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Emotional Intelligence

Lori Leyden: Project Light Rwanda

By body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence, Health & Wellbeing, Human Rights/Justice, Interviews, Moral Intelligence, Podcasts, Spiritual Intelligence No Comments

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Lori Leyden - founder of Project Light RwandaLori Leyden, PhD, MBA – Inspired by her life-changing experience working with widow and orphan head of households in Rwanda in the fall of 2007, Lori and her organization are committed to raising consciousness for personal and global healing. She is a former psychotherapist, public speaker, workshop leader, and now facilitator of The Grace Process, a spiritual practice for joyful living. With over 30 years experience in the fields of psychotherapy, business and spiritual growth, Lori holds a PhD in Health & Human Services and an MBA in Management. As a Diplomate of the American Psychotherapy Association, she was the first Spirituality Columnist for the Association’s professional journal, Annals. She is the author of The Grace Process Guidebook: A practical guide for transcending your ego and engaging the wisdom of your heart to harness grace and receive the healing you yearn for and The Stress Management Handbook: Strategies for Health and Inner Peace available in English, Spanish, Arabic and Korean.

“Project LIGHT gives birth to a much-needed model of humanitarian aid that addresses basic survival needs, emotional healing, and economic self-sustainability. By developing heart-centered healing and leadership programs for traumatized youth, students, and humanitarians, we seek to shine LIGHT on one of the greatest human gifts that can unite us all—the power and resilience of the human spirit.”


They were young children in 1994 when Rwanda experienced the genocide that left 800,000 of them orphaned. In the wake of the violence, Rwanda’s social structure collapsed, severely affecting schools, health care, and the economy. Meeting the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and education overshadowed the daunting task of healing the orphaned children’s traumatic memories, injuries, illnesses, and fears. UNICEF estimates that 96% of the children witnessed the massacres, and many children who survived were mutilated and raped, resulting in an unprecedented level of trauma among children.

In 2007, Lori Leyden, Ph.D., traveled to Rwanda with her team to work with orphaned genocide survivors and orphaned heads of household (children caring for other children). After Lori worked with the kids using energy psychology techniques, their trauma outbreaks were reduced by 90%, a significant relief in a situation where 200+ teenagers share a one-room dormitory. Lori uses a “train the trainer” model. She has now worked with over 550 orphans and other genocide survivors, and those young people have trained hundreds of others.

In Lori’s work, trauma healing is the first priority. There were times, though, when she wondered if it would even be possible to heal the depths of the traumas, the intrusive memories, nightmares, and sense of hopelessness that have been the daily reality since 1994 of these young people. Looking back, what struck Lori and members of her team most clearly was the resiliency and human dignity they witnessed in the kids. Lori realized that if these kids, with all the horrors they had endured, were willing to try to forgive, then there truly was a potential within all human hearts for world peace.

“Now we have hope and we know this is not our burden alone to carry. Forgiveness is so hard but we are willing now because we know we need each other.” –Celestin,
Student Leader representing orphan genocide survivors.

In 2008, Lori and her team decided to include celebrations in their work. They started with birthdays. With all the kids in a big circle, Lori called out “January” and all the kids with birthdays in January were to enter the center of the circle to be sung to and celebrated. Nobody moved. “February,” called Lori . . . again, nobody moved. Month after month went by until finally at “September,” with the center still empty, Lori and the team realized that these kids literally did not know their birthdays. Having grown up with no loving families to mark their birthdays as important events to celebrate, “Happy Birthday” was not part of their reality.

Lori’s vision extends far beyond healing the trauma, as critical and foundational as that work is. The orphans, now ages 16 to 25, are graduating high school in a country still not fully on its feet, and they find themselves with a diploma but few options for employment. Hope is still scarce. Thus, economic sustainability comes next—the young people need to be able to earn a living. Lori’s model of “hand-up, not hand-out,” is evolving as the first 12 young people, called “Ambassadors,” have graduated her Project LIGHT program. Two Ambassadors are in college, and two have obtained driver’s licenses (hard to do in Rwanda), so will be employable in professions that require driving. And all the Ambassadors are learning entrepreneurship, having launched a soap-making business. The lush landscape of Rwanda provides ample ingredients for making soap, and all 12 Ambassadors are learning all aspects of the business.

