Many of us spend a lot of time suppressing our emotions, trying not to let others see how we really feel. There are many reasons why we do this – pride, fear, embarrassment or self preservation to name a few.
It’s understandable why we do this. For example you might not want to let your boss know that you are stressed or depressed because you are worried you might lose your job. So you ignore those stressed or depressed feelings, burying them so that you can get on with life. Maybe you’ve even developed strategies for burying your emotions, turning to a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day, or a box of cookies when you feel sad.
The trouble is that by ignoring these emotions we are causing further problems for ourselves. Stress and anxiety that is unchecked can lead to a whole host of health problems, whereas sadness and frustration can lead to depression.
Tackling buried emotions
Emotional processing is a technique which can be used to tackle buried emotions. It involves facing up to our emotions, dealing with them and accepting them, instead of running away from them. In the long run this can help to reduce a lot of underlying anxieties and stresses caused by burying our true feelings.
Here’s an exercise you might want to try.
Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit where you won’t be disturbed for a while. Close your eyes and begin to focus on the fact that there are emotions within you that are being suppressed.
Be aware of the fact that they are there, and notice how your body begins to feel. Do you feel tense? Agitated? Shaky? Sick? Try to pinpoint your feelings at that moment. Perhaps you are aware of feeling the emotion in a specific part of your body, such as your stomach or chest.
The process of accepting
Then, acknowledge to yourself how you are feeling, for example: “I am feeling anxious.” This is the process of accepting rather than burying this particular emotion.
The next stage is to embrace the emotion and greet it with warmth – a bit like you would with a loved one. You may find this quite tough, especially if you have been used to burying your emotions. But take your time and focus on those feelings of warmth and acceptance.
Use your mind
You might want to use your imagination here. You could give your emotion a physical form and imagine embracing it, or you might want to use words such as: “I welcome you and accept you”. See what works best for you. Afterwards you should feel a sense of lightness and peace, as though a burden has been lifted. You might also find that your perspective on the issue has changed.
Share your feelings
If this exercise sounds a little tricky, you might want to try opening up about how you feel to a trusted family member or partner. Again this probably sounds a little scary, but why not give it a try?
Explain to them that there is something you need to talk to them about. As you are talking, make sure you focus on how you are feeling, and the emotions involved. Don’t be tempted to talk about the situation or the person who might be causing you distress. Place your emphasis on your feelings. Don’t expect the other person to provide a solution to your situation – this isn’t the purpose behind the exercise. The main thing is getting in touch with how you feel and acknowledging those feelings rather than avoiding them.
The next time you can feel yourself suppressing your emotions, give one of these techniques a try and see how you get on. I hope you find them helpful.
About the author: Liz Parry is a writer specialising in holistic health and wellbeing, personal development and spirituality.