Repressing Emotions is Unhealthy
A practice of releasing emotions before they build up can be helpful. Why is this? Because stuffing difficult emotions is harmful to our health. The bottled up emotions (anger, frustration, sadness, grief, fear) make their way back to the surface eventually.
The eruption of old feelings can come in an uncontrollable torrent of expression at an inopportune time. This is harmful to the health of our relationships, jobs, and sanity.
The old feelings can also manifest as different pains or illness in our bodies. For example, a person who doesn’t speak up when something is bothering her can find herself in a chronic string of laryngitis infections, literally unable to speak.
When we repress emotions they grow until we can no longer ignore them. Psychologists call this amplification. When we ignore our feelings we may think we’re in control, but the emotions take over and control us.
The Wisdom of Releasing Emotions
I’m guessing that this is not news to most of you. I’m guessing that most of you have discovered or are discovering the wisdom of listening to your feelings and finding healthy ways to move through them.
Journaling, exercise, breath-work, body movement, therapy, creative projects, poetry, writing, and more can help us express what we’re feeling in a way that keeps from harming ourselves and others.
Processing our emotions helps us accept, heal, and release them. This can be done intentionally by evaluating our illusions, cultural conditioning, family history, and shadow tendencies and transforming who we are and what we believe. Questioning the harmful lifestyles, habits, and relationships that lead to uncomfortable emotions and making necessary life changes helps too.
Self-compassion in this work is key. Acceptance of the emotions, or at least of ourselves in the emotions, helps give way to their release.
Emotions seem to do best when allowed to flow through like water. Ephemeral yet very useful information, emotions speak the language of the soul.
When we practice processing and releasing emotions and stop resisting or stuffing them, we experience the wisdom they have for us and find freedom from their captivity. Releasing emotions and not being defined by them is truly liberating.
When the Feelings Stick Around
But, sometimes despite our best efforts emotions seem to cling to us (or us to them). We process our shadows, analyze our stories, and strive for healing. We try to simply let it go, let bygones be bygones and move on. We let go and let God, and yet still… we wake up to the same terrible ache, the monotonous fiery rage, the wicked grief… remain.
What do we do then?
Here in this no-man’s-land is where I meet you with the following prayer. Here where you may not be sure if you’re repressing or releasing emotions. Here where you keep trying to do what’s wise and work through, but keep finding yourself stuck. It’s okay. You’re not a bad person. You’re doing your best. Now it’s time to ask for help from the Divine and keep doing the best you can. The Beloved knows what’s in your heart and sees your effort to live in love.
A prayer for releasing emotions that won’t go…
Giver of this trouble and its reprieve, help me finish with this heartache. My goal is to stop feeling this terrible pain. But, I fear I may be repressing rather than releasing.
I know processing is healthy, but I’ve done my fair share. I really want the analysis of the story, evaluation of the root causes, and unveiling of the shadow to be done. However, this vexing painful riddle is apparently not done with me.
I know it’s healthy to practice acceptance and be mindful with the emotion and myself in this suffering. But, I have to admit that at this point I just want out.
I say to my mind, “Let’s do something else for awhile.” I try to think about the weather or the color of my new shirt. Let my efforts affirm my movement towards light. Let me move away from the hurt and help it let go of me.
If it turns out I’m doing a terrible job and my release looks more like stuffing down, find me there in the deep burrows of my heart and dissolve the hurt there.
Great Giver never stop finding me, keep lifting this hurt from every deep chasm of my being for as long as it takes. Forgive me for my sloppiness in surrender and release. And in your mercy may I find that trying too hard was never the Path to you anyways.
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About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.