Use this kinesthetic device to bring conscious awareness to inner states in a gentle, structured way. I like to break this technique down into two portions: 1) acknowledging less comfortable states and 2) cultivating empowering states.
The basic technique involves posing a question to self: What do I feel? And then for each finger on each hand, acknowledging whatever feeling and associated cause comes up while breathing and raising or moving one finger.
This process amounts to strategic mindfulness or actively going looking for stored up emotions rather than passively waiting for them to surface. E.g., I say “I feel [afraid] of/because _____” and I allow a source of fear to come to mind. When it does, and raise a finger on my left hand and take a deep breath. Repeat this process for each finger on the left hand and continue onto the right hand if more sources of fear come to mind. It doesn’t matter if the topics are related or of similar weight.
This process can be repeated for any other emotions such as anger, nervousness, stress, sadness, etc. at any time. I like to think of the left hand (5 fingers) as a basic level of strategic introspection and the right hand (another 5 fingers) as a bonus round or deeper opportunity for self awareness.
This process amounts to mental rehearsal or empowerment through positive focus or actively looking for proof of success and priming the mind for more of it. E.g., I raise a finger and breathe while I list [a recent accomplishment], no matter how small. Repeat this process for each finger on the left hand and continue onto the right hand as more examples come to mind. It doesn’t matter if the topics are related or of similar weight.
This process can be repeated for any other empowering states such as gratitude, compassion, wonder, joy, etc. at any time. E.g., I’m thankful for/that [insert any positive fact of your life]. Again, I think of the left hand (5 fingers) as a basic level of strategic focusing and the right hand (another 5 fingers) as a bonus round or deeper opportunity for embodying positive states.
I like doing this practice at night when my head is on the pillow and I’m thinking about my day. This can help me to take the best parts forward, let go of uncomfortable aspects, and prime myself for more goodness the next day.
The subject of each round of finger counting can be strategically chosen for depending on the situation or patterns being experienced. For example, if caught in a habit of stress and worry, part 1 could be “I am stressed about…” and part 2 could be “I am confident about…”. Or if feeling anxious, part 1 might be “I am afraid that…” and part 2 might be “I accomplished…”.
This practice works because emotions exist as messengers of our status and needs. The more we shove emotions aside, the more they can build to a point of discomfort or even dysfunction. Alternatively, when we hear, understand, and respond constructively to emotions, they are able to dissipate because their purpose has been realized.
Put another way, we are chemically designed to recognize whether we are safe or unsafe. The body can tell if we are being chased by a bear, hiding from a bear, checking if there’s a bear nearby, or safely enjoying our surroundings and companions. While there are differing degrees of safe and unsafe, each is ultimately some flavour of the same chemical soup, and so even low-level stress is ultimately bathing the inner body in some dilution of the same fear or anger chemicals/signals.
These signals of personal status and safety are often set out of habit or calibrated by modelling significant relationships (parents, siblings, circumstances), which can sometimes be significantly and detrimentally skewed from a balanced and viable view of the world. When we make a point to level and calibrate our awareness constructively, we strengthen our emotional resilience, reduce disproportionate reactivity, and optimize our chances of success regardless of whether we deem ourselves to be safe or unsafe in any given moment.
By actively investigating our emotional states, we reduce the need for those states to escalate their expression within ourselves to gain our attention. It’s like the difference between packing a snack and having a nibble while looking for a lunch spot rather than waiting ’til hunger emerges in full force before even starting to find a restaurant. Finger counting (or whatever felt-sense device you choose) slowly shines a light on all emotions so they become less surprising and more informative over time.