How are you relating to your own emotions – including anger, sadness, grief, joy, happiness, and love?
Growing up and through the course of your life, you might have lost touch with some of your emotions. You might have shut down your ability to feel your emotions.
Maybe you were told certain emotions were unacceptable, or that it’s unacceptable to be emotional. Over time, you might have automatically shut down your emotions along with your capacity to feel and notice when you’re having an emotion.
Maybe you’ve spent a long time with your nervous system stuck in stress mode, fight-or-flight mode, or freeze mode. If so, it’s likely that your emotions have been suppressed or cast to the side as unimportant. When you’re stuck in survival mode and your nervous system is just trying to keep you alive, the ability to feel your emotions with compassion becomes secondary. It isn’t an essential part of surviving, so your emotions might be indefinitely turned “off.”
Sometimes we shut down our emotions consciously or unconsciously because they are uncomfortable. They can feel uncomfortable and upsetting, so we prefer not to feel them.
Other times, you might perceive certain emotions as inconvenient. For example, sadness might feel like an inconvenient emotion if you have a busy day ahead of you at work or taking care of your kids. So as soon as that emotion begins to show up in your body, you might reactively say, absolutely not, I have no time to feel sad today, I am not going there, go away sadness!
This is how you end up suppressing and turning away from your emotion of sadness, which just wanted to be heard and felt for a moment (maybe 10-15 minutes in the bathroom, in your bedroom, or in your office with the door closed). We can be so afraid that if we allow ourselves to go into the emotion – to let the emotion be – we’ll drown in it or continue to feel it forever. That the emotion will take over our whole day or our whole life.
This tends not to be the case, with most emotions. Emotions ebb and flow and move like waves. If you allow an emotion to reach its peak by truly allowing it to be, you can trust that it will begin to recede. Its intensity will dissipate. It doesn’t have to be an inconvenience or something we fear.
Emotions Will Get Your Attention (One Way or Another)
Recently, I was having a day where sadness wanted to be felt and acknowledged in me. I woke up that day and the sadness was kind of hovering already. It was already present in my body.
But I had to teach that day – I’m currently teaching my Akashic Records Certification Program – and had a bunch of other work stuff to get done. Despite these work obligations, the emotion of sadness was already hovering around me and within me that morning. I felt like I needed to have a good cry, to allow that sadness to flow and move.
However, because of all the tasks I wanted to get done (and my fear that if I started crying, I wouldn’t be able to stop), I told myself, I’m not going there, just shut off the sadness, we have a bunch of stuff to do today and I want to stay on task and be productive.
So I repressed the sadness and pushed it aside. I pushed aside my body’s need to cry, and guess what happened? About an hour later, I started to feel extremely dizzy… and got an awful headache. A light bulb went off. I connected the dots and realized, oh… this is still my sadness, which I repressed and pushed away, and now it’s showing up as dizziness and as a headache.
Emotions that go unexpressed and ignored can and will make themselves heard through the body in other ways. They have to be expressed and felt, so if we refuse to feel them consciously, they will move somewhere else and can show up as other kinds of physical sensations. For me, it was dizziness and an aching in my head.
Aware of what had happened, I made some time and space that evening to feel the sadness. I sat on the floor of my office and journaled about what was coming up for me related to this sadness – what the sadness was really about. This brought on some intense tears. The sobbing intensified and reached a peak. Then it started to gradually slow down and stop. It came to an end, on its own. And I felt so much better.
The sobbing I experienced (allowed myself to experience) was a release. It was a way for the sadness to move out of me – literally, as tears. And this whole process didn’t take more than 30 minutes. I felt lighter, more resilient, like I could go on with life in a calmer and more balanced state. I felt like I had honored myself.
The Energy of Your Emotions… Needs to Go Somewhere
Emotions are energy forms. Sadness has a particular energy. So does anger. So does love.
