Written by Randi G. Fine
Unexpressed emotion will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways. ~Sigmund Freud~
Most of the feelings that interfere with our lives today, our negative emotional responses, have little to do with what is occurring in the present. They stem from painful childhood memories that lie buried deep inside of us, ones that have yet to be faced and dealt with.
When these memories are subconsciously triggered, all rationality goes out the window. We become hypersensitive, rigid, irrational, and insecure. We become out of control, emotional wrecks.
We may think we know why we are reacting the way we are, though we seldom do. We may think we are reacting to something that was said or done in the present, but we are not. We are reacting to our pain from the past.
Triggers bring the pain of our past to the surface for a very specific reason. Our bodies do not want the toxic feelings imprisoned in them anymore. They use every opportunity to plead with us, “Examine your pain, feel it, and then please set it free. We don’t want to hurt anymore.”
That is not easily accomplished. It may be difficult for us to find words for the emotional reactions that go on inside of us and come out of us. We know that we feel upset, unbalanced, uncomfortable, or even cut off from our emotions, but we don’t know why.
That lack of understanding is a result of having been conditioned to bury our most uncomfortable feelings – to remain calm and to show our happy face to the world. We have been told that it is not acceptable to express our emotions – that it is a sign of weakness.
Our emotions embarrass us. We fear that others will judge or reject us for displaying them, and we certainly don’t want to hurt or upset anyone while doing so.
As a result, many of us have been denying our emotional pain for a very long time. We have become accustomed to unconsciously doing that out of habit so that we can function in our day to day lives. The problem with doing that is that living is about much more than just functioning. It’s the difference between existing and truly living.
The only requirement for existing in the physical world is that we breathe air. Truly living is about being awake and present in our lives. It is about experiencing all there is to experience. It’s about loving, imagining, and dreaming. It’s about developing life enhancing relationships, seizing opportunities, finding our passions, and growing. Truly living is also about accepting and flowing with the duality of life; joy and sorrow, excitement and disappointment, contentment and heartache, wellness and dis-ease, hopefulness and hopelessness.
Emotion is a natural response to living. Suppressing or repressing emotions is not. Our ability to love and be loved is based on our ability to feel and express our emotions.
Our emotions are indicators of what is going on inside of us. When we allow ourselves to feel them in the moment when they occur, as children do before they are taught that it is wrong to do so, our feelings will be very temporary. They will come and go in a natural flow. It is the suppression and repression of them that causes our pain to linger.
When we do not release them, emotions that are healthy become emotions that are physically and mentally toxic. Even if your conscious mind has dissociated from the painful memory that triggers the emotion, your body remembers it. Toxic emotions manifest outward in many ways.
Toxic emotions steal our self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-love. They cause us to act out in ways that are undesirable. Addictions, depression, or co-dependency may result. Problematic overachieving and underachieving are also symptoms of toxic emotions.
Living in a body where so much emotion has been suppressed can be quite uncomfortable. Even if we try to fool ourselves by thinking we have overcome these memories by ignoring them or pushing them to the side, they will continue to fester deep within us, gnawing at us from the inside out.
Benign, but nagging symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and fatigue are common results. But the stress these imprisoned emotions put on our bodies can cause chronic or deadly illness as well. Stress weakens our immune system making us prone to all sorts of devastating illnesses and auto-immune disorders.
Even if our suppressed emotions have not yet shown up on the surface, they still limit us by impeding our relationships, stealing our joy, stealing our vitality, robbing us of our inner peace and robbing us of our personal power. And like a ticking time bomb, one day they will just explode and wreak havoc in our lives.
Feelings can be very painful, especially when we have never allowed ourselves to fully experience them. But we must learn to feel them. Once we allow that to happen, we discover that it is not our feelings that hurt us, it is the denying of them that does.
Awareness is the first step in excavating buried emotions. We become aware of these emotions by paying attention to our triggers. Our hot buttons, the things that make us strongly react, are indications of where to start digging. Once identified, we must allow them to surface. And once they surface we must allow ourselves to feel them.
Looking at ourselves in ways that we are unaccustomed to is not an easy thing to do. But it is the key to emotional freedom.