Feelings are meant to come and go, to be expressed and then released. But if you’re like me, and many others, this is not what happens when we feel the feels. I spent a lot of years running and hiding from emotions I didn’t feel comfortable feeling, or shoving them down deep so I didn’t have to deal with them. Or instead of letting them go, fighting with them, grasping onto them or getting into long-term relationships with them. So many of us are walking around like ticking time bombs, filled with unexpressed, unacknowledged emotions. And it’s making us sick and stuck.
Why do we do this to ourselves? For many of us, these are emotions we are taught are wrong to feel. Women are generally taught that it’s not okay to be angry. Men, stereotypically, are not allowed to express their sadness. Most of us are holding onto feelings stemming from childhood events, or any event in our life, where we were wounded in a way we were not capable of, or supported in, processing and healing at the time.
Whatever the reason, when we don’t deal with our feelings, they stay stuck inside us. Pushing them down or running away doesn’t make them go away, they’re still there. When I got to a place in my life where I was done being sick and stuck, and started actually allowing myself to feel my feelings, it was as if I took the cork off the genie’s bottle and all sorts of things came up, seemingly randomly. All these unhealed emotions from the past would pop up at the most random times and places. I would be driving along feeling fine and then out of nowhere suddenly find myself plunging into sadness. Or I would find myself getting disproportionately angry over small frustrations.
Here are some things that have helped me process and heal old wounds and emotions. These tools are ones I still use daily as I continue to heal from past events, and to process new emotions that arise.
1. Awareness. Awareness is key. For so many years I was unaware of what was going on inside myself, and was instead caught up in cycles of anxiety and depression. Awareness is important because it helps us acknowledge our feelings, which then helps us to actually feel them. Our feelings are kind of like little children, they want to be seen. At first they may stand in front of us waiting for our attention, then they may start to wave their hands, call out, and tug on our sleeve or pant leg. Eventually, like a child who is being ignored, they become destructive. I struggle when people talk about things like “punching fear in the face” because my fear is that 6-year-old version of myself who just wants to be seen. I could never imagine punching 6-year-old me in the face, instead I’ve found loving that little child inside has helped me heal from whatever she is fearful of.
2. Therapy. Talk therapy was one of the earliest ways I started healing and freeing myself emotionally. I saw more than one therapist over the years, but I was lucky enough to eventually find a therapist who I resonated with, someone who really got what I was going through, and who was able to give me very practical frameworks and tools for healing and processing. She was the one who first made me aware of the “cork in the bottle” phenomenon of unfelt feelings.
3. Self-help books. I cannot recommend Louise Hay’s book “You Can Heal Your Life” highly enough. If you’re not into reading there is also a wonderful movie based on her book. There are a plethora of other self-help books out there, but Louise’s book was my first foray into the field and it’s helped me immensely on my journey.
4. Personal development workshops. I can’t speak highly enough of this type of activity. Being in a space with a skilled facilitator, on-point content and a group of like-minded individuals helped me move light-years ahead of where I would have gotten on my own. I am fortunate that there are extremely high quality workshops available in my area, and I would recommend that if you are interested, you research what’s available around you. A lot of organizations hold free or low-cost introductory-type workshops, as part of the value proposition of their businesses. If you are not able to afford the more costly ones (although I highly recommend you do your best to invest in these, as they are so worth it), these free workshops can be extremely helpful as well, although expect that there will be promotion of their higher-cost or paid workshops, with varying degrees of “salesy-ness”.
5. Support. Surrounding yourself with a tribe of people who support you on your journey is going to help you get through the rough patches and celebrate the successes. Personally I have also found joy in the process of giving and receiving with my tribe, finding that I, too, have something to offer those around me who are going through their own journeys. Part of building a tribe is also letting go, or distancing yourself, from those in your life who are not supportive of you of your journey. This can be challenging if we’re talking about significant others or family. However, unless you set boundaries with people who are not serving you, you will find it all-to-easy for them to sabotage your progress on your journey.
6. Sedona Method. This is a method of releasing that I personally have found very helpful in releasing emotions. It’s a very simple and effective tool. The program is not free, however there are free resources on their website that can give you the basics of the method, and help you get started with it.
7. EFT. Emotional freedom technique, or Tapping, as it is sometimes known as, is another simple, effective and available tool for releasing emotions and healing past wounds. There are many free resources out there on EFT, including lots of youtube videos demonstrating the method. This is a tool that may seem “woo woo” to some, but I personally have found it to be extremely effective.
8. Meditation. I have found meditation helpful for getting in touch with myself and my emotions. Our lives have become increasingly busy, noisy and hectic and mine is no exception. My meditation time is part of my self-care, both as an introvert, and someone who is dedicated to having a loving relationship with myself. There is an absolute plethora of resources on meditation out there. My only advice with regards to meditation is to start slow, if 15 minutes seems like too long, do less, do 5 minute, or even 1 minute and build up from there. And be patient. Our egos do not want us to meditate and so will attempt to sabotage our meditation practice. Like many things, the only bad meditation session is the one you don’t do.
There are many other tools out there to help us on our journeys, these are merely the ones I personally have found to be helpful. Above all I believe the key is to have a willingness and intention for feeling and healing your emotions. If you have these things and are open to what comes your way, then the tools that are right for you will show up at the right place and time to take you further. At least, that has been my experience. And lastly, like everything, this is a process. If you feel like you’ve taken a step back, it’s okay. We all do it from time to time. The important thing is to continue your journey, no matter what setbacks you encounter.
Latest posts by Elizabeth Holt Handlovsky (see all)
- Getting Off the Emotional Rollercoaster: Time to Feel the Feels and Then Let It Go - July 28, 2015
- To My Former Friend - July 7, 2015
- Honouring the Gift of Sensitivity - June 30, 2015