The nature of our society is not very conducive to a healthy emotional life. To be “emotional” is seen as a negative. “Emotional” people are generally characterized as weak or needy. People who over-identify with their emotions may lack personal strength. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who suppress their emotions. They are generally characterized as strong, but intimacy and closeness tend to evade them. Whether you are emotional or a suppressor of emotions, you are likely not processing your emotions. In an effort to avoid pain and discomfort you might go into your head to think yourself out of your problems, or ignore the emotions and the problem altogether.
Both of these methods are ineffective if your end goal is to be emotionally mature and stable. You may or may not be aware of it, but you are likely repeating patterns again and again and again as the years go by. Different scenarios, same emotional reaction. The repetition is a result of inhibiting your nervous system from processing the stimulus in the way it was meant to.
Not allowing ourselves to feel our emotions is like not chewing our food. Our digestive system cannot break down unchewed food. The process of chewing is essential for optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients. The same can be said about our emotions. When we don’t allow our emotional body to DIGEST anger, fear, or sadness, our nervous system becomes overwhelmed, backed up. We need to take time to let our emotions be. To just sit and feel without doing, without thinking, without fixing, without controlling.
We need to note where those feelings are in our physical body. Where do we hold our tension? How does it feel in a physical sense? What shape is it? What color is it? Does it feel hot, cold, tight, soft, hard? Grounding ourselves in the details of our emotions breaks them down and allows our nervous system to let the experience that triggered them flow through us. When we allow our system to metabolize the stimulus, we become desensitized to the trigger.
When someone cuts us off in traffic, we pull over to the side of the road, feel the rage rush through our body and breathe INTO it, rather than running from it or forcing ourselves forward into our day. We breathe deeply, with intention. We identify where that rage is in our body. Maybe it’s in the heart area, or maybe you feel the muscles around your skull tighten. We don’t need to figure anything out. We don’t need to judge ourselves. We just need to allow our nervous system to feel the results of the stimulus. We need to do this as often as possible, whenever our emotions are “triggered” in order to maintain balance.
As we practice being aware of our emotions instead of just being triggered by them, we make room for growth. You might notice that the next time you get cut off in traffic, you’re not quite as enraged. You may even become less defensive and experience a deepening in your close relationships. Tending to our emotions is as important as eating a healthy diet. In fact, when we do not tend to our emotional health we are more prone to degenerative diseases.
Give yourself permission to explore your emotions next time you are triggered. Do nothing but sit and feel them. See if you notice anything different about your state of mind and the way your body feels after a few days of this practice. As we develop more emotional composure, we gain objectivity. We get better at accepting our emotions without judging ourselves. We no longer need to be consumed by or suppress our feelings.