Intensity is a term commonly used to describe gifted people. While gifted people do experience a barrage of very powerful emotions, I believe that intense emotions are something all of us experience in moments. The difference might be found in the notion that the gifted mind never really goes on autopilot. Meaning, they are constantly conscious and constantly thinking. They don’t mindlessly take a shower or brush their teeth. They are thinking about many topics at a very deep level and emotionally reacting to them – all within their own head and body, all the time. The result is an intense person. This also can lead to exhaustion and stress and health problems so exploring intense emotions is a worthy effort especially those in the gifted crowd. As I always say, this workout is good for everyone, however, it can be critical for someone living with intensity.

Intense emotions can feel wonderful or awful. Grief, anger, fear, and sadness, are examples of feelings we tend to not enjoy. Joy, love, and feelings of achievement or success are on the funner side of the emotional spectrum.

Have you ever been overcome with emotions? A sad movie, the birth of a child, a wedding, a funeral? Sometimes we just cannot control ourselves and the tears start to flow regardless of who is looking. In Western cultures we tend to try to avoid expressing these emotions in public. The physical effort involved to suppress an emotion can be so huge that headaches and exhaustion can be the result. The stigma of expressing emotions in front of others is especially strong amongst males. Boys don’t cry.

This is extremely unhealthy.

Sports and exercise can be an outlet for intense feelings, however, we may not always have the ability to tackle someone when we are feeling angry. So, what do we do when we are boiling over? Many therapists teach cognitive strategies, muscle tensing and relaxing, or breathing techniques to try to quiet the nervous system. Breathing and tensing muscles is pretty socially acceptable because it can be done without anyone noticing. Identifying your run away thoughts and course correcting them is great if you can pull it off. However, when you have one of those brains (and you know who you are) that just can’t let it go, what do you do?

You move. You express. You return to peace. Rinse and repeat. Do this intentionally on a regular basis, and you might feel better. Emotional suppression might be less of a problem. No one wants to feel like a pressure cooker ready to blow all the time.

My university has developed an emotional literacy program that is fantastic. I will offer a few highlights, and my guess is you can run with it. Most importantly, your intention to actually release the emotions is critical. If you are just going through the motions or are skeptical at all, this will not work. And to quote my fantastic professor, Linda, “A little crazy prevents the big crazy!” So let go of your inhibition or find a private space…

The Peace Workout

Stand up, feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Start to swirl your hips allowing your ankles to rotate. Joints are traps for energy so get them moving. Soften the knees. Place your hands next to your ribs. As you inhale deeply open your arms as if you are playing your rib cage like an accordion. As you exhale, make the sound “Ahhhhh.” While you are continuing to move and breathe in this manner, imagine inhaling soothing, calming energy into every part of your body and exhaling tension, stress and fatigue. Repeat until you begin to feel at peace. You can even add an affirmation, “Slowing down, I relax into peace.” This is the peace workout which should be the first and last thing you do with any of the following workouts.

Now that you are at peace, decide which emotion you are going to express: fear, anger, or sadness.

The Fear Workout

Feel your feet strongly planted on the ground about shoulder width apart. Remember a time when you were startled with fear. Notice what is happening in your body. Your muscles may tighten; you may start holding your breath. Put your hands next to your ribs. Inhale and pull your hands outward to help draw out the chest cavity. As you exhale make the sounds of uhh, uhh, ahhhh, ahhhh. Repeat inhaling and exhaling with sound three times. Then spread your fingers and put your hands in front of your face as if someone is coming to hurt you and you are protecting yourself. Open your eyes wide, flare your nostrils and stretch your mouth wide. Allow yourself to feel the expression of fear as a mask. Freeze your body until it feels like a stone at the top of your inhalation. Slowly and audibly exhale all the tension that has been built up. On the exhale feel the mask of fear start to dissolve into a relaxed state. With force, shout the fear affirmation, “Stop! Look! Listen!” Repeat this three times. Transforming the fear into excitement with breath and chant, “Awe! Awe! Ahhh! Ahhh!” two to three times building the excitement into your voice that charges you to step out with tenacity and daring to take the plunge. Follow this with the fear affirmation, “Yes, I can do it! Yes, I can!” I like to add forward steps here to symbolize forward movement. Check in with how you are feeling within your body. Repeat the process until the fear has transmuted into enthusiasm. Now do the peace workout.

