Eight Practices of Emotional Hygiene
That will transform your life and heal your relationships
Embodiment is not a one-man show. We don't get embodied just for our own sake. We do it because it makes all the difference in our relationships. How do I stay in my body while in connection? That's the big question.
And it doesn't help that in this age of ‘digital anxiety’ and increased online communication, we get easily infected with fear and polarisation due to a lot of miscommunication.
So here are some basic tips to make sure you stay emotionally healthy and create the joyful and intimate relationships your heart desires (online and at home).
1. Make Time for it
Practice regular Check-ins. Life is so full and interactions happen so fast that it’s easy to get lazy with communication. It’s easy to sweep things under the carpet because we feel overwhelmed and stressed.
But it’s important to make time for this emotional hygiene practice. Otherwise, the dirt under the carpet just starts smelling.
So if you feel ‘full’ inside yourself or you cannot really feel where your loved one is at, ask for a Check-in. Request an uninterrupted time where both of you get a chance to speak to that which is alive and moving inside of you. Set aside a specific time for it.
I remember that every time I told my ex ‘we’ needed to talk, he would roll his eyes and try to do a runner. There were a few reasons for that, but one of them was that those conversations could easily turn into hours of chewing over the same issue without a resolution. No wonder he recoiled from the prospect.
If you put a specific time to it, however, everything changes. Let’s say you give everyone 10 minutes to share and you put a timer on it. This ‘container’ will allow everybody to relax, and urge everyone also to get to the point faster too. It’s much easier to ask for someone’s full but time-limited attention than to ask for indefinite amounts of it.
2. Name it
There are myriad things moving in every single one of us at any given moment and we haven’t yet evolved to that level of clairvoyance where we understand exactly what’s moving for the other person without checking-in with them. Instead, we see an outward behavior and if it’s not to our liking we often draw false conclusions as each and one of us interprets reality through our own filters!
So step number one is, instead of making assumptions, check-in with that person. E.g. Hey, I feel you a bit distant today, just wanted to check in with you about what’s moving for you? I feel worried it’s about something I did, but I don’t want to make assumptions.
If you are feeling a bit off, let others know: hey, guys, I’m sorry if I feel a bit weird today, but I’m really concerned with…and it takes me away from being fully present with you.
As soon as the truth gets spoken everyone should feel relief. What was hidden subconsciously in the field before, is now made conscious and it allows everyone greater freedom and clarity.
It also helps everyone else to speak their truth without blaming or shaming anyone.
3. Take Responsibility
You are the only one responsible for your feelings. Taking full ownership of your experience is extremely empowering, it takes us instantly out of a state of victimhood into finding solutions.
As soon as you are in thought patterns of “he did that to me’ and ‘he always does that’ etc. you are going down the path of extremely unhygienic emotional contamination:). We should avoid that, the way we avoid a virus.
That also applies to blaming or shaming yourself. Acknowledge how you feel and don’t make yourself wrong. It is what it is.
(It doesn’t mean that we cannot be hurt by others, of course, we can. We do all the time, but it’s our choice whether we let that fester as resentment and anger inside of us, or whether we let those wounds heal).
It’s easy to take responsibility when we can stay curious about our experience rather than thinking we already know everything. The fact that we might be wrong with our assumptions and interpretations gives whatever feeling is arising within, the space to breathe and therefore to move and change.
Blaming on the other hand makes our energy go rigid, heavy, and stuck.
4. Vulnerability is key
It’s one thing to be aware of how you are feeling and another thing to actually let someone else feel you in it. It’s easy to think:
“Ah, they will not understand. I’m being too dramatic. They don’t care. I shouldn’t impose.”
Or whatever other myriad stories that can run through your head out of fear to open up. But as long as you don’t allow someone else to feel you in your experience, you will stay stuck with the feeling of separation and aloneness.
Intimacy, which is healing, can only happen when we share ourselves in full ownership of ourselves.
We can share from a space of intellect and that’s a good first step, but it will not help us shift whatever energies that need shifting, if we are disconnected from feeling it.
Do you know what it’s like when someone tells you about their horrific experience that is absolutely gutwrenching but with a smile on their face?
That smile becomes like an armor of protection against anyone coming too close. It doesn’t feel very good, as oftentimes everyone is aware of that shield except for the person speaking.
