Emotions. Are they your enemy or your friend? Do you acknowledge your emotions or do you bury them? When you bury emotions they are not dead, but very much alive and they are affecting you in ways you probably don’t realize.
Many people want to avoid their feelings for fear of losing control or experiencing the associated pain. To avoid the emotions, people will get busy, exercise more, use addictive substances, or just pretend it has not happened. This may seem effective at the time but burying emotions affects your physical and mental well-being. When you ignore, dismiss or repress emotions, you can exacerbate many serious illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, and many types of chronic pain.
Many people think if a painful memory or emotion isn’t in their thoughts daily then it has been dealt with. However, if you buried the emotion or memory rather than working through it, it will affect your thinking, actions and reactions to situations. A person that has buried emotions will explode in anger at something that seems relatively trivial and harmless. It is similar to a volcano that builds up pressure until it finally erupts. The person cannot control or repress the emotions any longer and it begins to leak out in harmful and unhealthy ways. Other symptoms of buried or repressed emotions are:
- Depression or anxiety
- Rarely talking about your feelings
- Troubled personal relationships with family, friends, acquaintances
- Difficulty accepting yourself and others
Emotions are reliable indicators of what is really going on inside of you. Painful or negative feelings indicate unmet needs, or you are interpreting reality through a harmful thinking pattern (eg. “I never do anything right.” “Everyone is always against me.” etc.). Positive feelings indicate your needs are being met and you are experiencing healthy attitudes and actions. Emotions are an effective teacher if you listen to them.
You can learn how to feel and deal with your emotions instead of burying them and experiencing the negative consequences. When an emotion of any type emerges:
- Tune into the specific physical experience of the emotion. Do I have a knot in my stomach? Does my throat feel tight?
- Name the emotion. Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it grief?
- Determine the cause. Why am I feeling this way? What thoughts are going through my mind?
- Feel the emotion. Find a safe place to experience the emotion. If you are sad, allow yourself to cry. If you are angry, express it in a non-destructive way and allow it to dissipate.
- Evaluate what can be learned and/or needs to be changed. Is there a thinking pattern that is harmful to me? Am I seeing things clearly or am I being influenced by my past?
- Determine action What needs to change? Do I need to work through these emotions at a deeper level?
This process may be very difficult for you. However, you can learn the skills to identify, feel, and evaluate emotions and it is worth your time and effort. Being strongly connected to your emotions is essential to having a full and satisfying life.