“Before I did not believe I could be an entrepreneur. Now I can start businesses in order to help myself, my community, my country and our world.”
–Desire, Project LIGHT Ambassador

Lori is teaching the kids to become heart-centered leaders, with the ultimate goal of having the kids themselves take ownership of the project. Lori shares her vision:
“Imagine an international youth healing center where young people receive emotional healing and training, real opportunities for economic independence and the freedom to become heart-centered leaders. With advanced technology to have real-time interactions between these young people, students, donors and our visionary Resource Partners in the fields of education, healing arts, business and entrepreneurship.”

Ultimately, Lori’s vision includes Youth Healing Centers like this all over the world, easily linked with communications made possible by today’s technology.

Lori’s vision has captured the hearts of American children who want to help. Middle school students in Santa Barbara, California, raised money for essential humanitarian projects at the orphanage such as water storage tanks and electricity. And one young man recently gave his Bar Mitzvah gifts to Project LIGHT, a total of $6,450! Asked how Project LIGHT had inspired him, this 13-year-old related, “Genocide is one of the worst things that can happen to people. We should have already learned “never again” but it is still happening. What you are doing is helping to prevent it by helping people understand each other better and giving young people a chance to be leaders and make their way in the world. More people should know about this program because it will help a lot of people. It should be bigger than it is. That’s why we need people to donate…”

Lori believes we are all “connected through our hearts’ desires to love, to be loved, to live a meaningful life and to have a bright and peaceful future. When we honor our oneness and act as One Heart we can accomplish anything.”

The beautiful teaching of the Dhammapada, that each person carries the light of the world within themselves, is echoed by Yvette: “You taught us to love ourselves. These lessons helped me realize I can make a difference. Happiness is for everyone. We are ready to become the Light of the World.”
Lori calls them Ambassadors. As they go about their volunteer work of teaching what they’ve learned in Project LIGHT, their community now calls them “HOPEMAKERS.”
Learn more about Project LIGHT, Lori’s vision, and how you can help:

Alan Davidson: Eating for Life

By body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence, Health & Wellbeing, Mental Intelligence, Moral Intelligence, Physical Intelligence, Spiritual Intelligence No Comments

© by Alan Davidson- All Rights reserved

An Apple a Day keeps your Five IQs pulsing

PARADISE, a few years back—Once upon a time, there was a garden.  It was beautiful and perfect, and everything lived in the garden:  trees, plants, animals, even insects.  And the Gardener loved it, but after hanging out a while She thought to Herself:  something’s missing.  So the Gardener took some of the earth, and water, and sunlight, and mixed it together and blew Her breath into it, and there was Adam (for that is what “Adam” means:  adamah, “ground”).

The Gardener was happy again.  Adam was happy.  The plants and animals were beautiful and plentiful.  But after a while the Gardener began to think something was still missing, so She gathered some more earth, sunshine, and water, mixed it together with one of Adam’s ribs, blew Her breath into it, and created Eve.  Then everything was truly everything.  The Gardener told Adam and Eve that they had dominion over everything in the garden except one tree—that one over there, the one with the beautiful apples—that’s the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Don’t even think about going over there.  And for a while, everyone was happy.

Adam & Eve like dem der apples

One day, Eve was out walking, enjoying the garden, when she came upon the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Draped over the limbs was a beautiful black serpent.  He offered her an apple, saying they were “fabulous,” “Eve, you really should try one of these apples; they are soo good—besides, didn’t the Gardener say that you have dominion over all things in the garden?  Doesn’t that mean you can do anything you want, free will and all that jazz?”

“Well, yes,” replied Eve.  “So have an apple,” invited the snake, and Eve took a big bite.  It was delicious, sweet and sensual, and she grabbed another before going to look for Adam.

In another part of the garden, Adam saw Eve scurrying toward him, all out of breath.  “Adam, you really should try one of these apples.  You won’t believe their sweetness.”  “I couldn’t possibly; you know the Gardener said we shouldn’t,” Adam replied.  “Well,” Eve shot back, “didn’t the Gardener say we had dominion over all things here in the garden?   “Well, yes,” Adam ventured.  “Then have one of these apples,” Eve invited.  So Adam bit the apple, and it was delicious, sweet and sensuous.

The next thing they heard was the voice of the Gardener, booming like thunder over the garden.  “Out, Adam and Eve; out of the Garden of Eden!”  Suddenly Adam and Eve were cold, and they became aware of their nakedness.  Just that one little screw-up and it was all over.  The daughters of Eve have gotten a bum rap ever since, and snakes haven’t fared too much better.