If you find yourself in a situation like that, you can practice ‘naming it’ and being vulnerable yourself. You can say something like:
“I’m sorry, but I hear your story that is so heartwrenching and then I see you smile and it confuses me. It actually makes me even sad. I don’t know how to respond to you.”
Of course, you won’t be able to do it in every situation. But it’s good to become aware of all the ways in which we protect ourselves from being seen, felt, and received. As we observe others, we learn about ourselves.
5. Don’t make it about yourself
Practice the art of listening without getting defensive. If the other is sharing something painful for them, (even if it has to do with you), don’t make it about yourself.
Receive them where they are at. That will give them the chance to take responsibility for their experience and let them feel seen and heard.
It’s in this feeling that we are felt by another without being made wrong that healing happens.
This can be the most tricky part as it’s common that our triggers perfectly hook into the triggers of our partners. It’s easy to get totally entangled in it and spiral down emotionally into blame-land.
The best way to make sure that it doesn’t happen is if you practice the next point.
6. Be in a state of capacity
Before any sharing or check-in make sure that you are in a state of capacity. It’s not a good moment to share when you are tired, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, or drunk.
Before you share or let anyone share with you, take care of yourself first. Like in airplanes: before attending to anyone else, please put on your mask first.
If you want to be in good relationships with others, you will have to be in a good relationship with yourself. You will have to know the difference between when you are hijacked by your emotions, fears, and projections and when you are centered and in connection with yourself.
And you will have to know how to shift your state.
What do you do when you feel shit? When you had a bad day at work? Do you go to zone out in front of the TV or do you know how to shake off the negative energy and come back home to yourself?
Meditation, Chi Kung, nature, exercise, music, any form of creativity, and of course connection with others are all wonderful ways to self-regulate and make sure we are able to engage in healthy ways.
7. Trust yourself
You know the relationship is safe when both parties feel good and uplifted. Be honest with yourself about this. If it feels off, yucky or heavy, it’s an indication that the people are not in their truth and that the agreements of the relationship don’t serve the highest good of everyone.
If you are not feeling good in it, there is something that needs addressing. Too many people stay in toxic environments and relationships thinking there is something wrong with them, and if only they could change they would make it work.
Owning your right to feel good and safe in relationships has to do with your self-worth.
Your capacity to discern what relationships are good for you and healthy increases as you increase your capacity to take care of yourself. The more you practice emotional hygiene with others the more you will receive healthy imprints that will show you what healthy vs unhealthy feels like.
As much as you have to take responsibility, you are not the only one responsible for a relationship to work. It always takes two to tango. And if your partner doesn't pull his weight, it might not be the right partner for you.
So be truthful with yourself.
8. Say Sorry
Last but not least, saying sorry can be like waving a magic wand and discharging any conflict or issue. It’s like soap to our hearts washing away any heaviness.
Often when we get hurt we also lash out. Then we forget how did this fight or this relationship dynamic start in the first place?
One thing gets on top of the other and hurts accumulate. Many people try to cling to the facts in those situations. Who did what and how and when? They try to see how they got to where they are and in doing so they lose track of knowing where they want to go.
Saying sorry, even if it wasn’t your fault, instantly discharges the overreactive mind and helps you drop down into the heart of the matter.
You might not be sorry for what you did or what happened, but you may be sorry for not being able to feel connected right now.
You may feel sorry for the fact that ‘someone’ is hurting because that’s never the heart’s intention. And our heart is much more impersonal in nature. It just wants harmony (because that’s when it thrives) no matter who, what, how, and when.
Our hearts want to move on from the past and to live in the now.
Saying sorry simply means: I acknowledge the pain that is present and I’m willing to do something about it.
And as we already know, there is a quiet power in naming things, that cannot be underestimated.
I believe relationships are the trickiest of the human experience. How could it be any other way? Every human is such a unique, complex being!
But I also believe that relationships can be much more enjoyable than what is the current experience for many. It’s simply that we haven’t been taught the very basic skills of emotional hygiene. Instead, we experienced quite the opposite.
That’s why it is going to take some practice and dedication to master these skills, but I can only assure you that it’s well worth it. There is nothing so delicious as being able to be completely yourself in a circle of others, where you feel safe and celebrated for exactly who you are.