In recent weeks, tears flow easily. Unannounced and often just when accidentally catching a video on Facebook. I’m not usually aware of what will trigger the tears.
Part of me has freaked out: “What on earth is going on?”
But, I’ve been doing much healing work in recent months. I want to be more vulnerable and open. This includes exploring ways to open up my heart and “face the feelings”.
Yet, it’s uncomfortable when it shows up.
Remember Pink Floyd and “Comfortably Numb“? For countless years, I managed to seal off my heart and live as a “head on a stick”. Yes, I have been comfortably numb. It has allowed me to be incredibly productive and one-track-minded.
But this last decade has found me moving towards emotional healing.
Because I can’t expect physical healing of my gut if I don’t do all the work. Our bodies are amazing: our thoughts, emotions, and traumas can be stored in the body in various ways.
Catharsis & interrupting patterns
I’ve done catharsis work before in my journey, particularly in 2013-2014 when I was doing a lot of ontological coaching courses. In there, we tried yelling, screaming, and crying. It was all about release.
But my head-brain likes to understand the how and why – what about the catharsis that works?
If you want to think “pattern interrupt”, there are 3 places or aspects of a habit or cycle where we can break the cycle:
- your thoughts
- your emotions
- your physiology, behaviour or environment
Catharsis modalities will do a pattern interrupt in your behaviour or physiology: you will use your body to interrupt the normal patterns of response of your nervous system and release emotions and the thought patterns that go with them.
Primordial screaming & Laughter therapy
Because of mBraining, I dove into the mire of the vagus nerve, polyvagal theory, and somatic healing. You might have heard of or read books like The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk or How the Body Knows its Mind, by Sian Beilock.
Last year, I dove into Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana, a totally different perspective on what therapy should be, after having done so many years of talk therapy for childhood traumas.
Somehow, I ended up back in Laughter Therapy – because what most of these somatic modalities have in common is that they involve a gateway between the ANS (your autonomic nervous system) and your emotions that have been stored in the body. The most common gateways are:
- your face
- the tongue & throat
- your hands
- your diaphragm
- the pelvic floor
- your feet
So, most of us know the ordinary exercise of “just smile”, which might even be the fake smile where you put your pen or pencil in your mouth, forcing your facial muscles into a smile, despite whatever is happening in life.
The effect – you tell your nervous system “all is well,” and your ANS relaxes your body (heart, lungs, gut, and even your mind). The hormones and neurotransmitters that your body generates when you smile are different from those when you are stressed or angry.
Most likely, with a pen or pencil in your mouth – you’re breathing through your nose. Breathing through your nose, rather than your mouth, also sends messages of safety to your nervous system! This is particularly important for the inhale, although ideally, you use it for both inhaling and exhaling (unless you are practising a particular type of breathwork that requires that you breathe through your mouth).
As mentioned, the diaphragm is a gateway between the organs, your ANS, emotions, and thoughts. When you modify your breathing, you can change the messages you are sending to your nervous system:
- long exhales and short inhales will activate a parasympathetic response, more relaxation and calm;
- long inhales with quick, short exhales will send a message to your body to activate the sympathetic nervous system, providing you with more energy, alertness, and even send you into anxiety;
- balanced breathing – which is what we practice in mBraining – will bring both the parasympathetic ad sympathetic systems into balance, which means you can be in a state of calm-alertness.
So, what happens in laughter therapy or primordial screaming?
Try it (screaming into a pillow or belly laughing).
Notice which parts of your body move.
I suggest you use:
- your breath – a long inhale to fill your lungs and then possibly a long exhale;
- your face – whether screaming or laughing;
- your throat and tongue and
- your diaphragm.
You might even notice it all the way into your pelvis.
So, whether you are belly laughing or just allowing yourself to scream out your frustrations to the world – your nervous system is being sent into “chaos”.
It’s much like a coughing fit – you loosen up stuck mucous sitting around in your body, waiting for an opportunity to be released.
Osho would suggest we use it as follows:
You can read more on catharsis by Osho here.
Of course, I dare to step into this release work because I have a strong network of support around me!
My support network includes:
- therapists – both talk therapy, breathwork, and other somatic modalities
- coaches, and
This is not something I would venture into without knowing that I have this support available to me because I might cough something up that is too big to handle all on my own.
I say this often:
This includes knowing when to ask for help.
Facing my feelings: no longer numb
One of my challenges is getting in touch with my heart – melting my heart of stone frozen solid for years, to genuinely feel my feelings.
It’s tough to get in touch with my heart’s desires when I can’t feel anything at all! This has been a regular struggle for me over the past three years.
I can find callous and manipulative courage to move forward with my plans, but it’s not always compassionate courage. I can espouse “good ideas” to you, but they don’t necessarily come from my heart. I quickly revert to relationships and connections that “make sense” rather than allowing my relationships to be built on heartfelt connections.
Yes – I have put safety first. To allow me to feel, I need to feel safe and secure. So, I’ve been working on feeling safe enough to face my emotions and feelings, however big or small they might be.
But I have been able to build this over time, with the right people and habits in my life that allow me to open up.
And so, now the tears flow at the most unexpected moments. Not because I’m sad, but rather because I’m touched. Tough corporate me would never have accepted that it was okay to feel all these feelings and be openly vulnerable.
But I’m all done living with a heart of stone, and I know that the way to finding the fire in my belly is to reignite the passion in my heart.