“Where do you feel that in your body?”
In my last blog post, I wrote about how I say “That makes so much sense” a lot in counselling. This week, I thought I would share a question I often ask clients - especially when they are talking about specific emotions that they are experiencing in the present moment:
“Where do you notice that in your body?”
In fact, I ask that question so much I had a client send me this meme as a joke:
Sometimes when I ask the question, people have an answer right away: “I feel it in my chest” or “The feeling is right at the bottom of my throat.” Oftentime, however, this question makes clients feel very uncomfortable (as the meme suggests). Many times people don’t have an answer for it, and not having an answer can be scary.
Nevertheless, I still ask. I think it’s an important question for a number of reasons:
a) When people are experiencing an emotion, if the feeling can’t be named or located where it is in one's body, it can feel overwhelming and over-powering. By noticing that the particular feeling takes up space in a specific area of the body (and therefore is not all-consuming) it can help to take the sense of overwhelm away.
b) It gets people out of their heads and more into their physicality. Oftentimes, we can create mental loops in our heads by thinking about our feelings, which can wind the feelings up even more. By stopping and noticing the physical experience of the emotion in the present moment (and stop analyzing it), we can actually allow the feeling to be felt and then to pass.
c) How people answer the question helps give me a sense of a person’s connection with their own body. If it makes people nervous or uncomfortable, oftentimes these folk are more cognitively oriented, or perhaps they are numb to their felt experience. If they are able to identify the location of the emotion, it tells me that the might be more in touch with their body (and perhaps less in touch with their minds). The answer helps me know which direction to go with a client. It helps me to ask different questions or questions that will meet the client where the client is at.
d) Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, connecting a person’s minds to their bodies contributes to their overall well-being. In fact, ignoring, burying, or blocking emotions may contribute to more illnesses. By asking this question, I am encouraging my clients to become more in tune with themselves, which inevitably will be a good (albeit possibly very hard) thing.
So what are you feeling right now? And where do you notice the feeling taking up space in your body, in this moment?