For me, the story of Adam and Eve (or in my case, maybe Adam and Steve) is all about the evolution of consciousness.  Their hearts and minds were opened to a life beyond Eden.  Maybe in order to explore free will and all that jazz, they had to rock the garden.

The Relationship of Food to the Five IQs

A lot of my history with food revolves around my attempts to be trim, glamorous and beautiful, which resulted in a merry-go-round of dieting and binge-eating.

Lately, however, I’ve shifted my emphasis to what foods make me feel good or even more powerful (in control of myself).  It’s not about being fat or skinny; it’s about being fit and healthy.  And amazingly, by re-orienting my thinking I’ve seen some of the pounds melt away.

Why do we eat?  For most of us in the United States, we may chow down because we’re hungry, but not for survival.  Nevertheless, the fact that anybody in America goes hungry is unacceptable. We eat as a social event, out of habit, because it’s “time” (particularly if Mom served supper the same time each day), out of boredom, or as an emotional pacifier.  (See, it all goes back to Freud and that oral stage.)

How do our choices about food correspond to the Five Intelligences?  On the physical level, food is fuel, providing the energy for our bones and muscles to grow strong and straight, flexible and graceful.

Digestion occurs in the emotional level, as well as socialization, boredom and stress:  three of the reasons we eat.  Our state of mind, the mental level, joins the emotions here.

Our behaviors, or the moral choices we make, include our decisions not to engage in the stuff we know is wrong:  smoking, drinking too much, eating to excess (gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins).

And at the spiritual level?  It is here, that after all those years of eating without any consideration of the body as a temple, you finally know what is really right for you.

A Plug for Exercise

Sean - Diamond Push-up (from Body Brilliance)

Diet is vital for a healthy body, mind and spirit, but sensible eating must be joined by a balanced program of exercise.  The concept of living through your body exemplifies what Richard Strozzi Heckler and Robert Hall, founders of The Lomi School, called somatics:  a body-centered approach to the integration of the five intelligences accomplished through bodywork and meditation.

Regular practice of a combined exercise program, such as those described in Body Brilliance, help develop the physical IQ.  But I’d like to take a minute to discuss Applied Kinesiology.  This discipline uses deep muscle testing to release emotional conflict much as somatics utilizes deep muscle massage to achieve body-centered equanimity.

Kinesiology demonstrates the inherent knowledge of the body.  The process goes like this:  a volunteer stands and raises an arm.  Ask the volunteer about a painful memory or mention an unpleasant person or episode, then ask the volunteer to resist your effort to push down the arm.  He or she will put up a rather weak effort.  If you set the stage with a positive situation, the volunteer’s resistance is much stronger.

Hall explains:  “At the core of every person is the essence of love.”  The somatic bodywork reaches down through the fear and stress to release the love within—and the strength.

Returning to Adam and Eve (or Steve):  The idea of disobeying God to gain awareness of good and evil is not bad.  Life—and learning how to live it—is a gift.

Judea Pearl: Emotional IQ and The Daniel Pearl Foundation

By Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence One Comment

by Alan Davidson and Joanne Austin

Judea Pearl

Judea Pearl’s quiet academic life came to a screeching halt in February 2002, when Muslim extremists in Pakistan beheaded his son Daniel, 38, a long-time reporter for The Wall Street Journal. His captors performed the execution on TV, so that all the world could witness their terrorist act. Although many newspapers and media outlets characterized Pearl’s murder as a cautionary tale for journalists, Pearl believes it was a cowardly anti-Semitic attack. Daniel’s last words (he went by “Danny”) were “I am a Jew.”

Within a week of Danny’s execution, Pearl and his wife, Ruth, had channeled their grief into something positive. Pearl’s training as an engineer guided the couple into working strategically to create something that best exemplified Danny’s love of journalism, his professionalism, his belief that music can bring people together, and his gentle, open nature. The couple wanted to promote dialogue and reconciliation among Jews and Muslims. The result: the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Judea Pearl says he feels “compelled” to use this opportunity for understanding, commenting that, “This is my conception of revenge. If they [terrorists] try to spread division among people, then we ought to spread friendship.”