The Anger Workout

Bend your knees even deeper. Feel any angry feelings that need to be expelled. What is making your blood boil? Bring it up. Notice what happens to your body. Muscles might contract. You might start to crouch, bending at the torso. Tighten your hands into fists as much as possible and with elbows bent pump the fists up and down towards your pelvis. Chant with force as you are pumping your hands up and down, “Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, ahhhhhhhh, an even stronger huh, ahhhhhhh!” Repeat this two or three times, transforming the frustrating energy into power. Then, imagine yourself caught in a gooey gum ball machine. Your body is all tied up with rubbery strands of sticky gooey stuff. Imagine pulling sticky taffy off of you. Pull off the goo as if it is the “thing” that someone stuck to you and made you angry. Throw it away from your body with force. Grunt and shout as you are throwing away the sticky mess using all of your muscular power. The more you can expand your chest and move this gooey mess off of your body, the more tension, guilt, shame, and chronic emotional build up goes off with it. With intense energy in your voice, say the anger affirmation, “I have the power to move mountains, and slay dragons!!!” As you repeat this add a pushing movement (moving mountains) and a stabbing motion (slaying dragons). Now do the peace workout.

If you find your anger is directed at an individual (let’s say your spouse did someone that really set you off or you are feeling resentful towards them), it might be beneficial to add a step to the anger workout after you are pulling the goo off of your body. Pretend the person is standing in front of you and shout nonsense words (whatever comes out of your mouth as long as they aren’t real words) at that person. Could sound like, “Graaaa, flug, eeeeee, naaaa, blah, blah, ahhhhh!” Go on as long as you feel the need. It is very cathartic and will release the energy, so you can return to peace and probably find the words you actually want to say without regret. The reason not to use real words is words carry meaning and some believe energy that can be harmful. When we are upset we often say things we do not mean in an effort to demand attention and seek a response similar to the way a child would. Best to expel the energy and then find our truth.

The Sadness Workout

Hands on your ribs again. Pant like a puppy on a hot day. Audibly pant in different rhythms. Pant for 15 seconds for 5 rounds. If you get dizzy, take a slow, long, relaxed breath. Take a moment and feel what may be happening in your body, Just let whatever wants to come up, come up. Take your time with this. Allow the quality of vulnerability in your voice and state the sadness affirmation, “Vulnerability is my strength. Vulnerability is my power.” Now do the peace workout.

 

There are two other workouts that help you get in touch with your loving, grounded self: love and “shake out the crazies.” Shaking out the crazies works especially well with children who are wound up and need to calm themselves, and I must say that it has really helped me when I am stuck in anxiety.

The Love Workout

The love workout involves you hugging and squeezing every part of your body. When you are hugged, you get a nice hit of serotonin. Make your entire body hum with joy. Wrap your arms around yourself and feel love (again making whatever sounds come to you). Take your hands and touch the parts of your body that have ever felt pain, stress or hurt, and send love to those places. Appreciate all that your body does for you. This is incredibly powerful because only you know where you feel pain or stress and only you can deliver the love and caring in the exact manner in which you need to receive it. So go ahead. We are starved for touch. Hug away! Then follow this exercise with the peace workout.

Shake Out the Crazies

To shake out the crazies, just shake your head, arms, legs, hands, hips, body, whatever you can move. Make whatever noise comes to you. Sound moves energy so whoop, holler, pretend you are an animal. Shake until you feel the energy shift. Then follow this with the peace workout. Try this before you are about to do something nerve wracking: an interview, a speech, a confrontational conversation. It will help center you so you can be your wise grounded self in the moment you need it the most.

The Laughter Workout

And finally, because there is not enough laughter in the world, there is a laughter workout. Now, when I did this with a large group of people, I must say, we all laughed hysterically for a really long time. It was wonderful! Hands on your belly. Pulsate the belly muscles with quick, snappy, percussive breaths. Zing and ping the belly muscles up and down and like Santa Claus start with, “Ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha!!!” Send your energy up and down your spine. Take a deep breath and say, “Ahhhhhh.” Do this for 5 rounds that last for about 10 or so seconds. If you are really into it, your ho, ho ho’s might transmute into genuine laughter. Yay! Now do the peace workout.

This emotional literacy workout must be credited to the beautiful professors at University of Delphi who have given their students permission to take this out into the world for the betterment of mankind. Thank you.