There was an impending sense of doom but I had no idea what it was about
Anxiety, worry... but about what?
“What’s wrong with me?!” was going round my head
Noticing the self-talk, I let out a long breath and sensed into my body
Forehead screwed up
Fluid, tumultuous movement above the diaphragm
I breathed softness into my face
“If I say what I think, they aren’t going to like it” popped into my head
I stayed with the sensations of my throat
The left was narrower than the right
I played with allowing some of the softness of the right to blur into the left
Gradually, spaciousness spread to the left side
“Yes! I want to come to this with a sense of possibility and co-creation!”
So how did I shift from anxious to creative?
Using the practice of interoception I’d been developing as part of my embodiment work.
Interoception is our ability to detect the sensations from inside our body - our internal organs, connective tissue and, at times, our skin. Many of us are cut off from the physical sensations of the body - however, we can develop our interoception with practice. And not only can we get better at detecting those sensations, we can also learn how to use subtle body adjustments to change our emotions in situations when this would be helpful.
In the story above, I used awareness and subtle adjustment of bodily sensations to transform my state, putting me in a much more resourceful place.
Let’s contrast interoception with the more commonly understood concept of Emotional Intelligence.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman claims that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) accounts for 90% of a leader’s effectiveness. EQ can be defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and have empathy for the emotions of others.
All really relevant for change leadership - where changes can challenge feelings of safety and social status for us and those around us. If we can manage our emotions and become more considerate of the emotions of others we will be more effective change leaders, right?
One technique for building EQ is to be able to name and distinguish between different emotions.
But have you ever considered what an emotion really is?
Neurobiogically, emotions are labels for a collection of bodily sensations (with a name, like “joy”) plus an associated meaning.
We may not be aware of it, but when we feel anger, we know we feel anger because we are (usually subconsciously) detecting signals from our bodies and assigning a meaning to those signals. So physically there may be heat in my head, a rushing movement inside my chest and I may be clenching my teeth. I may not notice any of that, but I may be able to name the emotion as anger.
Given that emotions are labels we give to collections of physical sensations, we can enhance our emotional intelligence by developing our ability to detect those physical sensations. For example, we move from ‘I’m getting angry’ to ‘I can feel heat in my chest, and I can tell I’m starting to get angry.’
So for many of us, the route to enhanced emotional intelligence is actually to begin at the level below and to start getting better at tuning into the physical sensations that constitute our emotions.