Are you the kind of person who keeps your emotions and feelings on the inside? Maybe you are unsure of what you feel most of the time? Perhaps you are the kind of person who wears his/her heart on your sleeve and once you feel an emotion, you have a hard time focusing on anything else?
Emotions can be both a blessing and a curse. When you can identify and express how you feel, not only will you be able to release negative energy, but you’ll also:
- develop greater self-awareness and self-acceptance;
- understand your true underlying needs.
- focus on the things you can control and let go of the things you can't, and;
- experience greater empathy for others (It’s not always about you)
The problem is, most people aren’t in touch with their emotions and don’t even realize they could be reacting unconsciously, based on past traumas. Some people think emotions are a burden or a sign of weakness and they don’t want to be vulnerable or feel uncomfortable. However it’s this harboring of unexpressed thoughts and feelings that lead us to bad decisions and unhealthy behaviors. Understanding and expressing your emotions is essential to your overall physical and mental well-being.
Here is an exercise you can use to identify and release an emotion:
- Write out the story behind some emotions you are currently feeling. (1-2 minutes)
- Write out judgments you’ve made about yourself and the other person. Be honest. (1-2 minutes)
- Answer the following questions: (1-2 minutes)
- How does it make you feel?
- What are the hidden emotions being expressed (e.g., anger, sadness, joy, shame, fear)?
- What sensations are you feeling in your body?
- Does an image or voice come up? Perhaps you hear some familiar voices (i.e., your own inner critic or that of your mom, dad, sister, brother or friend)?
4. (optional) Grab a pillow and go to a quiet place where you can let it out, Express everything that needs to be said. Talk, scream, punch, or cry into the pillow. Do whatever you need to do, but stay with the feeling. It will feel uncomfortable and may even feel like it will never leave, but trust the process.
In her TED talk, Harvard-trained neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor revealed that it takes less than 90 seconds for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream and then get flushed out. If we fight the emotion and don’t allow it to be released naturally by our bodies, it will get stuck in the body and be triggered some time in the future. However if you can open yourself up to it and remain completely present, it will pass within 90 seconds.
So the next time a strong emotion arises, give yourself the time and space to feel it, name it, get a sense of what it looks like and what it represents. Then release it safely and let it pass. What is this emotion telling you about who you are, what you value and the kind of life you want to lead?