Have you been told that you need to to start dealing with your emotions in a healthy way? Or perhaps it’s been suggested that you have “too many feelings”? That’s certainly something I’ve heard plenty of times.
Dealing with your emotions rather than bottling them up is great advice! We cannot dispute that. And it’s also important for you to know that having big feelings is all part of being a badass, connected human. You do *not* need to switch that shit off. You may, however, need a little bit of support in learning how to process your emotions in a way that is actually helpful to you.
The issue is, the actual method of dealing with emotions has eluded many of us for our entire adult lives. Instead, finding ourselves thinking “okay I understand something needs to be processed differently here, I know I am not in an emotionally healthy place, but how on earth are emotions dealt with, I don’t even know where to start”.
For many of us our go-to coping mechanism for emotionally tumultuous times, is to bury our feelings with activities which numb us
Here are some common ways of self numbing, many of us practice in order bury our emotions. Often without even realising!
Screen time binge – TV / Social Media / Netflix. We absorb ourselves into a different reality to take us away from our own.
Food – Too much food or too little food. Either is still numbing. When your hunger pangs become painful, it takes focus away from emotional pain. Or when you are over eating, its a wonderful distraction to stop you thinking about what is going on inside your heart.
Alcohol – We’re not just talking about sitting indoors drinking alone either. The out with friends type of drinking also counts. It’s still a distraction. How good do you feel the next day after drinking through some rough emotions? Better? I didn’t think so.
Drugs – This is the same as alcohol really, and should be put under the same banner. It’s a way of escaping and distracting until we are numb enough to bury. This doesn’t have to be illegal drugs either, sleeping pills and pain killers also count.
Sex – Yes sex! How often do we hear the phrase “you need to get under someone in order to get over someone”? Sex doesn’t magic away feelings – it’s just a distraction and a moment of human contact. It may or not feel great in the moment, but it still doesn’t help us process anything.
Keeping busy – Many of us do this one if there is something on our mind. When we don’t want to think about it we clean, we sort, we organise, we find things to keep us busy. It can definitely be a healthy way of clearing out the old energies within our home and to burn off steam when we are angry. But it doesn’t clear out the root of the emotions within. Just because your bathroom sparkles and your books are alphabetised, it doesn’t mean your emotions have been cleared up too.
Can you relate to any of these?
These coping mechanisms only help us to cope in the short term. What they don’t do is help us with long term healing. For that long term healing, we need to create stable, healthy foundations within ourselves, where we learn from our experiences and grow from them. That can only come from digging deep and working through our feelings.
My breakthrough in dealing with emotions:
In 2019 I finally cracked and I realised that something had to change. My body was screaming at me and my continuous fight or flight mode had finally switched to ‘flight’. So that’s exactly what I did; I drained my savings and hired a campervan to escape in, over winter. Cocooning myself in that van I spent the entire time completely alone out in the middle of the countryside.
I knew that being by myself for three months was going to get pretty raw at points and having that raw emotion surface itself helped me to really process all of the things I had been bottling up.
When you have no option but to face yourself, it’s incredible what comes up. Now, I am no longer afraid to feel my feelings because I know that nothing is permanent. I know how light I feel, from leaning in, getting deep and then letting go.
That’s not to say I get it right all the time- far from it. But it doesn’t scare me any more.
Dealing with emotions in a healthy way, means actually feeling them.
I know, I found that laughable too when we first encountered the whole idea; feeling emotions sounds both “thanks Captain Obvious” and like absolute hell.
But after much reading and learning and searching and internal battles, it clicked into place that emotions are not intrinsically either good or bad. They just are.
The situation or trauma we find ourselves faced with can be labelled good or bad, sure. But the emotions that come with those situations are our bodies just trying to help us navigate or warn us whether that situation is beneficial to us or not.
Emotions are energy and all energy wants to do is flow.
By feeling your emotions, crying those tears, punching that pillow or journaling your unspoken words, you allow the energy to flow right back out again.
Blocking the energy/emotion only leads to more pain in the long run. When all that pent up energy is stored and ignored, it becomes toxic, stagnant and heavy. Eventually it gets to a point where the slightest thing will tip us over the edge. Stored and unprocessed negative energy/emotions is where anxiety, depression and panic attacks live.
So, how do we deal with the emotion/energy in a healthy way?
It can be terrifying when you first start but really feel it. Lean into it. Feel that pain, let it rise inside of you. Get those tears out, make those ugly crying faces, wail like a banshee if necessary. Punch that pillow, destroy that inanimate object. You can do this alone, with friends or with a therapist, just get it out of you!
Some of us have become so good at burying we don’t know how to feel any more. So, if you’re not sure where to start unleashing all of your pent up feelings because you’ve done such a good job of hiding them – try simply sitting and being. Preferably in a dark room with no distractions, close your eyes and imagine the feeling of sadness.
Really try and get in touch with what sadness physically feels like.
Where can you feel it in your body?
What sensations are happening?
How are your facial muscles responding?
Experience what the emotion does to your body, sit with it and let it move, let it flow until you feel it release. Remember, it is not good or bad, it’s merely a sensation. An energy which passes.
Maybe you still have a lot to say but have no way of saying it. Or you don’t want to say it or simply can’t communicate with the person who hurt you. Write it down! Pen and paper is the best, get those feelings out onto paper until your hand aches. Start writing and see what comes out. Write those angry words, be as mean and as nasty as you want, let it all loose. Then burn it, tear it up, destroy it in whatever way feels right, simply release it.
The emotions want to leave your body but you have to join them and feel them first. Say hello to them.
After you’ve done this and the emotion has worked it’s way out, you’ll really know it. A feeling of peace washes over you instead. You’ll feel lighter, like you can breathe properly again.