how to heal suppressed emotions
We all face painful situations.
It's an inevitable ingredient to life. Furthermore, a lot of us have painful situations that triggered emotions we've shoved away; uncomfortable feelings or overwhelming moments that we folded up and pushed down hoping never to see again. This is such a normal response from the survival corners of our minds searching for the quickest way to find safety and solid ground. The problem is years can pass and suddenly we find ourselves hindered by these emotional roadblocks we've unintentionally created.
Growing up you may have gathered truths from the many influences around you. Ideas like crying is a sign of weakness, confrontation is to be avoided, bad feelings better off suppressed... the list goes on. Maybe you were young and didn't have the capacity to challenge these truths or maybe it made sense at the time but as years passed you might have noticed these inner beliefs begin to affect your relationships, career, health or overall state of happiness. Instead of knowing and understanding that it's okay to not be okay, emotions became something to avoid; something to be afraid of.
The problem is, difficult emotions or painful moments that were never given the chance to process become stuck in our bones and our tissues. It's often misunderstood that emotions are merely a mental experience, but our bodies feel these emotional knots just as much as our minds do. This suppressed energy stays stagnant in our subconscious, blocking pathways of our energy only to flare up and activate our fight, flight or freeze response at the tiniest hair trigger. It's important we learn how to process our anger, sadness, shame and fear from childhood on to adulthood to stop the cycle, process the pain and ultimately heal.
The trick is learning how to hold space for these harder emotions while knowing it doesn't change a thing about who we are. That we are safe to feel all that we've ever left unfelt.
You are not your feelings, you are just experiencing your feelings and they are never permanent. If you can let them through and ride them out, you can learn to finally let them go.
1. Root It
- Take some time out of your day to sit in silence.
- After taking a few deep, long breaths, begin to scan over your body from head to toe.
- Once you feel comfortable enough to do so, bring up a situation that either recently triggered a difficult emotion or a memory from the past you feel you suppressed.
- Take it slow, and remain consciously aware of how your body reacts as you recall the feeling or memory.
- Get as detailed as possible about how the emotion is manifesting in your body by either saying it out loud or writing it down.
- What does it look like?
- What sensations do you feel?
- Can you sense it's colour or mass?
Once you feel the emotion activate within your body, you're ready for step 2.
2. Accept it.
This part is crucial.
Allow yourself to visualize or sense making space for this feeling within and around you without any expectation. I find befriending the emotion like a lost child to be helpful especially with emotions I feel most fearful or uncertain of.
Try your hat at saying out loud or writing down "I accept this feeling." If you feel inclined to, you can go as far as saying "I love myself for feeling this". You may feel ridiculous, but allow some space for that too. The goal here is to affirm to your subconscious that you are safe and loved, even and especially with all that you feel and express.
If the feeling is one suppressed from childhood, or even one you found more difficult in recent times, imagine yourself as a kid feeling this. Imagine little you coming to bigger you with this feeling, emotion or moment of upset and give yourself the warm, nurturing care little you deserves. Imagine how you might love younger you, or any child in general for feeling this very human emotion. How you might pull away any blame or shame or wish to help them see their fear in a new light.
Opening your heart like this to the emotional experience allows it to process and move it's way through you, no longer remaining stuck. You may find yourself crying, shaking, wanting to punch something (I recommend a pillow for obvious reasons), closing your eyes, holding your heart as it beats a little faster than usual... again, the list goes on. Just remember to keep breathing. Let it in, let it through and let it pass.
Another thing you may notice is a message or inner sense of wisdom that comes through with it. Many of our supressed emotions (which then manifest into fears) hold answers to things we may not realize were searching for. When we give them the space to move through us, they often bring us to truths we couldn't see hidden underneath.
(e.g. "I can see how this experience made me afraid to speak my mind." "When I didn't let myself grieve this loss, I can see how I became numb to caring about anything to never have to face loss again." Things of this nature)
3. Release It.
Come back to the sensations and visualization of this energy (the stone cold fear, the red hot anger, the dark and heavy shame, the grey and icky sadness) and allow it to flow through or out of your body. Visualizing the emotion and yourself from an observer stand-point may make this step easier to anchor into.
I like to imagine the energy flowing down my spine and into the ground, or through my skin and evaporating into thin air.
If you're finding this step difficult, you may need a bigger release. Finding a healthy way to move this energy out of you can be incredibly helpful. Things like painting, writing, exercising, calling up a friend to talk it out, doing any sort of comforting ritual (such as burning letters or guided meditations) are just a few of the many examples. Any kind of passion or hobby that allows you to express yourself or burn up energy will usually do the trick.
Some final thoughts to keep in mind:
1. Don't be disheartened if you find yourself needing to go through this process a few times. Emotions have a stickiness to them, and odds are if you find them still lodged within you they still have more insight to share. Be patient as you listen to what lessons they hold.
2. It's going to feel uncomfortable, and that's totally normal (in fact, expected).
3. Whenever I feel myself procrastinating this process, I like to remind myself "you can either clean out the closet now, or later. Only later it'll be a bigger mess."
4. Running off that thought, also keep in mind that you do not need to clean the whole closet out at once. One drawer at a time will do! Don't overwhelm yourself.
5. Even attempting to do this is mature and badass and deserves a pat on the back for taking responsibility over your life and the difficult experiences that come with it.
Each time you do this, not only are you clearing out the emotional baggage that weighs you down, but you're also creating so much new space for joy and love to come fill this new space up. This is the foundation of a strong and lasting base of confidence and competence within yourself. Each time you allow an emotion to move through you instead of suppressing it and running away, you grow stronger in resilience and evolve more within your spiritual growth.
Be patient with the process, and find comfort in knowing it's just another human experience just as important as love, joy and happiness.
Sending you all the peace and light life has to offer ✨