You can think about how the energy of a suppressed emotion can build up and continue to swim within you. The more you repress it or push it away, the more it builds up. But emotions need an outlet, and they need to be felt. As my story illustrates above, an emotion might end up expressing itself and trying to get your attention by transforming into an uncomfortable physical sensation – maybe dizziness, a headache, a migraine attack, or a stomachache.
Sometimes, the true cause for these kinds of physical sensations can be a repressed emotion. The energy of an emotion that’s pent up and trying to be felt and acknowledged.
Are You Making Time?
Our first set of questions for self-reflection is:
- Are you making conscious time and space in your day, in your life, to feel your emotions?
- Do you tend feel inconvenienced by your emotions?
- Do you try to be super productive, take care of everyone, or do a million chores no matter what – at the expense of tending to your emotions and your inner state?
Think about these questions now. Allow some answers or insights to come up for you.
How Are You Relating to Your Emotions?
I want to give you an additional set of prompts for journaling and self-reflection. These will help you understand your relationship to different emotions – including “negative” emotions like anger, sadness, grief, jealousy, resentment and also “positive” emotions like excitement, joy, love, gentleness, and compassion.
I’m putting “negative” and “positive” in quotes because, ideally, we want to see emotions as neutral. Try to avoid making value judgments on your emotions. If you see anger as negative, for example, you can fall into the trap of not allowing yourself to feel or express it.
Emotions are just different forms of energy. Let’s make it ok, safe, and acceptable to feel any and all of them, without judgment.
For some people, it’s very easy to feel and allow emotions like excitement, happiness, and joy… but they might not allow themselves to feel anger, sadness, resentment, rage, or jealousy. For other people, it’s harder to allow themselves to feel emotions like happiness, joy, and excitement – especially if they’ve learned to bond with others by expressing sadness, misery, anger, resentment, and cynicism.
Where do you feel you fall with this?
With the following journaling prompts, you can do some inner detective work to explore your relationship to all sorts of different emotions on the human spectrum. For each emotion that you want to explore – let’s take anger as an example – I challenge you to reflect on these 5 prompts:
Do I allow myself to feel and/or express this emotion?
So, in our example, it would be: do I allow myself to feel and/or express anger? Remember that emotions don’t always need to be expressed to someone else to be felt and released. Sometimes, they do need to be expressed, but in many cases you can be with and feel your emotions internally. This will be enough to get them moving and to release them.
What do I think having this emotion says about me?
In our example, it would be: what do I think experiencing anger or being angry says about me? Here, I want you to examine your internal beliefs and stories about this emotion. For instance, if you allow yourself to experience anger, does this mean you’re a bad person, an impatient person, or not spiritual? Does it mean you’re “just like Dad” or “just like Mom”? How does feeling or having this emotion make you feel about yourself?
Was this emotion allowed when I was growing up?
With our example, you could ask: was anger modeled in healthy ways for me, or was I told – directly or indirectly – that anger was unacceptable?
Who told me or showed me this emotion is bad or unacceptable?
So, with anger: who showed or told me, directly or indirectly, that anger is bad or unacceptable? How did my mother and father express their anger? Did they allow themselves to feel angry, in a healthy way? Was anger always suppressed and not allowed? Or, alternatively, was someone in my house growing up always angry and taking it out on other people? Maybe taking it out on me? If yes, this would certainly complicate your relationship to anger and make you feel like you never want to be around anger again, either in yourself or in other people.
Does experiencing this emotion fit with my self-image?
For example: if you see yourself as a happy-go-lucky, never-rattled kind of person – what does it mean when you feel anger or sadness about something? Does this unravel your self-image, so you try to push the emotion away to sustain that self-image and keep it intact? (This is what your ego compels you to do, by the way.)
If you work with these questions honestly, you’ll discover so much about yourself, your relationship to your emotions, and what might be driving or influencing that relationship. Do this work especially with emotions you feel you never have, or never allow yourself to feel.
Sending all my love,