Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion. ~ Carl Jung
The key message from my last posting was that emotions, painful ones, need to be represented and processed – they need an outlet. Emotions in general are natural, and they are going to happen. If you try to stop, distract, dismiss,or suppress them, they just find another way to show up. Pain tells us something needs attention.
Since I don’t require medication, and cannot take them anyway, I prefer to use tools to address emotions. Here, I will share some of what I have learned. Many are a repeat or a variation of the tools I listed for addressing physical pain, but I will list them anyway. There are several, but in my opinion, you can never have too many good tools in your toolbox. Some tools are used more than others, some work better than others given the situation, sometimes you need a combination of tools, and others are used infrequently, but it sure is nice to have them when you need them. Everyone needs to find what works best for them with proper guidance from a healthcare provider.
Remember: Distracting an emotion is like taking an aspirin – it just masks the symptoms and doesn’t get at the root. Eventually, the aspirin wears off and the pain returns.
- Talk to some you can confide in 100% – Talking and expressing your feelings is a key tool, and the most important for me. To be effective, the person you talk to needs to give you their full attention and genuinely want to listen.
- Let them happen – Recognize that the emotions, thoughts and images are there and accept them. Relax and let them flow through. If your body is trembling, let it tremble. If you feel like crying, then cry. Be curious and realize that getting them out is a good thing.
- Body awareness – Be aware of the emotion. Notice what is happening to your body to find the deeper emotions that exist and the physical sensations you are experiencing with the emotion. (I will expand on this in a later post since there is more involved here.)
- Meditation, including Mindfulness Meditation – Provides a relaxing situation and decreases the emotional part of pain which is the suffering. Suffering can increase pain. It helps keep negative thoughts from clogging the mind and provides more emotional availability. See my posting on mindfulness meditation for a list of more benefits.
- Exercise – Go for a walk, jog, do aerobics, etc., while experiencing the emotions. Do some kind of exercise that can use that emotional energy and move it out of your body.
- Journal – Write about the various emotions you are feeling and the physical sensations in your body. Have a journal that is only for your eyes and where you can express yourself without inhibitions and without regard for spelling or grammar. Just write the words down as they come out. I journal every day.
- Artwork – Sketch, draw, paint, do some kind of artwork that represents what you are feeling. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist. Just get it out. Everyone needs to find what method works best for them. I tried sketching, but I don’t enjoy it, and I found that my preferred method of using art to release emotional energy is taking photos or creating a photomanipulation that represents the emotion I am feeling at the time. I have posted some of those in this blog with the title beginning with “Emotion: xxxx”.
- Keep breathing – Focus on breathing slower, deeper, more relaxed and more regular.
- Be in the moment – Don’t think about what might happen in the future, or “what if this never goes away”. Don’t think about how difficult the road to the present has been. Just be in the present.
- Downward Arrow technique - See my posting on addressing physical pain.
- Guided Imagery - This can help you learn things about your emotional pain – things that may lead you to take action, or start a different path.
- Be objective and non-judgmental – Don’t ask “why” you have the emotion. It leads to “I shouldn’t feel this way” which is judgmental.
- Curious acceptance – Say something like this to yourself, “that’s interesting, I wonder what will happen next.”
- Be patient – Impatience will hinder progress. This can be a slow process. Things may not be moving as fast as you would like, and it is very uncomfortable, but it is like cleaning house. The older, negative emotions need to move out so you can make room for good emotions to move in.
- Gather Moments – Remember the “bouquet of moments” from my posting on physical pain.
- Be gentle and kind to yourself – Be reassuring. You can’t expect someone to calm down if you yell or are critical, so how can you expect yourself to calm down if you beat yourself up.
- Self soothe – if you have anxiety, are sad, lonely, etc., do something comfortable like wrapping yourself in a soft blanket; have a comforting beverage like hot tea, cocoa or whatever you like. I was advised not to engage in something that could be addictive like alcohol, sugar, etc.
- Remember that the mind and body are one – Ask your emotions “what is it that you need?” “I’m here for you.” “You are safe.” Be genuine when you say this and invite your body to relax. I do this quite often and it works, not yet all the time, but it’s improving.
- Don’t work too hard at it – Sometimes this can hinder progress, so just go with it. Be curious and aware.
- Trust yourself and trust the process!
What if the tools don’t work?
Sometimes no matter what you do with the tools, they just won’t work. Just recognize it is what it is and do your best to get through it. Don’t force anything. Trust the process and see what develops. There could be a recurring theme that needs focus. The emotion may continue, but it may need more work with other tools.
Regarding women, the emotions may be hormonal (PMS?) If so, you might just need to ride it out if the tools don’t work. Recognize that it is a natural rhythm of the body and don’t personalize it. Be more aware of the impact on others, because you may want to snap at them. “Objectification” – I can’t control it – move away from it, wait it out, and don’t personalize it.
“I can’t let out my emotions right now”
If it isn’t convenient to address an emotion when it happens, it’s ok to address it later. Give yourself permission to set it aside and come back to it. It’s ok to postpone it as long as you come back to it. Don’t dismiss it altogether or it will get trapped in your body. When you come back to the emotion, try to remember what you were feeling at the time and use one of the tools to address it.
The emotions you are experiencing don’t define you. Tell yourself that they may be a part of you at the time, but it isn’t the whole of you. It will pass.
Do you have other tools that have worked for you?