 

Freud explains that this intellectualization is a defense mechanism for avoiding anxiety. We attempt to think our way out of our feelings. We treat the situation as an interesting problem to solve, one that engages us on a cognitive basis, while the emotional aspects of the experience are completely ignored as being irrelevant. 

That couldn’t describe me more accurately. 

I’m the kind of person who always felt most at home inside his head. Someone who’d rather disappear down the mental off ramp and escape into his own mind, rather than confronting the emotional reality of the situation. 

Which isn’t always a bad thing. The process of intellectualizing is useful when it keeps us from reacting to life impulsively and irresponsibly. 

But it can’t be the only arrow in our quiver. 

Only through complete emotional development are we offered the greatest degree of leverage in attaining our full potential. 

That’s one of the benefits of practicing yoga. Turns out, when you’re sitting in a hundred degree room for ninety minutes straight, with nothing to do but stare at your naked, sweaty body in the mirror, intellectualization isn’t an option. It isn’t possible to gloss over your feelings and take the emotions out of the equation. 

Trust me, I’ve tried. 

Yoga has a tendency to surface any and all emotions you’ve been storing inside your body for the last twenty four hours. Whatever’s in there, is coming out. 

And so, if I’m ever not sure I’m feeling about something, I just go to the hot room and listen to my body. Because unlike my mind, I know it will never lie to me. 

Remember, anything that helps us create a healthier relationship with our emotional reality is a good thing. 

Are you treating your emotions as objects of contemplation, or opportunities to feel?

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Scott Ginsberg
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