Most days I walk away from the office feeling humbled. I am honored to be a witness to the courageous journey of self-awareness that my clients are willing to embark upon. To be present to someone’s growth and healing is a joy that I never expected to find in a career. I have noticed my own growth as my clients grow. I take in the emotional wisdom that I am exposed to on a daily basis and apply that to heal my own traumas. It feels somewhat selfish to first of all admit this, but also to keep this wisdom to myself. Often, I have pondered different platforms to share this wisdom, as it feels important to spread to the world around me.

I’ve noticed that there are common emotional threads that link us all together despite having lived different experiences. For me, it is so nice to know that I am not alone in how I feel and what I believe. Knowing we are not alone in our emotions and thoughts help to de-shame the system that created those beliefs. My hope is that the reader is able is able to ingest some of this wisdom and apply it to your own journey to self-connection.

So, what are emotions? We live in a culture whereby we are taught to repress and stuff our emotions. Many of us are afraid to feel – and then some of us feel too much because we are not taught how to work with our emotions. We are taught that they are “bad” and we have to logic our way through them. Our intellect is a very important part of us and we cannot survive without it. However, where many of us fail is that we do not maintain a healthy balance between our rational parts and emotional parts. A Native American Psychologist by the name of Eduardo Duran out of Bozeman, MT had an excellent description to explain how to find balance between intellect and emotion.

He offered that the culture we live in wants to “conquer” and “defeat” our emotions with our intellect. He indicated a sadness of this behavior because our emotions have so much to offer. He stated that his culture taught him that emotions are spirits and they enter into our bodies with the specific intent to deliver a message. It is our job to accept them with compassion so that they can move through us and then leave us. Imagine a wave of energy entering through your head, moving through your body to eventually leaving through your feet back into the Earth. When they leave, we are left with the wisdom of the message that they delivered. If we fight the spirit or ignore it, then it stays in us and gets bigger so that we can hear it. If we accept it, honor it and let it do its job, it leaves behind wisdom. We have an epidemic of people that are full of emotional spirits because we as a culture do not know how listen to them or accept them.

The primary intent of this blog is to share the common types of emotions (or emotional spirits) that I tend to come across in the therapy room. The theory that I organize people’s emotional narrative through is from an Internal Family Systems lens. (You will notice me using “parts” language.) This theory, crafted together by Richard Schwarz, understands that we have a “true” self. This self is the leader of the system and is the essence of who we are.

For example, I feel in self often when I am in the mountains or near an ocean. Sometimes it is when I am snowboarding in a deep powder field, or when I am in the therapy room engaging in deep work with a client. Other times it is when I am playing music or engaged in writing. I also refer to being in self as my “flow state.” (A term coined by Mikaly Csikzentmihalyi) It is when I feel calm, connected, creative, confident, courageous, and clear minded. My body, mind and emotions are in a state of connection and flow. One isn’t more important than the other. The eco-system that is my body is in harmony and a sense of ease comes with it. When I don’t feel this way (which is more often than not), or if I notice feelings of anxiety, apprehension, anger, etc, then I know that I am in a “part.” My work is then to honor and understand this part (emotional spirit) so that I can hear the message it has for me. When I understand that part, it tends to calm down so that I can be more in self.

According to IFS (Internal Family Systems) we are comprised of many parts. Sometimes these parts are in conflict or polarized with one another and create tension in our system. Other parts may want to try to become the leader of the system when if feels like the self isn’t there or it can’t connect with the self. You will be hearing about all kinds of different part in this blog. Everyone tends to experiences parts in their own way, but many of us have parts with similar themes.

My hope is that you will gain a deeper understanding of various parts and to maybe identify with some of them in order to foster your own connection with the parts within your internal system. If this language speaks to you, then I encourage you to try some IFS therapy to learn more about your system. Thanks for reading and good luck on your journey.

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