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On Saturday Feb. 4 Penelope Young Andrade will have an event at Warwicks in La Jolla at noon. See or call 858-481-5752 for more.

Emotional Medicine Rx — Part 2

Cry When You’re Sad, Stop When You’re Done, Feel Good Fast

Last month we ran part one of our interview with San Diego psychologist and long-time TLC contributor, Penelope Young-Andrade. Read that at In Penelope’s new book, Emotional Medicine Rx, she tells us to feel our feelings—cry when you’re sad, stop when you’re done—so we can get back to thinking straight. She tells us how to make distinctions about which emotions are worth experiencing fully, how to get over limiting thoughts, and how to use our emotions to feel good. In today’s often stressful world, she gives us useful tools to move beyond our repetitive, mentally-driven reactions toward the power, pleasure and peace that result when we let our bodies lead us to emotional peace.

I thought it was fascinating what you said about doing the processes with a friend and how they can benefit just by watching the process happen.

Yes, the recent discoveries concerning ‘mirror’ neurons open the door for all kinds of transformational possibilities. Apparently when we watch another human doing something, we have ‘mirror’ neurons in our brain that light up as if we were doing that same thing ourselves. So if you ask a friend to be with you while you move through some mad, sad, scared emotions to get yourself to a place of glad—that friend can also enjoy some of the benefits your emotional experience brings you.

Interestingly, in my work with couples I’ve observed that one of the partners is usually better at feeling emotions than the other. If that ‘emotional’ one has not learned how to let the body lead them back to glad energy, they will be scapegoated as the ‘problem’ in the relationship. This is such a waste. With emotional medicine strategies in place, the emotional one can ask for support for emotions to flow and the non emotional partner knows that all they have to do is be there, stay out of judgment, avoid trying to fix anything and in a few minutes they’ll both feel better.

As you can imagine, I am the ‘emotional’ on in my relationship with Arturo. After 21 years together, he has learned to relax into getting some emotional medicine himself just by being with me as I do what I’m good at doing.

I also have a few women friends I call my ‘feel good fast friends—FGFF’s.’ We call on each other to be there while we take emotional medicine. It’s a great, inexpensive support system. Any friends interested in learning more how to do this for each other can come to my day-long Emotional Medicine Workshop in Encinitas, January 21.

How you react to circumstances is your responsibility, you have said.

And this is both totally unfair and totally empowering. It’s unfair because all of our reactions occur .005 of a second before we have any conscious awareness of what is happening. As brain scientist Antonio Damasio points out, we are always late to the party of consciousness. Furthermore, our unconscious reactions are often based on childhood events or later traumatic events over which we typically had no control. So there we are, in the first milliseconds of any reaction, like puppets on a string. Dang. I hate that.

However, the only way life works is to accept this basic unfairness and choose to take responsibility for what you do after any unconscious reaction. This is totally empowering!

In terms of emotional medicine, this means choosing not to reactively dump anger on someone but to notice when your jaws or fists are clenching in tiny movements of anger that may later need releasing. This also means noticing when your throat gets tight and you feel tears rising in your eyes (tears which are filled with the stress hormones your body is trying to excrete to help you feel better, by the way) and making a decision to find in a private, safe place to honor your emotion and allow it to move. Try not to make any decisions until you’ve done this. Emotional medicine is such powerful medicine that you and the world around often look completely different after just a few minutes of embodied emotional release.

You talk a lot about emotions and the body, a sense of self, but your work is also very spiritual work. Can you address that?

I love to pull back the curtain and reveal that this ‘emotional medicine’ method is really all about spiritual practice. Yup. It’s true. In order to take emotional medicine you need to be willing to expand your awareness—to develop skills of mindfulness of what is happening body, emotions, mind, spirit and relationships moment by moment. Developing the consciousness and will to see your emotional energies in their simplest forms as temporary waves of energy which need your support to move safely, briefly, responsibly through your body in order to lead you to well being is spiritual practice.

This leads us to the question of who is it, exactly, that can make the choice to let your body lead—to use emotions as medicine? I say it’s your Big S, spiritual Self. Emotional medicine invites you to be fully present in the moment to feel every muscle of mad, every drop of sad, every tremble of scared, every pulsation of glad—while simultaneously staying mindful and distinct and connected to your Self enough to notice what needs to happen, what wants to happen, what is safe to happen—and then creatively finding a way to allow healing to occur.

As the universe would have it, the woman, Roberta Werdinger, who did the final editing for my book was also a Zen Buddhist priest. Roberta lived for 10 years at a Zen community in Northern California editing Buddhist texts. Every time we talked about editing decisions for my book she spoke of yet another inspirational insight my book had given her. She wrote a testimonial for Emotional Medicine Rx and I’d like to share two sentences from that testimonial. “Like many followers of a spiritual path, I allowed “shoulds” to cover over the raw experience of feelings and sensations. Working intensively with Penelope’s book was a great gift, allowing me to see and experience emotions, in her own words, as “delivery systems for clarity, confidence and action.” (You can access her full write up of the healing and bliss she experienced on

I know this book taken you a while to complete and publish, which is surprising because it is very unique. Do you want to talk a bit about that?

This book has taken me 6 years of writing and rewriting, crying when sad (stomping when mad, trembling when scared,) stopping when done, so I could feel good enough to keep on keeping on.

Part of the reason this has been so arduous is that I had to keep translating my right brain intuitive, emotional knowing into coherent and accessible prose. I’ve always known things I couldn’t easily explain. Writing this book felt like I was literally building a bigger bridge from my right to left brain.

Another reason is that I wanted to locate emotional medicine squarely in the conversation and research currently going on in the science of emotions and emotionally focused psychotherapy. This took time for reading, integrating and differentiating what the laboratory research was indicating with what my own clinical experience was revealing.

But probably a deeper reason is that I was scared. Scared to step into my power, scared to share my wisdom, scared to take on the responsibility that publishing any book entails. I had to continue on my own healing journey. I had to keep taking my emotional medicine and find the inner and outer support that would give me the courage to bring this book to the world. And I did.

What motivated you to keep going?

Ever since I made the discovery of emotional medicine in 1985, I’ve always said I wanted my epitaph to read “Penelope helped people know they could cry when sad, stop when done, and feel good fast.” Emotional medicine is my life’s work, my soul’s destiny, the reason I was born. It’s my gift to our human family.

In the midst of a wrenching life experience, you may need to take emotional medicine every couple of hours. I have friends who’ve just tragically lost their beautiful 20-year-old son in an accident. This is the worst. There is no way they’ll feel they’re thriving when waves of grief and anger are crashing in on them all day long. But even in moments like that, emotional medicine can bring some respite and calm, some ability to catch their breaths before the next set hits.

Your body has a very simple plan to handle any emotional reaction. In every emotional experience there is a whole cascade of biochemical, neurological, and musculoskeletal activation. This whole body activation happens .in 005 of a second before you are even consciously aware of it. What your body wants to do with this activation is to move, to take some action. It is looking for discharge of some kind. When you can safely and responsibly cooperate with what your body needs—even in some small way—you’ll be on your way to feeling good fast.

On Jan. 21 Penelope Young Andrade will hold an Emotional Medicine Workshop from 10-4 pm in Encinitas. The cost is $100. See or call 858-481-5752 for more. On Saturday Feb. 4 she will have an event at Warwicks in La Jolla at noon.