Processing emotions means movement
Emotions are physical sensations, they activate and agitate our bodies. They are geared toward movement—toward action. Even before I consciously feel an emotion, my body is aware of it and is either preparing for action, or already moving in response.
Emotions want to do something. Every emotion has a natural direction and energy level. Anger, for example, is like NOS injected into a car’s engine—lots of extra energy and the compulsion to GO! FIGHT! WIN! Sadness, on the other hand, drains our energy and encourages us to shrink, lie down, or disappear.
No wonder it’s so difficult when we have conflicting emotions! What do I do when I both want to punch the world and run away at the same time?
In my upcoming podcast interview with therapist Heidi Goehmann, she explains that movement can very effectively “process emotion.”
“Processing” emotions is not about controlling them or getting rid of them. It’s moving with them in order to healthily adjust their intensity and incorporate them into wise action. Think of it like dancing (perhaps literally!). Moving with an emotion so that it can pass through and out of me, and I can learn from it what it has to tell me. There are lots of different kinds of motion. There are obvious things like going for a walk, or stretching, or yes, even dancing. But you could also draw, or paint, or journal.
One of the most powerful ways to move with emotions is to share them with someone else. When I tell someone else how I’m feeling my emotions have a place to go. They are honored and allowed to move.
Scripture knows all about this reality, of course. Which is why there is so much dancing and moving and exclaiming, especially in the Psalms. But there is something more important going on in scripture than mental health tips. There I am invited to share my emotions—my deepest internal movements—with God.
Will that make me feel any better? Perhaps. But when I experience God making space for my emotions, I experience God making space for me. I am connected to God intimately, and that brings a peace that surpasses all understanding (and emotion).