Emotions are energy in motion. Their purpose is to move us, to spur us into action and even to experience empathy for others. Through fully experiencing our emotions, we learn discernment of what we want more of or less of in our lives. Meanwhile, when we stifle, suppress, ignore or deny our emotions, we become stagnate and create more of the same. The more we suppress how we feel, the more the emotions build and build until we can no longer push them down. “Resisting our feelings is like keeping a beach ball under water,” is a great analogy given by Michael Singer in “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself.” It’s time to learn how to move through our emotions so that we can stop pushing that beach ball down; it’s effing exhausting.
When the feelings start to surface, practice being present with yourself and your environment: feel the ground, chair, couch or bed where you are being supported. Feel the clothing on your body or the temperature of the air on your skin. Then focus on something you can hear, or on something you can see. Feel how each breath changes direction, speed and even temperature as it moves in and out of your body. Each of these helps us to be present in the moment which supports us to experience the emotions without being as overwhelmed.
Next, identify the primary emotion(s) you are feeling. Feel where the emotion may be in your body. (Keep breathing, too). Then say to yourself, “I am experiencing this emotion of _____; it is only an emotion.” If it is more than one, it may be better to pick the top 2 and say them together, “I am experiencing the emotions of _____; they are only emotions.” This is a technique that is more fully illustrated here on Insight Timer by Lama Rod Owens in a wonderfully guided mediation that I highly recommend!
Other strategies that can help include physical movements. Creative expressions such as journaling, painting, drawing or sculpting – while still feeling the feels can also help us to move through them. It is important to feel them when they surface, not just to use the art as a distraction and instead as an outward expression of the emotions we are experiencing. Moving our bodies such as with stretching, dancing, walking or otherwise moving – again while feeling anything as it surfaces can also be supportive. It can help to ask ourselves what would be the best course of action in any given moment or circumstance. Today, I broke out the glitter and glue, it was an amazingly healing thing to do!
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions,” says sociologist Brene Brown. Blocked emotions also block our creativity. As such, it is important for our healing, as individuals and as a human race, to learn to live with (instead of deny) our full emotional landscape. To continue to suppress and hide our emotions from ourselves keeps us stuck in our wounds and in our unwanted circumstances. Furthermore, hurt people hurt people. As such, the more we continue to allow our own wounds to fester, the more likely we are to knowingly or unknowingly wound others. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” Mahatma Ghandi.
Learning a new skill and gaining confidence in it can require a guiding light at times. If we have survived traumatic* experiences or continue to be overwhelmed by the emotions we are feeling, it may be best to reach out and gain professional help. Counselors, Life Coaches and Ministers can help us get through the challenging waters. It is time to learn to deal instead of just cope, as 2020 is making damn sure that we have no where to hide.
Heal thyself, the whole world thanks you.
This post is the result of my own recent experiences of seeing where my unhealed issues were playing out in my relationships both in general and in one in particular. It is my hope that you will gain something here that can help you as it has me in moving forward in a more healthy, balanced and happy way.
* “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel van der Kolk is a phenomenal and comprehensive book on understanding how trauma can impact us deeply, as well as the research behind how to recover ourselves, our bodies and our minds.