We all know what emotions feel like, but have you ever wondered what they are? If I asked you to describe them you might use words like happy and sad, but if you met someone from the planet Zacindara and they asked you to explain emotions … what would you say?
Emotions have had a bad rap since the ancient Greeks decided the human race would better prosper if they separated reason from passion. Those pesky emotions were just getting in the way of clear rational thinking.
Then along came the Cartesian world, where machines became a model for the brain and our minds got temporarily trapped in a framework of signals and switches. If both you and a computer could both work out that 2 + 2 = 4, then your mind must be just like a computer. By the middle of last century cognitive scientists had become purists of rational and logical thought. Topics like memory, perception and intuition were wiped from the mental realm.
But then, something shifted. Studies began to show strange results. Like, this – if people don’t know why they are doing something, they will just made up reasons that seem logical, and believe completely in those reasons. So I might think I bought that ice cream as a reward for working out so hard this morning. Really I was feeling sad and needed some comfort food. If I don’t acknowledge and feel my sadness then I don’t know why I bought the ice cream and I have to make up a readon that seems logical.
Scientists have recently discovered that up to 95% of our cognitive function happens under our conscious awareness. Here was the ghost in the machine, and for decades it had to operate on the fringe of science.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio threw the cat amongst the pigeons when he wrote about his patient Elliot in his book Descartes Error in 1994. Elliot was an intelligent man, coherent and charming. But, Elliot had a brain tumour which had damaged his frontal lobe tissue and effectively prevented him from feeling emotions. As a result, although Elliot could think things through rationally he was completely unable to make appropriate and meaningful decisions. When Damasio asked Elliot to book a time for his next appointment, Elliot could literally spend hours going over the possibilities. This may feel familiar to you!
It turns out that clear thinking wasn’t so rational after all. Without our emotions we are all just making stuff up and believing it. We’ve taken on the mantra that those evil emotions are what make us feel out of control, hysterical, irrational, unreliable. We are still at least partially convinced that they overwhelm our rational responses to life and should be treated with suspicion. And so we have ingeniously found many ways to prevent ourselves feeling them.
What became very clear from Damasio’s work with Elliot is that our emotions are critical to good decision making. We are literally lost without them! So while we block our emotions in fear of what might arise if we allow ourselves to feel them, we are actually preventing ourselves making the best decision possible. Often when we feel overwhelmed by our emotions it’s not because we have so much emotion, or even so many emotions. It’s just the same emotional energy going around and around in the small space where we’ve stashed it away. When we take some time to tune in, we get incredibly useful information that’s very personal and intimately related to the issues we are facing. With an undefined Solar Plexus Centre it means we are probably trying to sort out someone else’s emotional issues and we simply don’t have the equipment to process it!
Scientist Candace Pert went beyond the cat amongst the pigeons and dropped a bomb on the neuroscientific universe when she proved the existence of neuropeptides. These miraculous molecules ignored the supposed blood brain barrier and reduced the idea of mind as boss of the body to the fiction it always was. The body has a mind of it’s own, and that mind needs access to our emotions in order to function effectively.
The Solar Plexus Centre
Whether you have a defined or undefined Solar Plexus Centre, emotions are an important part of your makeup. When you have a defined Solar Plexus centre your emotions are designed to flow through your body, without attachment to the ups and downs. I have learnt to say to myself ‘it’s okay to feel this way‘ when I’m on the cusp of experiencing difficult emotions. It helps me relax into them and know that I’m okay. There is an uncertainty that comes from the emotional wave that is anxious about where it might be leading us. Is it somewhere safe and comfortable? Will I learn something about myself that I simply don’t want to know? Will it bring up challenges we can’t meet? Will we get what we want? Or crash into disappointment again?
For those with undefined Solar Plexus Centres it can be hard to realise that the rest of us are designed for emotion. What is healthy and even life-giving for the defined Solar Plexus Centre is draining and often irrelevant for the undefined Solar Plexus Centre. What feels out of control for the undefined Solar Plexus is normal for the defined Solar Plexus and the best thing you can do is leave them to it. Don’t jump in the deep emotional water, because you’re not designed to be there. And remember, you amplify the emotional energy, so what you are feeling is much stronger than the people around you are experiencing. You can sit back and observe the emotional landscape objectively. If you need to clarify your own emotions, move into a clear auric space (go for a walk, or into another room) ground yourself, take some deep breathes and see what’s happening for you.
If you have an undefined Solar Plexus Centre and a defined Ji Centre, remember that emotions are not the same as unconditional love. You can’t transform them from messy personal feelings into the collective energy of the Ji. You just have to let them be what they are.
Whether we are defined or undefined, our emotions are a key to something very personal. They form an important link between you and the collective, because they lead you on the right path, your unique pathway.
When we trust and pay attention to our emotions they always give us useful information. They tell us stories about who we are, how we relate to the world. They are fundamental to keeping ourselves safe in the world, to creating a life we love and to resourceful healthy relating. They are intimate, deep and hold keys to your most profound wounds in this life. Even though it doesn’t always feel that way, they are a personal source of wisdom guiding us faithfully on our unique life path.
One question I get asked a lot is how to get in touch with our emotions. What if we just can’t feel our feelings? As we saw above, emotions are complex. They affect every part of us, including our body and our mind. A good place to start is to look at a list of emotions.
Most of us don’t have any problem feeling pleasure and affection. The occasional bout of sadness washes over us fairly easily. It’s the more heavy duty emotions that we tend to suppress – envy, anger, shame, fear,lust. They’re still there, but we overlay them with other things. We might worry rather than feel our fear. We may go for a run rather than feel our anger. We might eat pizza rather than admit to our lust.
One of the best ways to get in touch with your feelings is to tune into your body using a technique like yoga nidra or meditation. Even just laying down on your back with your arms beside your body, palms up, and taking a few deep breaths can release blocked emotions. Whether you have a defined, undefined or completely open Solar Plexus it’s important to know that there is nothing wrong with your experience of your emotions. You are not cold or uncaring (the undefined can feel like this at times), nor are you a basketcase (defined solar plexus). The techniques we’ve all accumulated to deal with emotional difficulties are perfectly sane attempts to deal with this insane world we live in.
As you become familiar with the difference between calm and disturbance, you will begin to recognise the nature of the disturbance. You can conduct some experiments – what happens if I relax my shoulders? What happens if I sit still rather than go to the fridge? What happens if I watch the sunset rather than pick up my phone and take a photograph?
Here are four books that I highly recommend for helping get your emotions unblocked.
You might also like to read How Susan Got Her Wires Crossed – Awareness In Human Design