How to Deal With Difficult Emotions
A lot of my clients come to me in deep grief, sadness, or recovering from trauma. All too often, they are afraid of feeling these complicated feelings. Following the loss of a loved one, divorce, or betrayal, it can often feel as though the safest thing to do is to push the pain away. We tend to be so afraid of the feelings that we stuff them, ignore them, or find other ways to resist them. However, feelings that aren’t felt, don’t just go away. They linger just below the surface, and every time the pain is triggered again, the feelings come forth with even greater strength. Suppressed emotions grow beneath the surface and pop out during future events. And when they do, it is usually out of proportion to what is happening.
Have you ever thought to yourself, if I start to cry about this, I may never stop? I know I have! After a painful breakup some years ago, I thought for sure that if I allowed myself to feel the pain of the betrayal and abandonment that I would never feel happy again and that I would never be able to stop crying. It took some time, but I finally trusted my coach when she told me that I would be surprised by how fast our feelings move through us, as long as we stay out of the story.
What do I mean by feeling pain without feeling the story? For example, in my case, the pain was loss, betrayal, grief, and anger. Those are legitimate feelings. What kept the pain in place, though, was my resistance to feel it, and also the stories I wrote about what happened to me. For example, “She never loved me. She used me. I will never trust again. I will never allow myself to love again, etc.” Those are the type of stories that we tell ourselves that ultimately keep the pain in place.
When feelings of pain come up, and we push them aside because we don’t want to feel pain, we freeze the pain in place. I always tell my clients it is akin to pushing a basketball underwater. You can keep stuffing it down, but as soon as you relax and take the energy off keeping it down, it will pop right back up. More often than not, it pops up with even more ferocity than the original pain.
When you allow yourself to feel pain without attaching stories to it, it will only last about 90 seconds! Usually even less. When we acknowledge the pain, feel it without stories, it doesn’t take too long for our brain to take over with “Wonder, what’s for dinner?” or “Oh no, I forgot to get milk.” That is the nature of our brain! It has a short attention span.
The way to feel pain in a way that heals the cause behind it is to allow the feelings to come up. Acknowledge them, feel them, and then with each exhale, deliberately release them out of your body. This approach helps to keep the emotions from becoming trapped in your body, the breath naturally relaxes, and feelings are released. It doesn’t mean that the same feeling won’t come back up thirty minutes later or the next day. Still, if every time that you feel difficult emotions, you move through this process, the pain will visit less frequently until it eventually lessens in frequency and intensity.
If you are in a situation where feeling grief or anger is not immediately appropriate, it is perfectly okay to acknowledge the pain and internally state the intention that you will come back and feel this at a later time.
By feeling our difficult emotions each time they come up, we allow ourselves to feel our pain in waves rather than a tsunami tidal wave. It will result in complete emotional healing so that you do not need to hang on to your painful feelings. This gentle releasing allows for complete healing from grief, anger, or betrayal so that your unresolved emotions don’t make an uninvited appearance somewhere in future relationships or difficulties.