Since we all now know that emotions are stored in our cells, the question becomes how do we process the negative emotions so they’re not stored to later raise havoc with our health?
Rule #1: DO NOT DENY THEM!
Rule #2: DO NOT JUDGE THEM!
Rule #3: SHUT YOUR MIND OFF AND LET IT HAPPEN
Rule #4: INVESTIGATE THE MESSAGE
What does this mean? I’ll take it each step at a time and examples will demonstrate it the best.
DO NOT DENY THEM
For most of us it’s been our training since early childhood to deny our emotions and we are still doing this to our kids today. How many times have we told ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel this way, because it’s …selfish, wrong, unreasonable, or childish”. Or better yet, “What will they think of me”, “Men don’t cry” or “Suck it up”. Displaying emotions is still taboo in many of our households and every time we deny them in this fashion they are packed away in our cells for safe keeping only to manifest later as disease.
Another example that goes even deeper into our psyche is the training of our subconscious to accept behavior that is not in our best interest. A terrific example of this is battered spouses. In their minds they make excuses for the destructive behavior, such as “He had a bad day”, “I know he loves me, but just can’t show it”, or “I shouldn’t have said that—I provoked it”. This trains our subconscious to accept the “bad” behavior as “good” and our natural reaction to it as “bad”. This causes even more damage to our cells, because we are not only denying our emotions, but training our subconscious to tell ourselves that we are WRONG at our very instinctive survival level. This is a huge blow to the positive feelings of self-worth
I believe the biggest thing we can do to help our kids gain self worth is to teach them how to handle their emotions, starting with recognizing them. For example: A child comes home in tears because her friend teased her in front of other kids. A typical response from a parent is to say, “Oh, honey, she didn’t mean it”. Translate, “She hurt you, but that’s ok, because she didn’t mean it, so you shouldn’t be feeling bad about it”. That is a clear WHAM to her self-worth. A better response would be, “I’m sorry that happened honey. You have every right to be upset”. This validates her feelings and allows a healthier processing to begin. (What she does with those emotions, however, is a different story that is discussed later.)
DO NOT JUDGE THEM
Emotions are not good or bad, they just are. Think of them as messages from your body that help keep you on a safe and healthy path. The bigger emotions are obvious, such as grief, anger, joy, worry, or love. However, when we’re in the midst of the negative ones they can be easy to judge, like “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I hate feeling like this. I wish it would go away”. As soon as you feel yourself judging an emotion, stop, and remind yourself that it’s not good or bad, but it JUST IS. It can also help to think of yourself as the observer of the emotion instead of the one totally immersed in it. This actually brings you back to the present moment and can go a long way in easing the pain of it. Remember, it just IS, and it is OK to be feeling it.
When we learn to listen to our more subtle emotions—those often thought of as intuition—our journey can become much smoother. These are the emotions that tell us, “Yes, that’s a good idea”, “No, I wouldn’t do that”, or “Turn around, someone’s watching you”. They can be that very slight feeling of fear, that says, “Don’t go into that building”, or the easily ignored anxiety that is trying to tell you, “This job is not right for you”. You’re body speaks to you in the language of emotion and your body is very good at evaluating the environment around you, so learn to listen to the subtle messages it is constantly giving you.
SHUT YOUR MIND OFF
When you are in the midst of an intense negative emotion, such as grief over the loss of a loved one, or anger about being wronged, it is not the time to make decisions or to act on the emotion. This is the time to just shut your mind off and let them “be”. For example, you’re angry because your spouse reneged on a promise. You’ve followed Rule #1 and acknowledge that you are indeed feeling this way, and Rule #2 and your are telling yourself that it’s okay to be upset. Now is the time to not think about it and just let the emotion process through you. In other words, don’t go into your head and repeat or elaborate the “story”. This only exaggerates the emotion out of proportion. For example, you could keep saying to yourself over and over, things like, “I can’t believe she didn’t show up”, “Didn’t she know this was important?”, or “She doesn’t think much of me if she could do this”. Instead, shut all of that off and just feel the anger. Pound the desk, scream into a pillow, cry, stomp your feet, or anything else that safely allows you to feel it. HOWEVER, do NOT act on it!! That requires thinking and when in the midst of strong negative emotions it will likely be irrational thinking, so just don’t go there. Wait until it’s processed, which is when you don’t feel it anymore. When you can think of the event and it doesn’t trigger the same reaction. In the case of the anger example, it’s when the anger subsides and you don’t feel like hitting the desk or yelling any longer. It’s when the tears stop because they just aren’t there any more.
INVESTIGATE THE MESSAGE
Okay, things are calm now. What just happened? What was the message? Was it really anger or was the anger a cover up for hurt because you thought she didn’t care? This is the time to go deeper into the feelings to get to the core. Did the girl who was teased really feel betrayed? Humiliated? Did she feel less than the others? Was she upset with herself for not seeing this side of her friend before? In the calm, after the emotion has been duly felt, is when the real issue emerges. This is when we can uncover the message and when growth happens. And this is what we most often ignore and not going there drives the emotion deeper into our cells. When it is recognized, acknowledged, and felt, it is released. When we all learn to do this, what a wonderful world we will build.