Considered one of the giants in the field of artificial intelligence, computer modeling to test causality, and in the creation of Bayesian networks as the mathematical engines of those searches, Judea Pearl could be an older Charlie Epps, the mathematics wunderkind played by David Krumholtz in the TV series Numb3rs, in which Epps creates complicated models to help the Los Angeles FBI connect the dots and solve crimes. Pearl taught, published papers, and conducted research at University of CA-Los Angeles (UCLA). But now he devotes all his energies to the Foundation.

Daniel Pearl - hostage

The Daniel Pearl Foundation offers several unique programs to accomplish the family’s goals. In journalism, Prepare and Educate Aspiring Reporters for Leadership (PEARL) gives young adults the opportunity to learn about internships and other journalism outlets through the Web. The PEARL World Youth News, in partnership with the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), focuses on teaching unbiased reporting skills and respect for cultural differences to young journalism students. More than 20,000 high schools in 109 countries participate in the program, which offers certification upon completion.

The Daniel Pearl Media Internship deals specifically with the tensions and distrust between Israelis and Palestinians. Young adults ages 16 to 23 years from this Middle Eastern hotspot can intern for two months at a newspaper, radio or TV outlet, providing they have graduated from a co-existence and dialogue program.

Ruth and Judea Pearl launched the first Daniel Pearl World Music Days on October 10, 2002, which would have been Danny’s thirty-ninth birthday. Danny, who played fiddle and mandolin, believed music could bridge all differences, and the World Music Days have grown to include thousands of performances worldwide in over 60 countries. Artists such as Yo-Yo-Ma, Yitzhak Perlman, REM, and Janoon, the top rock group in Pakistan, have donated their time. Elton John dedicates a week of concerts for World Music Days, often singing his hit song, “Daniel.”

But perhaps the most amazing outcome of the Pearls’ determined efforts to bring people together and encourage reasoned exchange is the Daniel Pearl Dialogue for Muslim-Jewish Understanding, featuring conversations between Judea Pearl and Dr. Akbar Ahmed, a Pakistani professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC.

Judea Pearl is an ambassador for Emotional Brilliance.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head—it is the unique intersection of both.”~ David Caruso

All human consciousness can be explained as the evolution of body, mind and spirit. The transcendence and integration of all aspects of ourselves.

In a radio interview conducted in February 2004, Yale professor, David Caruso, explained their theories much more simply by saying that emotional intelligence was the ability to:

1.  accurately identify emotions:  your own and other people’s emotions in language and artwork; whether somebody is lying;
2.  use emotions to help you think:  emotional responses identify important issues; mood swings as indicators of different points of view;
3.  understand what causes emotions: how they overlap;
4.  stay open to emotional response: “capture” the wisdom of our feelings.

Emotional Intelligence tests to assess the strengths and weaknesses of emotional understanding in business or professional settings.  How one responded indicated whether emotional reactions were taken into account for problem-solving and inter-office cooperation.  It wasn’t quite the mantra of “I’m OK, You’re OK” popular in the 1970s, but it was an approach much different from the top-down, “Because I’m the boss” management style of earlier generations.

Three Levels of Emotional IQ

Physiologically, Emotional IQ covers the body’s organ systems:  heart and circulation; lungs and respiration; the intestines, stomach and the digestive tract; reproduction and the sex drive; and the hormones and endocrine system.

Hormones, perhaps, lead us most easily into thinking about our emotions.  This is especially true for those men who are quick to attribute a woman’s mood swings to nothing more than her hormones (“it must be her time of the month”). A person who tries to maximize emotional intelligence, however, doesn’t acknowledge just the physical aspects of this IQ but also works to understand the emotions and manage them effectively.

It might be easier for our purposes to divide the emotional IQ into three levels of development:  Self Care, Care for Others, and Cosmic Care.

1.    Self Care (I/It):  placing emphasis on “me, me, me;” my needs, desires and reactions; blindness to others’ needs; objectifying others.

2.    Care for Others (I/You/Them):  learning to see past one’s nose and to express concern for others besides yourself; exhibiting sympathy and sharing others’ joys and sorrows; learning self control.

3.    Cosmic Care (I/I or I/Thou):  the understanding and acceptance of the idea that we are all worthy of emotional connectedness; the good of one is the good of all; there is no “Them,” only “Us.” Judea Pearl, in the face of his personal tragedy, and commitment to a world understanding, speaks for this level of emotional wisdom.

