Our emotions influence how we think, act and feel. Therefore learning how to feel, process, and release emotions are one of the most important skills we can learn in life. Both positive and ‘negative’ emotions have their place and purpose. Our body has a natural mechanism of releasing build-up emotions if we don’t withhold, suppress or deny them. Generally, we have more difficulty in processing and releasing ‘negative’ emotions. Here are some tips on how to process and release blocked emotions:
Stop running away from ‘negative’ emotions
Emotions can be released only once they are fully experienced. ‘Negative’ emotions that we suppressed or haven’t dealt with will resurface again calling for integration and completion. The key aspect of this process is to be fully present with our ‘negative’ emotions once they arise. We could also call it being grounded in our bodies. Sounds simple, yet our most common response when we feel discomfort or emotional pain is to either deny, reject or distract ourselves. There are different ways of distraction. It could be binge eating, watching Netflix, scrolling social media, drinking alcohol, etc. This cycle generally goes on until we become more aware of our emotions or a crisis forces us to pay more attention and go within.
Is there any message that your emotions want you to hear, see or know?
A big part of working with our emotions is to become more attuned with our bodies. To help with this, you can read more about grounding techniques here.
Become a neutral observer
Instead of resisting what you feel, wanting to get rid of it or judging it, allow yourself to fully embrace ‘negative’ emotion. By observing the emotion without negative self-talk, it can change the intensity of the emotional charge.
What kind of feeling is equivalent to the sensation that you have in your body?
In which part of the body is it present?
How would you describe it?
Is it in a form of tension in your stomach, head, throat, chest?
Is there warmth in your face, do you have sweaty palms?
Which level of intensity?
Is it a shame, guilt, anger, sorrow, anxiety?
What are you thinking that causes you to feel this way?
This process will enable you to become more familiar with your emotions and what you feel. The unprocessed emotions are usually stored in the body in the form of stagnant/blocked energy. If they are ignored for too long, then they can gradually manifest into a physical illness.
Find a new perspective or realization
Once you acknowledge, validate and fully feel your ‘negative’ emotion, you can find a new way of looking at the situation. This may improve the way you feel. You can imagine how you would prefer to react if this ‘negative’ emotion arises again.
When you start processing your ‘negative’ emotions, it’s not uncommon for other emotions to surface which you weren’t previously aware of. For example, you can find that underneath your anger, lies sadness. So in this case, anger was just a cover-up for a deeper emotion of sadness. Honour the process of uncovering blocked emotions as they’re an opportunity to leave heavy emotional ‘baggage’ behind and become lighter. You can ask yourself:
“What opportunity for more connection and love/integration and strength/ or creativity is this offering me”?
Is it possible to be addicted to emotions?
As important as it is to validate, acknowledge and listen to your emotions. It is equally as important to not dwell on certain emotions longer than necessary, no not get completely absorbed by them. The latest studies in neuroscientific research reveal that we can get addicted to our emotions. Most of us can think of a person who is addicted to melancholy, guilt, anxiety or their worries. When we get trapped in an emotional addiction we are essentially stuck in a ‘thinking-feeling loop’. Our thoughts trigger biochemical reactions in our brain that cause us to feel the emotions equivalent to our thoughts. These emotions further fuel more thoughts that are equal to that emotional state. If we continue to feed this loop on a frequent basis, our body becomes addicted and habituated to this biochemical cocktail. It becomes our mood and eventually part of our identity. We hold on to these emotions because they are familiar or because they are serving us in some way.
Is there any potential hidden benefit that I get by holding onto this emotion?
Is it perhaps keeping me safe?
If so, what is it keeping me safe from?
What would change if I let go of this emotion?
The way to break this cycle is through awareness and imagination. We need to become aware of these ‘negative’ thoughts and emotional patterns that we are feeding. Once we have gained realization or understanding of these patterns, we can then choose the thoughts that we prefer. We can use our imagination to create new internal states.
How would it feel like to be empowered, fulfilled, grateful, relaxed, joyful…?
Every emotion is valid and has its place. To feel is to be alive. It’s an essential part of the human experience. Without our emotions, we would not be aware of our most fundamental needs. Emotions also give us fuel or energy to act. There will be situations in life that will cause different reactions in us, and this is Ok. It’s more about learning the tools on how to deal with those situations with more ease. Feel the emotions, pay attention to them but don’t let them consume you.