3 • increase your body awareness

Once you start to disengage your emotional avoidance control strategies the next task is deliberately bring your awareness and attention into your body where your emotions are located. This is easier said than done. Many people have a limited amount of body awareness, either because of over thinking / fantasy (which keeps the focus of attention up in the area of the head) and/or because they automatically escaping the emotional pain / discomfort in their body. It’s often a combination of both. Either way their awareness of their body is limited.  I encourage many of my clients to actively work on developing body awareness, the capacity to be aware of the movements of energy (emotion) within their body in each and every moment on the premise and reassurance that I will also teach them how to deal with the emotions that will inevitably rise into their awareness when they do so. There are many ways to bring your awareness and attention into your body; it’s a case of finding a couple of ways that work for you. Suggestions include: sensual and non-sensual physical touch, physical exercise, Yoga, pilates, Qi Gong and bodywork (especially massage and rolfing). In addition to these I have found that the daily practice of emotional body awareness to be invaluable.


Body Awareness


This takes a couple of minutes to do and can be done pretty much anywhere and at anytime, although to start off with I would recommend that you do it at home either whilst sitting comfortably or lying down. For the first couple of weeks see I recommend using it at least two or three times a day.


  • Take a couple of slow, deep breaths and notice where in your body you sense yourself to be. Most people will feel a strong buzzing energy in and around their head
  • Now slowly and deliberately scan down your body from the top of your head to your toes. As you go down notice what you sensations you are experiencing. For example you might be aware of tension in your shoulders, tightness in your neck or butterflies in your stomach area. When you do notice something just allow it to be their, without judging it. Just breathe and continue.
  • When you arrive at your feet, notice how you feel in your body – you will probably find that you feel more ‘in your body’
  • Now starting from your feet, breath as though you are breathing in and out of your feet. As you do this you might become aware of some tingling or bodily sensation. Just accept your experience as it is. Continue by shifting your attention further up your body to your ankles and lower legs. Imagine yourself breathing in and out of them.
  • Gently continue this process for every part of your body – knees – legs – pelvis – abdomen – chest – neck – arms – hands – head.
  • Once you have reached the top of your head, become aware of your entire body all at once. Notice how much more in your body you are.


So what’s the point of this exercise? Well firstly you will probably feel much more calm, grounded and centered for having done it. Secondly with time and practice, you will start to more quickly notice bodily sensations and emotions that are communicating to you – whether they are emotions, hunger, tension or tiredness. By being aware of them you will then be able to work with and manage them more effectively


4 • improve your emotional literacy


Emotional literacy refers to your ability to identify and describe what you are feeling – and do so in a way that is simple, direct, non-judgmental and keeps the focus on you. This is easier said than done of course, particularly if we are used to pointing the finger of blame at others or if we have limited emotional awareness. However the good news is that emotional literacy is a skill that can be learnt and often picked up within a few days and weeks. Not only is emotional literacy at the heart of effective communication  and emotional intimacy, by getting in touch with what you are feeling, you will know whether your emotional needs are being met or not. For example if you realize that you are feeling irritable, that will alert you to the fact that one or more of your emotional needs are not being met – such as the need to be heard and validated. What’s more naming a feeling, for example I feel sad, helps to direct our attention to what we are feeling and in doing so it becomes much easier to then shift out of our head to then feel (process) that feeling. When I work with clients who have limited emotional body awareness or who struggle to feel their feelings, I will get them to practice labelling their feelings first, then to drop the label and just feel what they are feeling.


How to Improve Your Emotional Literacy


For the next 24 hours, practice identifying your feelings to yourself, by using the four basic feelings: I feel sad, I feel bad, I feel mad and I feel glad. This might sound pretty basic, but it will get you off to a great start.


As you get used to using mad, bad, sad or glad, do a little deeper to see if you can find a word that resonates with what you are feeling. When you get the right word, you will probably feel a positive shift of energy in your body. The following list provides a list of common feelings.


Unpleasant feelings: tense, anxious, stressed, agitated, perturbed, shocked, unsettled, irritable, nervous, depressed, unhappy, despondent, bereaved, hurt, lonely, miserable, regretful, vulnerable, fragile, sensitive, hesitant, envious, jealous, pining, tired, sleepy, lethargic, weary, embarrassed, ashamed, mortified, disconnected, detached, withdrawn, afraid, panicked, scared, worried, wary, annoyed, aggravated, impatient, irritable, frustrated, angry, resentful, enraged, appalled, horrified, ambivalent, confused, hesitant and bewildered.


Pleasant feelings: happy, delightful, joyful, amused, peaceful, calm, content, fulfilled, relaxed, still, rejuvenated, refreshed, hopeful, encouraged, grateful, moved, touched, thankful, thrilled, elated, exhilarated, excited, enthusiastic, astonished, loving, compassionate, open-hearted, confident, proud, interested, curious, amazed and inspired.


Once you have got used to identifying whatever it is you are feeling, the next step is to process them using the suggestions in the next section


Now move onto the emotional processing section








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