Let me make something clear, however.  When we evolve into another stage of development we don’t abandon the stage before.  We just learn to incorporate it into the next level and to react in a wiser, more mature manner.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with having personal preferences or requests (emphasis on Self) or not being completely in tune with how someone else sees life (having Care for Others).

The inclusion of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems in Emotional Intelligence signify the importance of breathing techniques, supplemented by diet and exercise, to the development of that IQ.  Learning to eat properly, to exercise regularly, and to cleanse the body with healing breath are choices that don’t have to be practiced alone.  In fact, studies show that people lose more weight or stay in an exercise program longer if they can share the experience. And participating in breathing regimens often accompanies a yoga lesson. If the class really jells, the members will celebrate each others’ successes and commiserate over the setbacks:  Care for Others.

Finally, the precepts of Sacred Sex constitute the last major avenue for growing and developing a higher Emotional IQ.  Sacred Sex does not mean relations as part of some ritual but the realization that such intimate sharing brings immeasurable joy to both parties, a communion of the spirit as well as the body.  And with that understanding, partners achieve a Cosmic level of caring.

There are many paths to embracing and embodying the wisdom of our emotions. It is imperative that we do. But most importantly, so much of our joy is expressed through our love of family, our animal friends, human friends, and the earth. Wise hearts, like Judea Pearl’s, guide us to our own emotional brilliance.

Cheryl Richardson: Let Me Disappoint You

By body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence 4 Comments

by Cheryl Richardson

How to Disappoint People Right Away…

Cheryl Richardson: New York Times best-selling author

I hate being disappointed. There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up only to have them squelched when something doesn’t turn out the way you plan. And that’s precisely why I hate to disappoint others. Over the years I’ve watched myself go on autopilot when someone asks for a favor, saying “yes” when I know in my gut that I’d rather not do it. Or I’ve suffered, spending too much time trying to come up with a graceful way to let someone down so they wouldn’t feel hurt or angry at my “no.”

At our core, most of us hate to hurt or disappoint people. As a matter of fact, many avoid it like the plague. Here are a few reasons why:

• We want to avoid feeling guilty.

• We hate being disappointed or hurt ourselves and we want to spare others the emotional pain of that experience.

• We lack the language to say no with grace and love.

• We’re conflict phobic so we’ll do what it takes to keep the peace.

• We want people to like us.

How to Disappoint people faster

One of the harsh realities about practicing Extreme Self Care is that you must learn to handle your anxiety when you end up having to disappoint people, hurt their feelings, or make them angry. And you will. When you decide to put an end to the cycle of deprivation in your life, you’ll need to start saying no, setting limits, and putting boundaries in place to protect your time, energy, and emotional needs. This poses a huge challenge for most caring individuals. Why? Because inevitably you’ll end up disappointing a friend when you decide, for example, to honor your need for a weekend off rather than agree to baby-sit her kids. Or, there’s a good chance that you’ll hurt your teenager’s feelings when you tell him to walk to his friend’s house so you don’t have to chauffeur him around for the tenth time this month. And, you can rest assured that you will piss off a spouse who suddenly has to do his own laundry because you’ve decided that you’re no longer going to play house maid to everyone who lives under your roof. Trust me, you’ll be changing the rules of the game and some people won’t like it. But, remember this: If you want to live a meaningful life that makes a difference in the lives of others, you need to make a difference in your own life first. That way your motivation is pure. Feelings of discomfort, guilt, or fear are just part of the process of focusing on your own needs first.

It can be quite surprising to see the lengths we’ll go to to avoid hurting or disappointing people. My conversation with Barbara, a woman who called into my radio show, was a good example. Barbara was aware of her tendency to be a Good Girl and by the time she shared this story with me, she knew exactly what was going on. “I’m about to commit the ultimate good girl act,” she admitted. “For the last six months, my boss of ten years has worked hard to line up a transfer to a new position in a warm part of the country – something I’ve wanted for a long time. But, as I go through the interview process it’s becoming clear to me that the job isn’t what I thought it would be and I’m starting to realize that I won’t be happy. Here’s the crazy thing. Believe it or not, I’m actually thinking about taking the job anyway because he’s really gone to bat for me and I hate to let him down.”

