- This exercise is adapted from the “Soften-Soothe-Allow” exercise designed by Christopher Germer & Kristin Neff in the Mindful Self-Compassion program.
- This practice can be used when you are experiencing difficult emotions. The intention of this practice is not to make difficult emotion go away, but rather to learn to turn toward the emotion because it is a part of us longing to be heard.
- One of the causes of our suffering is when we abandon parts of ourselves that are longing to be seen and heard, but that we don’t feel we have the courage or skill to be with. The simple act of bringing our intention to hear what our body is telling us can go a long way to connecting and working with the suffering caused when we are disconnected from our body.
There are 6 components to this practice:
- Locate: Finding emotion in the body,
- Allow: Allowing emotion to be there,
- Release: Releasing any physical tension associated with that emotion,
- Label: Naming the emotion,
- Soothe: Soothing the emotion,
- Gratitude: If it feels OK, thanking the emotion for being there.
- Through this practice, allow yourself to get in touch with your emotion, bringing your awareness repeatedly back to your felt experience if your mind wants to continue to create the story behind this difficult emotion.
- Also, remember to “close” if your emotional experience moves outside of your “window of tolerance” and offer yourself one of your active self-care practices instead (awareness of breath, touch, sound; open eyes; take a drink; go for a walk).
- Place your hand on your heart, or another soothing place, for a few moments to remind yourself that you, too, are worthy of kindness.
- If you have an existing difficult emotion to work with, please feel free to work with that one. Otherwise, please think of a situation in your life right now that is mildly to moderately challenging, and work with that situation. Allow yourself to remember the situation, the people and place involved, the emotions you feel.
- Locate where in your body you feel emotion, maybe scanning your body to see if there are a number of places you feel an emotional response. Even subtle sensations can be an emotion expressing itself in your body – allow yourself to notice subtle as well as powerful felt experiences.
- Acknowledge each area of your body where you feel sensation that is connected to the difficult emotion and settle on one place that feels as if it expresses the emotion most powerfully.
- Gently and intentionally allow the emotional sensation to be there. If it feels OK, make it so that it’s alright for the emotional sensation to be there. This sensation is a part of you, communicating with you, wanting to be heard – allow it it’s first need which is to exist.
- If it feels very painful to give this emotion permission to be there, remind yourself that this emotion is a tender part of you, not some alien entity that you need to eject/reject. Recognize this as a hurt part of you that needs some attention, and that until it gets the attention it needs, it will continue to call for it, expressing a deep longing that only you can address.
- If you notice any tension in this part of your body, give yourself permission to release. Allow that part of your body to relax a little, without requiring it to relax. Allow your body to let go of some of the physical burden it carries in its muscles, joints and organs.
- If it feels right, find a word for the emotional sensation, even a made up word or a combination of words. You’re simply wanting to acknowledge the emotional sensation, to give it a home, a meaning, to connect with it. Once again, it just wants to be known, to be accepted, to connect with you – offer it connection through language.
- If you’re not sure of the name for the emotion, you might ask it what its name is. Don’t worry if no name comes. You’re simply bringing curiosity to this process. If there is nothing new to learn at this point, it’s OK.
- Formally acknowledge the label that describes this emotion. Let this part of you know that you hear it. You might even offer words like, “Of course!” or “Yes” or “I see you” or “I hear you.”
- Your emotional sensation is there for a reason, but it’s message may be unclear because it is working so hard to just be acknowledged.
- Offer some soothing to this experience – put a hand over your heart or over the place where the emotional sensation is and imagine kindness flowing through your hand into your body.
- Soothe your body and your emotional sensation in the way you might soothe a child: through touch, kind attention, warmth, maybe gentle and kind words spoken softly and lovingly.
- Only if it feels right, thank the emotion for working to take care of you and giving you information to help you. It may be extreme or painful in its methods, but it is trying to give you information. Help it to feel as if it has been heard, that it has a home, and that it has a friend in you.