Emotions are designed by nature to be fleeting. Biologically, emotion is meant to prompt us to action, give us important information about our surroundings, motivate us, and help us communicate with others. However, most of us have learned to ignore this internal guidance system and avoid negative emotions altogether.
We have learned to unconsciously shut down our body’s internal processing system when we start to feel any signs of vulnerability, fear, or rejection. We stop our bodies from allowing these natural emotions to rise up and convey their message. We do this when we overuse television, social media, alcohol or drugs, or partake in any addictive behavior. We also avoid emotion by distracting ourselves with meaningless activities.
While denying emotion is common, we can’t ignore the consequences. Unpleasant emotions don’t go away just because we ignore them. The body will store unacknowledged emotion as a way of preserving it, so it can fulfill its function at a later time. But emotion is not designed to be stored in the body. Our bodies will slip into illness and disease because of this. Anger, depression, anxiety, sadness, and shame are a few common emotions we tend to push down and carry with us.
When these emotions persist, we must realize we can’t stop them from rising up. These emotions will continue to gain power and presence in our bodies until we process them. But ultimately, no matter how powerful they feel, they are simply emotions. They are not something to fear. We are capable of feeling even extreme emotions without allowing them to hurt us. We must experience what they feel like, interpret their message, and then watch them vanish for good.
Below are tips for releasing unprocessed emotion:
- Give permission
In a quiet place without distractions, get comfortable and take a few cleansing breaths. When it feels right, give your body permission to feel any emotion necessary. A firm affirmation such as, “It is safe to experience this emotion” sends a direct instruction to the mind and body, which are intimately connected.
- Body scan
Scan your body from head to toe. This is less about doing and more about awareness. Your body will speak to you if you are listening. Notice where your awareness is being drawn. Does it feel different? Constricted? Hot or cold? Tingling or painful? It may be subtle or it may be loud. Pinpoint the area where you are feeling drawn. Unprocessed emotions commonly are stored in our organs.
- Feel the emotion
Place your hands on the area of your body that you are noticing the most. Inhale and exhale deeply a few times. You will begin to feel the stored emotion. Breathe. Allow the emotion to rise. You may begin to feel uncomfortable and fearful. Try to observe it and release any thoughts that arise from the fear. Allow the feeling to be there. Accept it and lean further into it. Sadness, anger, regret, fear, humiliation, or any number of emotions may rise up. You may want to cry, stretch, scream, or move in a certain position.
- Find the origin
You may want to stop after Step 3 if you are feeling overwhelmed. If not, ask yourself to what the emotion relates. Uncomfortable emotions stem from unhealthy beliefs, such as, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m unlovable,” or “I’m not safe.” Continue to remain quiet, breathe, and place your hands on the feeling. Specific themes, situations, or people may come to mind. Recognize and contemplate these connections. If a limiting belief has come to mind, release it. Do this by stating something like, “I am worthy” or “I am loved” or “I am safe.” Use any statement that resonates with you.
- The release
Regardless of whether we have discovered the emotion’s origin, it is now time to release it. Emotions want to be felt and acknowledged in order to be released. You have done that. Remember, no feeling is final. Thank your body and your emotions for communicating with you. Show love and gratitude to encourage your body to open up again in the future.
Discovering the limiting beliefs that are responsible for particular emotions is the quickest way to ensure the emotion is released permanently. If you have not discovered the emotion’s origin, it will likely rise again. But every time you practice these steps, it becomes easier to discover, process, and eliminate these powerfully persistent emotions and limiting beliefs. You learn how to feel emotions as they arise, and most important, not carry them with you to drag you down and skew your perspectives. Ultimately, you will feel lighter, freer, and happier for it.