As outrageous as this story seems, I wasn’t surprised in the least. If you think about it long enough, I bet you could come up with your own examples. You agree to take a new client even though everything inside of you screams, “Warning! Warning!” because you don’t want him to feel rejected. Or, you have an argument with your spouse about not having enough time together only to find yourself agreeing to head up a fundraiser for your kid’s school that very night because you want the other parents to know how committed you are. Every day people make significant decisions based on what others want, knowing full well that on some level they’re committing an act of self-betrayal. The good girl (or good boy) habit is a tough one to put down.

So, what happens when you start to disappoint people or let them down? When it comes to practicing Extreme Self Care in the face of our relationships, there’s something you need to know: You may very well lose a few relationships in the process. Up until this point, if you have a tendency to over give, there’s a good chance that you’ve trained the people in your life to expect it. Now, by making your needs more of a priority, you’re changing the rules. Don’t be surprised if someone close to you – a best friend, a family member, or a spouse, tries to pull you back into the fold of compliance. And when this happens, the worst thing you can do is give in. When you do, you give mixed messages and you teach people not to trust your word. Instead you need to be honest, direct, and appropriately remorseful and that’s it. Don’t over explain, defend or invite a debate about your decision. The fewer words the better.

The above is an excerpt from The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson published by Hay House. © 2009 Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the New York Times best-selling author of numerous books. Her work has been covered widely on national television, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, and Good Morning America. She leads large web communities at and, which are dedicated to helping people around the world improve their quality of life.

Motion and Emotion

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence No Comments

by Karol Ward, LCSW

Karol Ward, LCSW - What to do when emotions arise in a body-mind movement session

“Michelle” was completing a movement on a Gyrotonic® tower, supervised one-on-one by her instructor. The exercise involved arching her upper back and shoulders. As Michelle finished the motion, she sat up and began to cry. Startled, her trainer first checked for injury; then, sure that Michelle was not hurt, the trainer stopped the session and took her into a back room within the studio for privacy. They sat together until Michelle was calm, and then they ended their work for the day.

Later, as she relates this experience to me in a psychotherapy session, Michelle connects with the fact that she holds chronic physical tension in her upper shoulders. Because she is in body-mind psychotherapy, a therapy that combines talking and working with the body, she is aware that the arching movement in her Gyrotonic session stretched an area in her shoulders and freed the emotions being held there. She is grateful for her trainer’s support, even though the depth of feeling that emerged surprised them both. We discuss what the trainer did to help Michelle feel supported, and she says, “My trainer didn’t get upset or try to fix [the emotion] for me. She just sat with me, offered reassurance and let me cry till I was done. That was comforting, because I was embarrassed that it happened.”

Gyrotonic Exercise

Instances of emotional release are not uncommon in the body-mind movement arena. Sometimes, as in Michelle’s case, the emotions take both the client and the wellness professional by surprise; other times, the client makes a conscious decision to share personal stresses with the professional. Either way, why do emotions sometimes surface when we move? What is happening in the body? And what is the appropriate way for a wellness professional to respond?

When Emotions Are Held in the Body

The human body houses a complex system of impulses, feelings and thoughts. We are constantly responding emotionally, both internally and externally, to a variety of situations in life. These emotional states are fluid and correspond to how we relate to the world (Keleman 1989). As we respond emotionally, a physiological “charge,” or energetic response, starts to happen within the body, and the charge builds until it is released (Reich 1980).

Imagine setting off on a roller coaster ride. The first hill has a steep incline and then a big drop down. As you start going up that hill, excitement, fear or joy begins to arise in you. The climb continues, and the emotion increases till you reach the top. Then, as you crest the hill and your feelings are at their highest, you let out a big scream and plunge down the slope on the other side. If the ride were to end at this point, the car would slow down and you would move into a calmer state.

This roller coaster experience is very similar to what happens when emotions build in the body and are then released. We start to have a feeling-reaction to a situation, the feeling builds to a peak, we express the emotion and then we move into a state of relaxation. But what happens when emotion is not released when it needs to be?

Our body shape is influenced not only by heredity, diet and regularity of movement but also by our emotional history. As Bodymind author Ken Dychtwald states, “The body begins to form around the feelings that animate it, and the feelings, in turn, become habituated and trapped within the body tissue itself” (Dychtwald 1986). In the field of body-mind psychotherapy, the understanding is that feelings are held in the body because we handle our emotional difficulties not only with our minds but also within our bodies. How do we do that?

