Are you entangled in difficult relationships
or painful emotions?
Dissociation from Emotions
Every technique for emotional development, just like every
approach based on individual work with a client, which is not only “external” healing but
requires that the client gets involved in the process, starts with the
assumption that the client will have enough contact with his/her emotions and
enough consciousness of them for the work to be successful. Very rarely one can
find books or workshops which advocate different possibilities. In practice
however, this ideal is not always achievable.
In about 20% of cases with new clients, it will happen that
the people with whom I work are extremely disconnected from their emotions and
are not able to recognize them deeper than just on a basic and most
superficial level. This is manifested in the incapability to separate the
personal feelings from the outer situation and examine them independently, in
the incapability to verbalize deeper and subtler levels of emotions except for
which are the most obvious or most intensive ones, and through the incapability
to recognize the convictions that are at the root of those emotions.
Generally it is the inability of a person to work with
him/herself through emotional experiences of his/her inner world rather than
through rational analysis.
I found this to be a key obstacle in successful personal growth. Quite often
my clients become aware of this themselves, but in
spite of all their effort, they might have the feeling that their consciousness of
their emotions is persistently slipping away - to the point that they start to
doubt their actual capability to feel their emotions.
Since emotions are more spontaneous and instinctive reactions
than the rational mind, I believe that there is no such thing as an
"unemotional" person (except maybe in case of rare genetic disorders).
To say that someone cannot feel is like saying that he or she cannot think.
Emotions are the basis of our self -awareness and the way to get to know
ourselves and our environment. I wonder if it is possible for human beings to be
aware of themselves in any other way than through the emotions? Just like we
cannot stop thinking or it is very hard not to think, it is even less possible
not to feel.
It can happen that if we neglect this natural competence and avoid
being conscious of it, it can become weaker or less available, yet with
conscious practice we can make it grow stronger again.
Not only that we all and at all times feel, but in everyone of
us and at every moment there is a presence of rich, complex multilevel emotional
experiences: some levels are more lasting, more subtle and seem like they are
the foundation of our character, while the emotions on other levels are more
intense but shorter. Some emotions are extremely gentle, subtle and appear for
just a moment, but it can happen that exactly those ones can open the door to
different thoughts and perceptions, to creativity and intuition.
The lack of contact with one’s feelings has it deep roots in
decades of avoidance and suppression. This started when our emotions were
belittled and suppressed by people who were important to us at the earliest age,
or through traumas and circumstances that were far too hard and intensive for a
child to confront with in any other way than to split or suppress them.
no short-term solution for this, and to people who face this problem I advise a
few months or weeks of practicing becoming more aware of their emotions, before
we continue with the work. Sometimes through Soulwork we research what caused
the split from emotions – and since Soulwork is based on emotional experiences,
this research is done on an emotional level. Without a at least some awareness
about what the client feels, it is very hard to work in this way.
Consequences of Dissociation
The cause for unconscious behavior is also the lack of contact
with one’s feelings, the situations when one might say something like: “I cannot
understand how he/she cannot see what he or she is doing“, often the
incapability to feel empathy with other people, which is the essence of
compassion. On the other hand, for these people real compassion for themselves
is also impossible, to be true to oneself, and to consequently develop
Most people suppress their emotions to some degree, so this is not so
much a question of whether this problem exists in someone or not, but rather to
which extent it is present. In individual changework, this problem manifests in several ways:
- rational analysis of situation without the presence of
emotional consciousness and insight. Usually the client focuses on external
circumstances and other people, not internal experience.
- no answer to questions related to emotions; instead the
client usually offers different rational theories, memories or ideas (or
very often answers like “I do not know“)
- difficulty to verbalize emotion or to stay conscious of a
certain emotion for a longer period of time
- inability to distinguish “mature” from “immature”
emotions, which means distinguishing which emotions and responses are
appropriate and healthy, and which are not in a given situation.
- inability to recognize and verbalize the memories which
are not conscious, sometimes the client rejects the idea that the root of
the problem might be in a situation or circumstances that he or she
rationally cannot remember. For example, one client told me: “Why do you ask
me about my childhood? My childhood has nothing to do with how I feel! I am
under stress because of how other people around me behave“. This seems
obvious to people who are not aware of their unconscious processes. When we
learn to explore beneath the surface of our experience, we can find the
reasons why people react so differently to similar circumstances.
- a result of lack of consciousness of the feelings that
shape our interpretation of our experiences, often is unawareness, or active
rejection, of our responsibility for them
- people often expect quick and external solutions, often
hoping that others and outside circumstances would change.
It is easier to work with people with such a problem through
metaphors – symbolic images – but since this kind of work also means that they
have to, to some extent, relax conscious control and give in to spontaneous
associations, difficulties can also occur.
If you recognize yourself in these descriptions, the key
solution that I recommend is long-term work in creating closeness to your body
and emotions, in the first place in daily determinate observation and detailed
research of emotions, and also with body techniques and approaches
that intensify body consciousness, like meditation, dance, aromatherapy,
massage, baths – approaches that combine work on the physical level with a
Perhaps check my article "Observing
Coaching with Kosjenka
© Kosjenka Muk, 2006-2017