Saturday, February 2, 2013

Thaddeus Heffner - Feeling Our Emotions

Most of the time, says Thaddeus Heffner, people are stuck in their heads. Whether it is the paralysis of analysis or stinkin-thinkin, they just don’t know how to get out of their heads and step into their hearts, or rather, emotions and body sensations.

Thaddeus Heffner: The place to begin
I always start out a session with an "emotions check-in." I ask the simple, and yet profound, question “What emotions are you checking in with today?”.  When starting with a client the first few times I am always met with the answer, “I’m good” or “I’m fine.”  Good and fine are ideas. Good and fine are not emotions.

The four core emotions are: joy, anger, sadness, and fear.  All other emotions or feelings tend to fall under one of these emotional categories.  For instance, anxiety more than likely would fall under fear and hurt could fall under sadness and/or anger. Happiness would take its place in line behind joy. You get the point.

Thaddeus Heffner: Becoming aware of emotions
With these emotions often come feelings in our bodies, or physiological sensations.  We might feel fear in our stomach as butterflies or a sick feeling.  Many people tend to tighten their fists when angry or cry when sad.  Sadness might even make their shoulders collapse inward with heaviness.  All of these are our body’s way of holding and experience emotion.  There is much to learn when our brains stop doing al the talking and let our emotions and body in on the conversation.

We start with a thought, or a memory of what happened – be it a near or distant memory. If we next would just allow ourselves to check in with our body to see what we are emoting and sensing in our physical self, we open ourselves up to any number of possibilities: a grieving process, greater insight beyond what our thinking mind would have given us, the ability to forgive someone or make amends, and so much more.

Thaddeus Heffner: Moving past the head and into the heart
If you are someone who often is stuck in your head I invite you to consider what it would be like to open up to your emotions and body?  This is no easy task, at first, if you are not used to this practice.  It is much like weight lifting. You begin with a lower weight and as you become stronger you add weight to the bar.  Emotions and feeling our physiological sensations are like muscles – the more you work them the better you become at connecting with them until finally it just becomes a part of how you are.

Thaddeus Heffner is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Brentwood, Tennessee.  He is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Association of Christian Counselors, and the Nashville Area Association of Christian Counselors.  Visit him at


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