It happens in a variety of ways. Most people do it through holding their breath and tightening their muscles in various areas of the body, so that over time a chronic muscular tension starts to set in. This tension, named “armoring” by psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, MD, back in the 1930s, is the way we compensate in the body for unexpressed emotions (Reich 1980). Those emotions can be upsets from earlier in the day, last week or many years past; we may not even remember how or why the feelings originated.

In addition to muscular tension, we develop psychological and physical stances that correspond to the emotions we are trying to keep at bay. For example, pectoral muscles that are overdeveloped in relation to the rest of the body might cover a fear of being vulnerable. A posterior pelvic tilt (the pelvis tucked under) may be linked to sexual inhibition. Similarly, hereditary and medical factors aside, an accumulation of weight in a particular part of the body or an inability to gain strength or flexibility in a specific muscle group usually corresponds to emotion held in that area. When the area opens up through movement, as happened with Michelle, the emotion held there surfaces.

S.A.N.E.: A Four-Step Process

So how do you, as a wellness professional, handle a client’s emotional upset and still maintain your professional boundaries? The S.A.N.E. SM approach, a four-step process I developed, can help you offer appropriate guidance and support while remaining within your scope of practice. (For more on the importance of observing scope-of-practice limits, see the sidebar, left.)

When emotion arises in a client you are working with, remember the acronym S.A.N.E, which stands for “Stop, Acknowledge, Normalize and Evaluate.”

Stop. When a one-on-one training client becomes emotional, it’s important to stop what you are doing and check in with him. Continuing on would not allow for the emotional support or “holding” that people need when they are upset. Holding, in this context, does not mean physically holding the client. It means witnessing the client’s emotion without trying to change or fix it—a process that creates safety (Fox 2001). In a group class, the way to “stop” is to monitor the emotional state of the participant without drawing attention to her. If she is very upset, a brief pause in the class and an offer to leave with her for a short while can be helpful. Remember that both in one-on-one sessions and group classes, the person may reject your offer of support out of embarrassment. If that happens, you can simply offer to check in later and follow up.

Acknowledge. When you ask clients or participants how they are, you may get a variety of answers, ranging from “I’m stressed” to “I’m tired” to “I’m fine” (even when that is not the case). Mirroring what a person has said is a simple and gentle way to acknowledge his feelings without having to fix the problem. “Clients need to feel understood and affirmed for who they are, to feel safe and comfortable, to feel some degree of sameness or likeness with you and others” (Fox 2001). Mirroring involves reflecting back to the client or student in an empathetic manner what he has just said to you. For example, if a client says, “I’m having a hard day,” you can nod and repeat, “You’re having a hard day.” You can repeat the response verbatim or repeat parts of it: “It’s a hard day for you” or “Yes, I can see it’s a hard day for you.” This straightforward reflection of your client’s emotional state is a powerful and calming tool.

Normalize. As stated earlier, embarrassment as well as confusion may accompany the emotional upset. The person will need reassurance from you that she is not being foolish or out of control to feel what she feels. If she says she is embarrassed, a statement from you that normalizes her experience will be very reassuring. A statement like “This sometimes happens to people when they move” or “It’s okay, I’ve seen this happen before” (as long as that is true in your experience) will help the client keep a perspective on what just happened. If she asks why emotions arise during movement, you can offer a general answer based on your own knowledge; for example, “Exercise is a stress reliever, and sometimes what’s behind that stress pops out.” Stating that you are not sure why it happened for this client, but that you have known it to happen to others, is often enough.

Evaluate. Carefully observing your client or student will tell you what steps to take next. In Michelle’s case, her trainer decided to end the session early because even though Michelle was calmer, there was enough lingering emotion to convey that she was not ready to continue. In other situations, the emotion may come and go like a flash flood and your client will let you know he is ready to work again. Observation, your relationship with your client and the questions you ask about how your client is feeling will help you make a decision. However, an ongoing pattern of emotional upset that continues to happen in your work together will need a deeper evaluation.

A Valuable Way to Help

The body’s amazing ability to move and transform itself is inspiring for body-mind professionals and their clients alike. In your role within the wellness arena, you have the opportunity to support your clients’ healing process in a simple but valuable way that stays clearly within your practice boundaries.

National Association of Social Workers,

United States Association for Body Psychotherapy,