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One of my favorite books is Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd. It’s a short book, but I’d say probably the densest book I have ever read to date. Essentially, Dodd defines eight core emotions, or truths as he calls them. He says we experience these emotions in 2 ways. We either experience them in their impairment or their gift. He argues that feelings are not bad in and of themselves; it’s what we do with them. Unfortunately, emotions have a bad rep because of what people do when their feelings are strong and because, honestly, sometimes experiencing these emotions is just hard, and it’s painful. We often silence that little voice coming from within and live in our heads and intellect. I’m not saying everyone should become feelers but what I’m saying is we need to reconnect the head to the heart. It’s life-changing when you learn to identify which emotion you are in and if you’re experiencing it in its impairment or its gift. Learning to identify is only one part, though. We have to know how to be able to sit with it, and even for me personally, the more I’ve recognized hey I’m teetering in the impairment zone, than I can realign myself and say it’s okay to feel sad, hurt, lonely, and experience it in its gift.
This is not easy, though, especially when you’ve been through trauma. If you’ve lived in a chaotic environment, it can be hard to get in touch with that. As humans, we have automatic responses that usually are either: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Our brains and bodies have these mechanisms built to help us survive when we live more rugged lives hunting and gathering. Imagine taking a hike, and a bear comes out; you may notice that your body reacts, right? The fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response is kicking in. Now imagine a person in an unsafe environment, either physically or emotionally. Their brain or body will continue to be in that mode because they have been physically conditioned to stay in one of those modes to help them survive. This often makes it hard to sit in those emotions because it’s now been equated to danger. So this might come out as a person feeling anxious when there are issues in their relationship or a person withdrawing; remember, the response will either be fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
So be mindful of a person who has experienced a lot of trauma that they need that extra grace.