‘I don’t understand why Gemma bugs me so much,’ sighed Claire (all names have been changed). ‘I can’t even really put my finger on what’s happening. She opens her mouth, starts talking, it doesn’t even matter about what, and I’m instantly irritated. It’s a distraction and I need to deal with it.’
Claire’s words reminded me of a StoryBrand podcast I heard recently featuring Miles Adcox. Miles talked about a technique to help people gain insight into their emotional reactions. He calls it an emotional body scan and it consists of three simple questions. With Claire’s permission, we tried it out.
Question one: What am I feeling?
Adcox encourages people to just use one word for their emotion and not to get into explaining why they are feeling that way.
Claire’s response: ‘Irritation.’
Question two: Where am I feeling it?
Here, we’re exploring how the emotion is physically manifesting itself. Is it a sick feeling in your stomach? Tension in your neck and shoulders? Are you breaking into a sweat?
Claire’s response: ‘It starts in my chest. I feel heat rising up from chest into my neck. I feel like I’m getting red in the face.’
Question three: How big is it?
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is a big a feeling as it could possibly be, what’s the strength of the emotion you’re experiencing?
Claire’s response: ‘I’m sorry to say that it’s about an 8.’
Just three questions: you might be wondering where we go next. Adcox asserts that the point is not to change the emotion but to recognise it for what it is. In doing so, we gain insight and clarity which in turn allows us to be more objective about the emotion (a bit like Headspace’s ‘watching traffic’ metaphor).
Once we have that objectivity, it can be easier to work out where the emotion is coming from. I was curious about Claire’s statement that she was sorry that her irritation was an 8 so I asked her about that.
‘Well, I’m embarrassed that it’s an 8. That seems so out of proportion to what Gemma’s actually saying and doing. Now I stop and think about it, the thing is that she really reminds me of a girl I was at school with. That girl was always a bit of a swot, she’d say she hadn’t prepared for a test even though you knew she’d been up all night, flicking through her highlighted revision cards. She always made me feel inferior.
Gemma’s not even like that. It’s just something in her mannerisms that reminds me of that girl from school. It’s completely daft to let myself get so irritated by something that’s actually nothing to do with the present situation.’
Since that session, Claire’s had a chance to try out the emotional body scan a couple of times and reports that she’s finding it an effective way to feel more in control of her emotional reactions. She’s even used it to help her daughter deal with a tricky situation at school.
Today’s pebble for your thoughts: could the emotional body scan help you deal with your emotions?
What do you think?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
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