Growing up, I was allowed to express only a few emotions. “Happy” was the preferred emotion in my house, but “sad” was permitted for a short time if I had a good reason. “Angry” was never allowed. For any reason. As an adult trying to unknot all of the issues in my life, I thought it was odd that I didn’t realize there was an entire range of emotions, both good and bad, but I’ve learned over the last year or so that my experience was fairly common.
Unfortunately, not being allowed to feel the range of emotions we are given means we have to do something else with them. For me, I stuffed them down with food. I have friends who use wine not to feel; some people use drugs. The fact is that our bodies and minds were created to experience emotions, both good and bad, and we have crippled ourselves by trying to eliminate the negative ones from our lives.
What if instead of trying to rid ourselves of negative emotion, we learned to process those emotions and experience them? What if we taught our children how to process an emotion as part of being whole? The truth is that negative emotions are certainly uncomfortable, but they are not as scary as we’ve imagined them to be. Allowing an emotion and being present with it is surprisingly freeing.
So how do you process an emotion? It’s pretty simple.
1. Sit in a still quiet place where you can focus on your body. Think about where in your body you’re feeling the emotion. It could be anywhere. For me, anger runs down the bridge of my nose. Fear resides in the pit of my stomach.
2. Once you isolate the location, figure out everything you can about it. Is it sharp or dull? Heavy, like a bowling ball, or light and floating, like a balloon? What color is it?
3. Narrate what the emotion is doing in your body. Does it move around? Does it grow or diminish? Focus completely on it and continue to describe how it feels in your body.
4. Sit through this entire process until the emotion diminishes. If it returns, repeat the process.
That’s it. That’s all there is to processing the emotion. A client, who had been resisting her grief for years, told me, “I’ve been consuming an entire bag of chips or crackers at night for the last eight years because I’ve been afraid of feeling a navy-blue ball rolling around in my body! What a waste!”
Don’t stuff your negative emotions down or try to rid yourself of them any longer. Life is too short to not experience every part of it. Follow these simple steps to process them or make an appointment with me, and I’ll lead you through this process. Until next time, much love!