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Increasing Emotional Awareness

THE ART OF HEALING DEPRESSION



Depression Has Awakening Built In

In a depression, something inside whispers, “This is not enough for you….”


You are then called to break old, familiar safety, comfort, and protection patterns to take a larger journey toward expressing your most authentic self.


Depression arises when some aspect of your outer life, or your own attitudes and behaviours, are pressing down your natural, spontaneous, instinctually driven wishes for authentic self-expression.


To psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a slide into depressive depths represented “involuntary introversion,” facilitating a “relapse into the past” for the purpose of healing and integrating hurting past parts of self into your present-day life.


In a depression, nothing seems to work, and so you might ask, “Why is my psyche withdrawing its support from my current life?”


Poet Jeff Foster says it best:


The word “depressed” is spoken phonetically as “deep rest”. We can view depression not as a mental illness but on a deeper level, as a profound and very misunderstood state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity.


As women, we repress many aspects of ourselves. We learn to get along, nurture, please, and appease those around us. We develop rigid and repetitive survival strategies to keep ourselves tidy, perfect, safe and acceptable in our social groups.


So, how do you heal from depression? It is a multilayered process, but the first step is becoming aware of what you truly feel instead of how you think you should feel. This is why a depressive episode always includes awakening. When you get honest with yourself, you awaken to your larger, authentic life.



Honesty Heals Depression

Many of us tell ourselves and others tiny lies about how we feel. We want to feel good, so we tell ourselves that we feel good, even when we don’t. We want to think positively, so we ignore the little nudges from deep within that something feels off.


Honesty brings aliveness because it expresses the truth of who you really are, not who you think you should be to be approved of by others. You might have someone with whom you can express yourself honestly. It might be a therapist, a best friend, a beloved partner, or a spouse.


Yet, for many women, healing depression is a deeply personal and private journey. Becoming more honest with yourself can be practiced in a private journal before you feel safe to share with one or more trusted others.


Intuitive and spontaneous creation bypasses the socialized mind that fearfully censors our truth to fit in. Do you have a place where you can be completely honest? Do you like to write, paint, draw, or collage?


As psychoanalyst Carl Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

I love to explore the many aspects of myself through journaling. I keep written journals, poetry journals, collage journals, painting journals, and drawing journals. Furthermore, many of my journals are dedicated to particular psychological deepening processes that support me in discovering my current emotional truth.



Emotion Occurs Outside Of Awareness

Most of us do not know our emotional truths. Yet, emotions demand recognition. Otherwise, they escalate or go underground. Gaining awareness of your emotions by symbolizing them in words and images is where your head and heart integration begins.

Changes in amygdala-based emotions involve awareness and recognition of them. Awareness is facilitated by approaching and attending to the emotion, tolerating it, and symbolizing it through poetry, free-flow writing, and spontaneous imagery. Awareness and symbolization of bodily felt emotional experience have been shown to downregulate emotional arousal.


Expressive art and writing are profound ways to become aware of your emotions. This is because emotions do not reside in your unconscious fully formed, waiting to be unveiled once the forces of defense, protection, and repression are overcome. Emotions are often preverbal. They exist as bodily sensations and need to be transformed into concrete conscious experiences by externalizing them through pen, paper, colour, voice, sound, and movement.



What Is Your Emotional Truth?


How do you become aware of your emotional truth? Emotions live in your body as intangible felt senses. Bodily-felt emotions exist palpably, and when you reflect upon them through language or images, you can tangibly mirror what you feel inside, which will help you contain them. Thus, you can see what you are feeling by attending to a bodily sense and then symbolizing it in your awareness through expressive art and writing.


If you wake up in the morning with fear or sadness, these emotions signal that something is awry in your life or that something has happened to you that requires attention. You need to become aware of some emotional truth. Emotions pose problems that you must explore to solve.


Is the emotion a new expression that involves the freeing up of blocked emotion, or is it an old, stale expression that involves the repetition of emotion too freely expressed? The fresh expression of a previously inhibited or repressed emotion is generally helpful, whereas the venting of too-often-expressed stale emotion that is not blocked is not.


What happens when you create spontaneously every day for a year? Sometimes, patterns of anxiety, resentment, sadness, guilt, or shame can run in unhelpful ways, so if your expressive art and writing become repetitive, you will be able to see it and choose to change it. If an emotion is fresh and new, you can explore it deeper.



Making Contact With Your Emotions


As you know by now, deepening your emotional awareness will help you better understand what you are feeling at your core. Once you know your emotional truth, you can start solving the problems that are causing your depression.


Awareness of Your Emotions

Emotional awareness always begins by making contact with the sensations in your body. This is a nonverbal bodily “felt-sense” form of knowing your feelings. It is not an intellectual understanding of what you are feeling.

You are not looking at yourself from the outside; rather, you are sensing in a bodily way what you are feeling from the inside. Bodily-felt senses first emerge creatively, usually as free-form sentences, poems, images, or symbols. Later, they can become more concrete and logical.


Welcoming Your Emotions

When fresh feelings emerge from your body, it is important to welcome them, breathe through them, and let them come through your expressive art and writing. Accept what you feel as new information that gives you messages about something important to your well-being.


Creating spontaneously every day is not always easy, but it is profoundly revealing if you do not interrupt or block the process. You can grow to trust that rather than deflecting or avoiding your uncomfortable emotions, they will naturally rise and fall away when you pay attention to them. Painful emotions will swell and fade if you pay close attention to them.


Symbolizing Your Emotions

Metaphors, pictures, poems, spontaneous sentences, and symbols are useful in helping you symbolize your inner experiences. The aim is to capture your bodily sensations each day and create something visible, auditory, or tangible that will bring you closer to the emotional truth that your protective socialized ego prefers to ignore.


Naming or symbolizing emotions is the first step in regulating them. With words and symbols, the need to act out the emotion destructively diminishes. Attaching words, imagery, or symbols to what you are really feeling inside helps you get a handle on it. Being able to describe your emotions creatively will help you to heal depression.


Emotional Awareness is the first module in my year-long program, The Art of Healing Depression. I have created a free Mini-Masterclass for you so that you can start practicing deeper emotional awareness in your daily life. You can view the Masterclass HERE.



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