When we suppress our emotions, we don’t just push down our negative emotions but also our positive ones. Suppressing our emotions limits our ability to express ourselves fully in life, robbing us of joy, love and connection, and passion.
I think as boys (and maybe as girls), we internalize not to express our emotions. As we get older, we become accustomed to hardening ourselves to our feelings, and over time, we can become numb to them.
One day, we might wake up in the checkout line and realize that we’re emotionally frozen, just going through the routines but not really feeling the fullness of life.
Feeling our feelings requires that we welcome our feelings mindfully, realizing that all feelings are beautiful, and to experience them is to experience the full beauty of life.
Discomfort, fear, anger, sadness, disgust – these are not pleasant emotions to experience but cutting ourselves off from feeling them robs us of the lessons that they hold, keeps this energy stuck in our bodies, and prevents us from feeling our positive emotions, too.
Blocking out or avoiding our feelings locks us in an uncomfortable place and we become like prisoners, trapped by our own unwillingness or inability to feel what we’re feeling. And without letting our emotions flow, that energy gets stuck and blocks us from expressing ourselves freely and naturally.
So how do you get in touch with your emotions?
This article from Living Better Lives Counseling provides the following steps that can help you to get in touch with and work through your stuck feelings.
The steps, at a glance, are:
Identify the emotion
The first step is to identify the emotion. Putting a label on the emotion helps to depersonalize it and can provide some stability to our experience. Instead of some “vague” feeling that we don’t know how to deal with, we can begin to give a name to it which can help us deal with it in the future.
Validate the emotion
Emotions, good and bad, are part of the human experience, and they all deserve to be acknowledged and validated. Understand and know that it is okay to feel our emotions, that it won’t kill us, and that it’s safe to do so.
Living Better Lives Counseling suggests validating the emotion by saying “I feel _______ (insert emotion). It’s okay to feel _________ (insert emotion)”. Or by writing a letter to your emotion. What would you say to your anger? Your grief?
Acknowledging the emotion helps us to validate its existence and this can help bring it out of the dark and into the light where it can pass.
Feel the emotion
The next step is to sit with the emotion and go deeper in giving form to it. Notice where you feel it in your body, if it has a shape or color, or where in the body you’re holding tension. Notice if you feel other thoughts or emotions come up and sit with them.
The idea is to feel the emotion in our body as best we can, without judgment. The more we can give form to our emotion, the more we’ll be able to release it.
Express the emotion
After identifying the emotion, validating it, and exploring where it is stored in your body, it’s time to express and process it. Choose an activity that allows you to express yourself and bring the intention that you are going to express the emotion through the activity.
Some activities you can use to express and process emotions include:
- Making art (music, drawing)
- Working Out
- Punching a Pillow
- Writing Affirmations
- Talking to a trusted friend or partner
- Getting out in nature
Once an emotion has been identified, validated, and felt in the body, it’s important to process and express the emotion somehow. Find an activity that you can use to work through the emotion. Let your intuition guide you to which activity feels right for you in the moment.
There are some key takeaways that I learned and was reminded of from the article, as well.:
- Emotions are not permanent
- There is no “bad” emotion
- Feeling emotions can take practice
- Acknowledging and expressing our emotions help us move past them; ignoring them keeps them stuck
Finally, it’s common to feel aches and pains in the body when you work through emotions, or to notice large releases in the body as muscles that were holding tightly to old feelings relax. These are signs that your body is responding to new movement of your energy.
It might take a while to resolve longstanding emotions but be heartened by the changes you feel in your body and the lightness you feel in your energy. Every little bit of helps.
Emotions will come and go but refusing to feel them prevents us from feeling very deeply at all. It’s much better to learn how to allow our emotions to occur and to meet them with understanding and compassion.
Realize that there is no such thing as a “bad” emotion and that all emotions are beautiful and stand to help us become fuller, more integrated people.
Taking the time to identify your emotions can help to give shape to them, validating and noticing where and how they are stored in your body helps to give them physical form so that we can learn how not to identify with them as intimately, and finally, finding a means to express our emotions through movement, journaling, and otherwise helps us to work through the emotion, getting it out of bodies and freeing up our energy to create new energy, movement, and positive expression in our lives.
Ultimately, the above steps all help in their own way to help us to stop identifying with our emotions. Rather, by identifying them and giving them form through labeling, acknowledging, and feeling the emotion, we step outside of the illusion that we are the emotion. By working through these steps, we can see that we are not the emotion and can allow it to be processed more easily.