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Expressing Emotions

Expressing emotions to release them

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” – Sigmund Freud

When we pay attention to our emotions we realise they don’t emerge from our heads, they surface somewhere in our bodies. Those emotions are triggered by external events or our feelings triggered by our thoughts/memories. This means they were always there, but have we always been familiar with them, or are we yet to get to know them? My experience is that we label the emotions as we experience them in our childhood and then form a perception of them; good, bad, dangerous, pleasant, etc. All emotions are at some level painful, and before you disagree with me and throw out, “but, how about love?”, think how love can be the most painful of them all. When our minds are juvenile and immature and everybody around us keep telling us how bad and dangerous emotions are and that we need to avoid them at all cost, we have a tendency to believe that and do what we can to suppress and ignore our emotions. 

Consider that emotions are energy and we know that energy is in constant motion unless it is stored in something, like a battery. The same goes for emotions, if we contain them and don’t release them, they are stored, and they are stored in our physical bodies. These emotions cause imbalances and dis-ease in our bodies, such as joint problems, stress stomach, heart and cardiovascular issues, etc. My own most visceral experience of this is when I first started with a daily practice of meditation. After two weeks my sciatica that I had been struggling with for about 15 years released without any external explanation. It coincided with me working through a lot of anger and frustration and releasing it from my body. Anger tends to be stored in the right hip area where my sciatica problems manifested. This does not mean I don’t experience these emotions anymore, but now I express them and allow them to release. 

We use our thoughts, our word and our actions to hold on to the emotions, and those three are, of course, regulated by our perceptions. Hence, if we change how we perceive an experience we change how we think, speak and act, and thus change our attachment to our emotions. The sources of our attachments to our emotions are primarily our:

  • conditioning
  • perception of choice and control in our life
  • perception of self vs. our reality construct (external locus of evaluation)
  • insistence on perceiving our experiences from our heads

In my experience, expressing emotions requires skill, preparation and practice. If we express our emotions in a way that perpetuates the emotion, we haven’t released the emotion, we have only transferred it. So, if we lash out, pity cry or “telling one’s truth” without regard for the recipient, we are still holding on the emotion, we are using our words and actions to do so. When we express our emotions with compassion for ourselves and others in perfect balance with out boundaries, and in perfect awareness of our options and choices and what we can control, we can express emotions and fully release them. 

In order to express our emotions, and thus release them as they come up, we need to establish a practice to build up our tools and resources for those occasions. Meditation is the starting point to develop the ability to mindfully observe our emotions. Concurrently, we work on shifting our perception to be empowered by our experiences and thus releasing the emotions for the memories so that expressing our emotion becomes the last piece in healing the experience. If we don’t think we have any choice nor any control, we will be stuck expressing emotions from our core wounding and our memories. Shifting that mindset and reflecting on our experiences with accountability (not blame) and empowerment will give us a platform to express our emotions with compassion, confidence and control. 

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